religion, christianity, articles
jubilee, hermaneutic, hermaneutics

What Came Out of Jubilee 92?

By J. E. Choate

religion, articles, christianity

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 informed.

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 of Christ.

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 official.

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!

Published October 1992