Things both "new" and "old" came out of Jubilee
92. There were excellent lectures grounded in the "old Jerusalem"
gospel. Good and inspiring lessons were taught to the children.
One of the lectures will have a deep and lasting impact beyond
the time and place. LaGard Smith's analysis of the "old hermeneutic"
was comprehensive, penetrating, and accurate. His knowledge of
the "New Age" movement is both impressive and thoroughly
What shall I say about the music of Jubilee 92? The music was
loud, stirring, and biblical in its own kind of way. I like such
songs every now and then. I also like hot dogs but would not like
them at every meal. I have always enjoyed the "Ezekiel"
song about the "knee bone" connected to the "thigh
bone" and so on. I do not believe that contemporary gospel
"rock" will replace the "Rock of Ages." I
had sooner think so than to contemplate a time when Elvis will
supplant the music of Beethoven.
There are things "good" and "bad" which came
out of Jubilee 92. What are some of the "bad" things
which came out of Jubilee 92? What stands out above the "good"
was the "bad" which pictured the conservative churches
of Christ as being in harm's way. The headlines in the Tennessean
mirror the churches of Christ as warring and divided.
We thought toward the end of Jubilee 92 that the churches of Christ
had escaped the bad media publicity of Jubilee 91. Our hopes were
dashed at the very end. Headlines glared at us from the newsprint
"Churches Divide over Worship," and "Road May Fork
for Churches of Christ." As could be guessed, the headlines
were fueled by a lecture of Dr. Rubel Shelly.
A staff writer for the Tennessean, Carrie Ferguson, wrote:
"Perhaps the conservative Churches of Christ should look
to Hollywood for tips on gaining and retaining members, prominent
minister (Dr. Shelly) said here yesterday." It will be recalled
that Dr. Shelly said a year ago during Jubilee 91 that the traditional
and conservative churches of Christ were "withering on the
vine" and faced extinction. He also said that these same
churches listen to inept preachers delivering threadbare messages
on insignificant themes.
Dr. Shelly, one year later, has not told us of the "changes"
that the conservative churches must make to survive and what forms
of worship to consign to the "trash bins" of the church
history and what the " new" message must be to appeal
to the "baby boomers."
After a year of marathon talk, the publication of his new book,
The Second Incarnation, and three issues of the new magazine,
Wineskins, Dr. Shelly continues to tell us nothing. We
are now beginning to wonder when, if ever, that "Godot"
will show up! We are inclined to think never.
Two Media Captions
Two letters critical of Jubilee 92 were published in the Tennessean.
One caption read, "Heretics Hurting Churches of Christ."
The writer declared that "Shelly cowardly refuses to discuss
these issues in any public forum in which his damnable heresies
would be challenged in the light of the Bible." (Public forums
and debating arenas have been the favorite settings of Dr. Shelly
to exhibit his rhetorical skills.)
Another letter was captioned, "Minister Not Telling Truth."
The letter writer wrote-"Rubel Shelly identifies one of his
problems at Jubilee; he has been looking too much at Hollywood
for tips rather than into his Bible." And he comments further:
"Rubel continues to harp on his one threadbare theme bad-mouthing
churches of Christ." (Could it possibly be that much about
contemporary culture and its moral values could be picked up by
comparing Hollywood's "Madonna" with Matthew's account
of the "Virgin Mary?" I am inclined to think that Dr.
Shelly is so mesmerized by his charismatic rhetoric that he is
unable to discern the rationale.)
Will Churches Divide?
This is a question lifted from another time. The Restoration churches
have experienced two major divisions (1910, 1968) in this century,
and another seems to be an imminent possibility for the churches
Dr. Herman Norton, author of Tennessee Christians, tells
the story about the first division usually identified with the
U.S. Religious Census of 1906. A preacher by the name of A. I.
Myhr came to Tennessee to work for the "organized" missionary
societies to win over Tennessee churches of Christ into the ranks
of the "organ" and "society" Christian Church.
Myhr worked for twenty years (I 890-19 1 0) with this one objective
in mind. He was supported by the editors of the Christian Standard
and the Christian Evangelist. At the time of his resignation
as Secretary of the Tennessee Missionary Society in 1910, he had
not won over a single church of Christ in Nashville and met with
poor success in both Middle and West Tennessee. The United States
Religious Census officially recognized that two Restoration churches
did in fact exist in the 1910 publication.
Dr. Norton wrote in the Tennessee Christians that during
the twenty-year effort in Tennessee, Myhr had succeeded in "engendering
a bitter partisan spirit in almost every congregation in the state."
And he added, "where there had been one communion, admittedly
in discord, when he arrived in the state, there were now two separate
and distinct bodies with no meaningful communication between them"
(Tennessee Christians, p. 123).
When Dr. Shelly came to Nashville some twelve or so years ago,
the churches of Christ were at peace. The churches cooperated
in many good works. Goodwill prevailed on every hand. This is,
sadly, no longer true!
A Church Divided
David Lipscomb was faced with the painful awareness that the churches
of Christ/Christian Churches were already divided by 1897. However,
Lipscomb would have to wait another ten years before it became
Division did come and was first marked by the Newbern, Tennessee,
church trial (1902-1905). A majority, against the will of the
minority, forced an organ into the Newbern building resulting
in a trial which took years to resolve. I would say that churches
of Christ are now about at the place where the churches were in
1897. Division need not come and should not come. God hates division
and those who sow discord among the brethren.
"Watchman on the wall, how goes it with the churches of Christ
in the gathering darkness?" Unless brethren take a long look
into the depth of their souls, there may be troubled times ahead
for churches of Christ.
The sad fact is that church members are at a loss to know what
is going on. If the churches of Christ are to divide, what are
the troubling issues? No one seems to know. We have good understanding
of what our brethren are talking about when they address the "old
hermeneutic" versus the "new hermeneutic." We understand
full well the theological implications of the semantics of such
words as "paradigms" and "learned article"
with the likes of Rudolph Bultmann for support. We are alarmed
when the likes of David Lipscomb are never cited, or even given
honorable mention in their writing. As "watchmen" on
the wall, we must wait and watch and never be taken by surprise.
'And if the occasion ever demands it-then, stand up and be counted!