‘Streams’ of Restoration movement converge at Stone-Campbell Dialogue
Mark Taylor, publisher and editor of The Christian Standard ,…
The editors of “The Living Pulpit: Sermons that Illustrate Preaching in the Stone-Campbell Movement, 1968–2018” present this volume as a continuation of anthologies of preaching from the Stone-Campbell Movement that date back to 1868. That’s when W.T. Moore published a volume of sermons. Moore also edited the second volume in 1918. Hunter Beckelmyer published “The Vital Pulpit of the Christian Church” in 1969.
Mary Alice Mulligan served as general editor for the current volume. Mulligan teaches at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis where she serves as an affiliate professor of homiletics and ethics.
“The Living Pulpit’s” three sections reflect the major divisions of the movement — the predominantly a cappella Churches of Christ, the instrumental Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. Each section includes sermons by 13 preachers. The stated intent is to include sermons that were typical of the time and section of the movement.
The editors acknowledge the influence of Fred Craddock, a Disciples of Christ preacher, by beginning the collection with one of his sermons, which stands alone. He influenced is reflected a shift from deductive to inductive style.
The section on Churches of Christ includes preachers such as Lynn Anderson, Andrew Hairston and Samuel Twumasi-Ankrah of Ghana.
The section on the Churches of Christ describes how Christian colleges trained many preacher during the period. Their teachers of preaching initially had doctorates in speech communication. Thomas H. Olbricht encouraged the emergence of professors trained in homiletics. Jerry Jones at Harding was the first trained professor of homiletics in these churches. Christian college lectureships featured preachers who exemplified “best practices.”
A shift in preaching style is attributed to changing hermeneutics rather than homiletics. Wineskins journal influenced Christological emphasis. Max Lucado’s work spurred narrative preaching. Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching, used widely, promoted an expository approach.
Four of the preachers in this section influenced my own development as a preacher. Another was a graduate school classmate. I know fewer in the other sections.
Cornwall notes lack of knowledge of preachers in other sections from a Disciples of Christ perspective. Andrew Hairston exemplifies “the slow, painful journey of Churches of Christ” in race relations. He emphasizes depth of faith and the significance of prayer in bridging gaps between practice and the “movement of God.” Lynn Anderson illustrates a possible danger of the narrative approach: sacrificing what the text says plainly for the sake of telling a good story. He describes the disciples returning from “a grocery shopping trip” only to see Jesus “staring at the disappearing figure of a woman hotfooting it toward town.” John 4:27 says that Jesus was still talking with the woman when they returned.
The section from Christian Churches and Churches of Christ notes the influence of preachers at mega-churches and decreased awareness of the Stone-Campbell Movement. The North American Christian Convention promotes good preaching. One sermon notes how furniture (transparent pulpits) has affected how sermons are heard. Blowers calls for more mavericks, preachers who will speak courageously even if preaching invitations decrease. Taylor’s preaching about the Lord’s Supper as a sacrament of continuance differs somewhat from Hale’s Disciples of Christ emphasis on the family relationship trait of the event (Hale also tolerates less frequent observance). Appel has convicting comments on “lack of love” as a “moral failure”.
The sermons from Disciples of Christ reflect that component’s self-identification as a “main-line denomination.” The sermons begin in the year these churches organized as a denomination. They note numeric decline of the Disciples and shifts in approaches towards the atonement. Kinnamon’s “bold humility” ecumenical approach would certainly encounter resistance in the other two branches. Carpenter, like Anderson, tells a story that clashes with the timeline of 1 Samuel 25:36. Penwell evokes vivid imagery in his “tearing open” of the heavens and God’s grace to those often excluded, even of different sexual practice.
The Living Pulpit provides threads of conversation between strands of the Stone-Campbell Movement that illustrate shared ancestry and hope for relationship. It also reveals three components diverging from one another in doctrinal, liturgical, and organizational emphasis and practice. While there is diversity among the contributors, even greater diversity exists within the branches that is not depicted. The failure to mention the influence of schools of preaching and the Polishing the Pulpit convention among more conservative Churches of Christ is an example. Fewer conservative preachers are included in part because some who were invited declined to participate.
Mulligan and her sectional editors have achieved a work of historic significance in describing the changing preaching in an era when branches of a once-united movement tried to communicate but continued to diverge. They uncover a need for building relationships and listening to one another if we hope to sustain faithfulness and unity in reviving biblically rooted Christianity.
Michael Waymon Summers preached most recently for the Leavenworth Church of Christ in Kansas. He is a retired military chaplain.
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