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Since its beginning, each edition of Churches of Christ in the United States, published by 21st Century Christian, has denoted subgroups within the fellowship, including churches that use one cup in communion or practice mutual edification and oppose the use of paid ministers.
But in 2009, the last edition of the directory made headlines when it omitted 21 congregations — including The Hills Church of Christ in North Richland Hills, Texas — for using instrumental music in at least one Sunday worship service.
As the Nashville, Tenn.-based publisher puts the final touches on its 2012 directory, however, it has reversed course.
The Hills church — formerly known as the Richland Hills church — will be included in the new directory, along with other “historically” a cappella congregations self-identified with the non-instrumental fellowship.
Carl H. Royster, system administrator and data compiler for Churches of Christ in the United States, explained in an e-mail to The Christian Chronicle:
The instrumental/a cappella issue has been examined, discussed and reexamined multiple times over the past couple of years between ourselves, other similar data collectors, the congregations involved and a few other individuals. Of course, as always, the approach has been and continues to be focused from a statistical and historical data collection standpoint. This is especially important since we and many other similar compilers submit our data to the Religious Congregations and Membership Study .
During the discussion process, it was determined that most of the congregations in question do continue to identify themselves as what we in the “religious bodies statisticians world” term as “independents,” meaning that they have chosen not to identify with any denomination or religious body. In addition, a few were verified as having chosen to identify with the Christian Church/Church of Christ, or they were simply misidentified at some point in the past as a congregation of the Churches of Christ. In both cases, coordinated efforts were established between ourselves and the appropriate data collectors to see that those congregations (as well as any future discoveries) were accounted for properly.
The handful of remaining congregations that adopted Sunday instrumental worship service practices, yet have chosen to still identify themselves as part of the historically a cappella Churches of Christ have all been included in the coming CCUSA 2012 data. Two new self-identifying characteristic codes were added for the congregations to describe themselves with as having some or all of their worship services involving instruments.
In order to accomplish this goal that all congregations be accounted for statistically, we were required to make a slight modification to the scope definition of the CCUSA project by inserting the word “historically” into the text. Future statistical reports will be footnoted when and where appropriate to help with the proper interpretation of the data being presented.
A new code also will be added to the directory to identify racially diverse Churches of Christ, where the minority racial group(s) represents at least 25 percent of adherents. Royster noted:
There were actually more congregations to identify with this characteristic than I had anticipated, which I think is good.
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