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Restoration Movement branches observe Great Communion

Just like they do every Sunday, believers passed trays of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. They focused on a meal eaten more than 2,000 years ago and their savior’s command to “do this in remembrance of me.”
But this communion also harkened back to a more recent event — 200 years ago — when church reformer Thomas Campbell signed a document proclaiming that “division among Christians is a horrid evil filled with many devils.”
Campbell previously had been expelled from the Presbyterian church, partly because he allowed Presbyterians not part of his group to participate in the Lord’s Supper.
Two centuries later some members of three faith groups with roots in the American Restoration Movement — the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Church/Churches of Christ (instrumental) and a cappella Churches of Christ — met for Great Communion Sunday.
The Oct. 4 event took place at about 35 sites across the nation — and at least two international venues.
“This anniversary is a gift,” said Doug Foster, Great Communion task force member and director of the Center for Restoration Studies at Abilene Christian University in Texas.
The observances gave members of all three branches the chance to “renew Campbell’s call for unity,” Foster said.
A similar event in 1909, celebrating the centennial of Campbell’s “Declaration and Address,” drew 25,000 believers to Pittsburgh. Wes Crawford, preaching minister for the Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas, referenced that anniversary during the Lubbock observance, attended by more than 1,000 members of six area churches, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
“What they did that day was more than take bread (and) the cup,” Crawford said. “What binds us is much stronger than what divides us.”
Not all members of the a cappella churches agree. Dave Miller, executive director of Montgomery, Ala.-based Apologetics Press, called the activities “lacking in spiritual substance.”
“This isn’t going to accomplish anything if we don’t get down to the true issues,” said Miller, who also conducts “The Silencing of God” seminars addressing faith and the culture war at venues across the country.
“Certainly, instrumental music is one such issue, and others (with regard to the Disciples of Christ) are baptism by immersion … and the deity of Christ.”
Members of the Happy, Texas, Church of Christ “participate in the great communion every first day of the week,” minister Rick Bloodworth said. “To make this one any different to commemorate Thomas Campbell’s address, or any other event other than the stated intent of the Scriptures, would seem to miss the point.”
In addition to the Lubbock event, other Great Communion venues included:
Norcross, Ga., where more than 1,000 people met on the campus of Greater Atlanta Christian Schools. “The spirit was nothing short of outstanding,” said Wye Huxford, one of the organizers.
Pittsburgh, where Marshall J. Leggett portrayed Campbell and read from the historic address at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.
Nashville, Tenn., where about 500 people gathered at the West End Church of Christ. The service was entirely a cappella. Organizers plan to make the observance an annual event. The first “Communionity” is scheduled for October 2010, said Glenn Thomas Carson, president of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society.
Rochester Hills, Mich., where Great Communion Sunday concluded a 10-week series on “Identity” led by Patrick Mead, minister for the Rochester Church of Christ.
“Since at least 60 percent of our people don’t come from the Stone-Campbell tradition … this fascinated them,” Mead said. About 450 people attended the Great Communion service, with an elder from each fellowship presiding over the Lord’s Supper.
Albuquerque, N.M., where more than 600 people took part in a service at the Montgomery Church of Christ.
Mandeville, La., where 100 members of all three faith branches met at the Tammany Oaks Church of Christ.
“Everyone was uncomfortable with something in the service,” minister Stan Helton said, “but there was a warm spirit of hope and fellowship — and you could just feel the desire for greater unity in the air. Most people stayed for an hour following, visiting and getting to know one another.”

  • Feedback
    “Great Communion” is an excellent example of twisting scripture, and of many itching ears. The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is not to call together those who are divided in matters of salvation and worship; quite the opposite … and it is astoundingly absurd and contradictory to use “Restoration” rhetoric to justify an ecumenical assembly which restores nothing with regard to the authority of God’s Word. This had nothing to do with ‘restoration’.
    I would welcome an explanation which presents how this is restoration-oriented…it was not restoring the Lord’s assembly … so what is it that was being ‘restored’?
    Gary Wells
    Henderson Blvd Church of Christ
    Tampa, FL
    April, 2 2010

Filed under: National Staff Reports

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