There is much wisdom to be found in the stories of our spiritual ancestors. As a church historian, I may be expected to say that, but it is true. We aThere is much wisdom to be found in the stories of our spiritual ancestors. As a church historian, I may be expected to say that, but it is true. We are the product in some sense of the traditions that have been handed down to us.
"Distant Voices" was written by a Churches of Christ historian and theologian who understands the value of biography. I had the opportunity to hear Leonard Allen speak in the fall of this year (2015) about some of the contributors to our collected stories. While I am a Disciple and Leonard is Church of Christ, we share a common heritage. Many of the stories recounted here speak to all streams of the Stone-Campbell tradition, and even those that don't speak directly can be instructive.
I was especially interested in the chapters on Robert Richardson, a colleague and close friend of Alexander Campbell, who challenged Campbell's rationalism and called for greater attention to the role of the Spirit in our lives. Richardson could be an important conversation point for those of us who embrace the Spirit.
The point here is that there are distant, often neglected voices that bear attending to. For instance, while we honor both Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone, Stone's influence is often placed behind that of Campbell. We've told ourselves that while there were differences, none were all that important. They agreed on the important things. What has happened is that Campbell has had the ascendancy and Stone has been politely set aside. Perhaps that's not a good thing!
This is written for the general audience -- there is a study guide -- and while pitched to churches of Christ I think it has much to offer persons in all three branches.
Leonard is a thoughtful, gracious, and irenic voice in our larger movement. I'm grateful to have made his acquaintance and have opportunity to read this book....more
I am the author of this book in which I share my reflections and visions for the denomination I serve as a pastor. In a time when questions are beingI am the author of this book in which I share my reflections and visions for the denomination I serve as a pastor. In a time when questions are being asked of the identity of churches, I offer this as a means of furthering the conversation.
The title conveys what I consider to be the two key elements of the Disciples. We are a people who highly value our freedom (we were born on the frontier). But, to stay together we must find unity -- and the means is through affirming our covenant relationship. ...more
Burris Jenkins one a most intriguing character. He was a Disciples minister, journalist, college president, and most of all a provocateur. Published iBurris Jenkins one a most intriguing character. He was a Disciples minister, journalist, college president, and most of all a provocateur. Published in 1939, Jenkins tells his own life story, from his childhood in the Kansas City area to the conclusion of his ministry in the same city. In between he had many an adventure, including spending a year as the second pastor of First Christian Church of Santa Barbara.
The most important aspect of this rollicking story is his work of being a leading liberal Disciple minister. He had little interest in denominational politics and was actually not well liked by the powers that be who found him too independent, too liberal, and too much the showman.
Jenkins isn't well known today, but his story is worth exploring....more
The Disciples, one branch of the Stone-Campbell Movement, have made the Lord's Table the center piece of worship. At the very least we observe communiThe Disciples, one branch of the Stone-Campbell Movement, have made the Lord's Table the center piece of worship. At the very least we observe communion every Sunday (and more often if necessary). Gerard Moore is a Roman Catholic scholar from Australia who has made worship the focus of his own studies. IN this brief book, which Keith Watkins (one of the persons discussed in the book) believes was a Masters Thesis at Catholic University of America some years ago, Moore examines the development of Disciples thinking and practice regarding the Lord's Table beginning with Alexander Campbell and ending with the publication of Thankful Praise: A Resource For Christian Worship in the late 1980s.
Moore begins his book with a brief historical introduction to the Disciples, and then moves into the meat of the book, four chapters that explore Disciples thinking and practice. He begins with Campbell and the early Disciples leaders, noting that Campbell with his Lockean background pursued a "'reasoned' approach to the biblical 'order of things' at the Lord's Table, but with a Reformed (Zwinglian) perspective. One of the important insights here is that Campbell believed that the Lord's Supper was an essential observance, to be celebrated weekly, but he also believed it was an independent ordinance so that the order in which it fell in the service was irrelevant. This perspective would continue to dominate Disciples thinking and practice up to the creation of Thankful Praise. In each of the chapters Moore focuses on three items: the order of worship, the theology of the Eucharist and worship, and the prayers that were created for use or as models. From the beginning he notes that Elders were called upon to preside, though Campbell believed that they should be ordained. Clergy were not necessary then and continue to be unnecessary, even if it is standard practice to have clergy at the Table.
From Campbell Moore moves on to explore the worship manuals produced during the late 19th and early 20th century. The creators of these manuals included such luminaries as J.H. Garrison and Peter Ainsley. What he notices in these manuals is that the simplicity of worship found in Campbell's directives gives way to more complexity and the presence of musical instruments including the organ. The most important development during this period was the creation of manuals for use by clergy and Elders to create prayers for worship. Thus, worship became more stable and more reflective of Reformed understandings.
