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‘We often speak of ourselves denominationally’

Freed-Hardeman grad school director responds to the question: 'Is there an identity crisis in Churches of Christ?'

‘Establishing a corporate identity is a difficult thing. I preach to multiple audiences each Sunday — they just happen to be sitting in the same auditorium at the time!” said Mark Blackwelder, director of the Graduate School of Theology at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn. 

Mark Blackwelder

“The diversity of perspectives among the members of almost any congregation of any size is difficult to fathom,” he added. “Having said that, it is certainly true that many Christians are not sure where they are in relation to the rest of the religious world.”

Postmodern thought that rejects labels and categories plays a role in the confusion, Blackwelder said.

At the same time, “as members of Churches of Christ have sought to position themselves non-denominationally, we have sometimes done exactly the opposite. By our own definitions, we have argued that we are not a denomination (no headquarters, no creeds but the Bible, no humanly devised name, no super-congregational leadership organization). However, we often speak of ourselves denominationally (‘I’m Church of Christ’) or define ourselves in terms of what we are or are not (lists of the things that ‘we’ do or don’t practice).”

To be truly nondenominational, “there must be a devotion to pure New Testament Christianity, unencumbered by an apparatus that defines us based on our preferences.”


Filed under: Big Questions Big Questions Freed-Hardeman People What is a Church of Christ

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