By Mallory Sherwood, Managing Editor
Two college presidents shared the stage Sunday evening at the opening ceremony of the 88th Bible Lectureship, speaking about the theme of truth, grace and unity from the Gospel of John. More than 1,600 people attended, despite icy conditions in many parts of the state.
In an effort to reconcile the century-old split between Churches of Christ and Christian Churches, Dr. Royce Money, president of the university, invited his long-time friend, Dr. Don Jeanes, president of Milligan College in Johnson City, Tenn., to speak with him during the three-day lecture event about the possibility of unity between two of the churches born out of the same spiritual movement.
Money set the tone for the evening by announcing the two would work towards a universal body of Christ.
Both speakers discussed the meanings of the Gospel of John, specifically, 1:1-18 and what implications it had for the two churches.
Jeanes began by posing the question Pilate had asked Jesus before his crucifixion, “What is truth?”
He said Pilate’s question had become the question of the century that people still search for the answer to today. He suggested that Jesus was the answer to truth and that through discipleship in Christ, unity would be found.
“We are to grow to maturity through discipleship in Christ because we share a common purpose,” Jeanes said. “We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and we have to live it, share it, show it, and take it into the world together.”
Money agreed that Jesus was the answer to find unity between and said despite differences in doctrine, who we believe is of ultimate importance.
“If anything, what we believe should be accompanied with a little humility because it is possible we could very well be wrong,” Money said.
He also said God’s love was obvious from the very beginning, something not so apparent in our churches today.
“I doubt 100 years from now people will look back and say, ‘They really loved one another,'” he said. “We’re going to do better over the next 100 years; we’re going to do better right now.”
He said that like a physical family, the two churches would continue to be different, even a lot different, but that because they both have a common savior, they would be concerned with the family’s business instead of their own.
“Unity for the sake of mission is essential if we’re going to carry the light of Jesus into a dark world,” Money said.
He said he didn’t have any “dynamic solutions” for unity in Christ on Sunday, but suggested that the two groups began by asking for forgiveness for the mess they had both made; that they open the Scripture together and seek what unity truly means, and that they meet together for the “daunting task of fulfilling the family business.”
He ended with a quote his mentor, James LeFan, said during 1967s Lectureship: “Unity will be beyond our reach only if we do not believe in its possibility. It’s waiting to be claimed by those who have the courage to lay hold of it. It begins with you.”