Interview with David Faust
Before becoming president of CCU, he served as senior minister of East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis. He also serves as editor emeritus and writes a column for The Lookout, a weekly magazine for Christian Families.
Faust shares his thoughts on the NACC, unity talks and the future in this exclusive interview with The Chronicle.
Christian Chronicle: Can you give us an overview of the NACC – what participation level you have from a cappella congregations?
David Faust: It’s hard to get a feel for that. (I’ve been told) there could be as many as 1,000 people from the a cappella churches here. I’ve run into folks all week long from all over the country. Easily in total numbers we’ve had 10,000 or more come.
CC: How does that compare to past years?
DF: It’s one of our larger ones in a long time. Among the Christian Churches, there’s a real strong interest in and embracing of what we’re presenting this week and a real happiness about including the a cappella brethren.
CC: Do you see this as a one-time thing or do you think in subsequent years you’ll involve a cappella churches?
DF: I hope that we’ll have a cappella in the coming years. This year’s convention has a particular theme. Each year, depending upon who the president is and what their vision is there will be different themes.
There’s something special about this year, of course. The 100-year, 1906 connection makes this a special emphasis.
My hope and prayer is that in the years to come there will be inclusion always of people from a cappella churches at this convention. But it won’t be the main theme in future years.
CC: Is there anybody at this event this week making apologies for the past or proposing mergers?
DF: No one is proposing mergers. Nobody has the authority to do that, for one thing. We’re all, like your churches, independent.
Locally governed by elders. Nobody’s proposing mergers. What we’re trying to do at the most basic of levels is (to say) let’s get to know each other, let’s treat each other with respect, kindness.
Let’s make sure that even if we are disagreeing over things that we really know where the other person’s coming from, what they’re saying.
Know their heart, as well as their argument. So much happens that’s good when you get to meet people face and get to know them as friends.
And that’s really the emphasis. As far as apologies go, I said in my lesson Tuesday night, I’m sorry that for a long time I have not personally known or even attempted to know, or made every effort to keep the unity of spirit and bond of peace.
I haven’t personally made every effort to get to know my brethren in the a cappella churches. And I’m sorry for that. I’ve missed out personally on a lot of things, and I’m determined on a personal level not to do that again.
I can’t speak for all of our churches, and nobody, I think, can do that, but I think there’s a spirit of humility and repentance we’re trying to encourage that says on an individual basis, let’s take responsibility for any part we’ve played in perpetuating division among God’s people.
CC: Obviously on the a cappella side, there’s a segment – maybe a pretty sizable segment – that’s not in favor of what’s happening this week and not in favor of any compromise on the music issue.
What your doing, is this something that has any opposition in the independent Christian Churches, or is it something where everyone can say, “That’s a good thing, and we’d love to have more unity with the a cappella churches.”
DF: Again, I can’t speak for everybody. As a generalization, I think in the Christian Church there is a great openness to experience fellowship dialogue with the people in the Churches of Christ. I’ve encountered very little opposition within the Christian Churches. But that’s understandable.
I respect the fact that in the Churches of Christ there’s a much greater barrier to overcome and I respect the doctrinal convictions, the convictions that my brothers in the churches of Christ are struggling with.
CC: Are you pleased with what’s happening this week, and can you see any long-term significance in what has happened here?
DF: I do. I don’t know exactly how it’s all going to turn out, what will happen years from now. At the very least, I hope there will be a greater openness. Certainly from the Christian Church side, in coming years there’s going to be a greater interest in inviting a cappella church people to attend, participate in and even lead many of our events.
We’re getting our eyes opened to what wonderful publications, schools, musicians, speakers and Bible teachers you have. And that is a tremendous blessing to us.
I guarantee you, some of the people who are speaking, leading workshops this week, singing, they’re going to get asked to participate in other Christian Church sponsored events. At the very least, that’s going to continue in the future.
Our friendships that we’re building … I go now to Church of Christ events and see people I know as friends and we go out to eat together. I just enjoy being around them.
And that’s multiplying. Many, many friendships, relationships are being built. You don’t have to have some big merger for friendships to flourish, and that’s going to happen for years to come.
But I pray that many of us will look back on the things that are happening in 2006 as a positive shift in our relationships with one another. Not trying to force one another to change against their convictions, but a shift in the way we treated each other, conducted ourselves in relation to one another.
I hope that will always become more Christ-like.
CC: Do you think this year will be looked back on as being as significant as 1906?
DF: History will determine that. There’s no way to say. All I know is that we’re trying to do what makes sense for this year.
Looking back 100 years ago, I wasn’t there. I don’t know all that happened. 1906, as I understand history, it was only bringing to a head some of the things that had been taking place for a long time. And in the same way, 2006 is just a date on the calendar.
There are a lot of things over time that will determine how history looks at all this. I’m glad that we’ve marked it by noting this in a very strong way and reflecting on it.
If nothing else, I’m glad the NACC this year has called very public attention in a broad way to the principles, history and ideals of the restoration movement. It’s called people to discuss this and think about it who maybe haven’t given a lot of thought to it – like all those people who went to Cane Ridge.
To me, these ideals, as I said Tuesday night, these ideals are still relevant, workable, very important. I’m sad that sometimes we haven’t been paying much attention to our history and talking about the ideas.
I’ve tested these ideals in my ministry in places like New York, where I ministered for 10 years, starting a campus based church in Cincinnati at the University of Cincinnati, where you’re working with young people and when you talk about the ideals of our movement, you’re discussing letting the Bible speak where it speaks, be silent where it is silent, letting Christ be lord and the focus of our faith.
Uniting where we can on the basics of our faith to forward the gospel, that just makes sense to people who are not Christians and to people who are struggling with denominational traditions.
I’m thrilled that if nothing else, this whole effort is calling attention again in a positive way to the ideals of our movement. That can only be a good thing, even though not everybody agrees about how we should apply it all.
Dr. Jim North’s book, Union in Truth, is a wonderful history of our movement. He says, on one hand, some will compromise truth in order to retain unity; on the other hand, some will give up unity because they’re so determined to hang onto the truth.
And somehow we’re always going to have to live with some tension there. That’s why we have trouble agreeing on every detail, and yet there are so many things we can work together on.
We have to live with some of that tension, and that’s part of the genius of our movement, that you don’t have a denominational body dictating to you, you gotta be this way, think this way. We go to the Bible, study it, pray, dialogue together, love each other as we try to understand and follow.