Chapter 4 takes us into the middle and late 20th century. Moore focuses his attention on two worship books -- that of G. Edwin Osborn (father of Ronald) whose Christian Worship: A Service Book would be extremely popular from the time of its publication in the 1950s up into the 1970s and 80s. The other book is Thankful Praise, edited by Ronald Allen and Keith Watkins. In addition to these two worship books, he takes note of the Elders manual written by Tom Toler in the 1950s and republished well into the 1980s (note here on Tom Toler -- he served as interim minister at the church I was serving as intern/assistant pastor during seminary and thus the host pastor of my ordination). The key insights here is the growing influence of liturgical renewal and ecumenical conversations, including COCU on the Disciples worship practices, including the growing expectation of the presence of the minister at the Table to pronounce the Words of Institution. In addition we see a broader understanding of the Eucharist, so that while remembrance is still present there is a growing sense that it is more, and that one aspect is the recognition of Christ's presence not only as host but encountered in the Eucharist. In addition, with Thankful Praise there is greater integration of the Eucharist into the service, so that it matters where it falls (after the Word) in the service. While there is growing use of prayers for the Spirit to be in the elements, Moore finds it inconsistent.
It is in chapter 5 that Moore explores the change in Eucharistic theology from Osborn to Thankful Praise. While true to Disciples and Reformed traditions Thankful Praise goes much farther in placing Disciples practice in the broader tradition of Eucharistic theology. He writes that Thankful Praise is not simply a liturgical book with a different theology of Eucharist, but a liturgical resource that has attempted to re-appropriate the context and form of eucharistic praying into Disciples worship." (p. 93).
While the book does consult more recent studies of Disciples eucharistic thought it stops with Thankful Praise, even though Chalice Worship came out in the late 1990s and is the most recent "official" manual for worship. While the communion services in Chalice Worship are similar there are differences with Thankful Praise, which influenced the development of Chalice Worship.
This is a small but important book for Disciples to read. I believe that it can be a welcomed resource for clergy and lay leaders, especially Elders who may not know the history of our Eucharistic developments. ...more
As a successor to this legendary Disciples preacher, I found these sermons to be rather prescient. He speaks of the need for change and the need to beAs a successor to this legendary Disciples preacher, I found these sermons to be rather prescient. He speaks of the need for change and the need to be engaged in the world. There are hints of his liberal theology, but it is offered in a subtle way. It is a good reminder that there is treasure in sermon collections like this. ...more
So, did the election of Barack Obama usher the United States into a new post-racial era? Have we reached the point where Martin Luther King's vision oSo, did the election of Barack Obama usher the United States into a new post-racial era? Have we reached the point where Martin Luther King's vision of a day when people would be judged not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character? Well, if you've been watching the news you probably have guessed that such is not the case. We're not in the same place we were in in 1963, but while most of the legal barriers have been overturned, society remains largely segregated -- especially in the church.
Perhaps we live in what Sandhya Jha, a Disciples minister and activist calls a "pre-post-racial America. As is often the case in America the story of race and ethnicity is complicated. This is especially true today when a growing number of Americans identify as mixed race. While President Obama identifies as African American, his ancestry is both African (his father) and European (his mother), making him an exemplar of one who is mixed race. But such identifications aren't easy for us to comprehend. For instance, each year when I fill out the demographic report for the denomination there isn't a Mixed race category, just "other."
Well, Sandhya does identify as mixed race, though being lighter skinned she can pass as white (especially since she has red hair thanks to the Indian (South Asia) gift of henna as a hair dye. Her father is Indian and Hindu. Her mother is Scottish and Christian. Religiously she has followed the Christian tradition, but respects her father's religion. It is from that perspective that Sandhya writes this wonderfully powerful book for the church.
In the course of the book she takes from the Civil Rights Movement of fifty years in the past to the present situation. We are invited to wrestle with immigration, the stereotype of the angry black man, the stereotype of the perpetual foreigner (where are you from?), class issues, race and religion post 9/11, and more. She deals with the issue of white privilege and how this is navigated. This was an especially poignant chapter for me, for I am white, male, middle-class, straight, married, and highly educated. I'm not "wealthy" but I live pretty comfortably! She speaks to the challenges of living in a mixed race contxt, and what she calls the oppression Olympics. What is this? Well it has to do with the way in which minority communities are often pitted against each other. In this regard, she seeks to move us toward a more integrated self and an intersectional faith. What is intersectional faith? Well, it has to do with the many realities of our lives, and how they intersect to form our identity -- gender, ethnicity, social class, religion, orientation, etc. While it is important to name these intersections, we also must move beyond them, so that these don't limit us.
The goal, ultimately, is creation of the Beloved Community, which Martin Luther King spoke of, and which Jesus himself envisioned. What is this Beloved Community? Sandhya Jha writes that for her it is "where you and I get to express the complexity of who we are and share the richness of our gifts with one another in ways that benefit the whole community" ((p. 152). Beloved community emerges when we begin to listen to each other's stories, both the beautiful and the painful stories, and recognize our brokenness so as to find healing. In many ways we're not there, but that doesn't mean we can't move toward this vision, even as we seek to navigate life in "pre-post-racial America."
This is a powerful book. And yes, it can be uncomfortable at points to read this as a person of privilege, and yes I benefit from White Privilege. I needn't feel guilty about it, but if I don't recognize that I have certain benefits due to my race, gender, and educational standing, then I'm not in a position to listen to others. Thus, from my perspective, I am greatly appreciative of Sandhya's message, for it is a word of hope. ...more
As any preacher knows, Jesus' teachings can be quite challenging. They often call us to consider matters we would rather ignore. They challenge what "As any preacher knows, Jesus' teachings can be quite challenging. They often call us to consider matters we would rather ignore. They challenge what "common sense" would deem appropriate. The Gospels can be manipulated in all manner of ways, to support many an agenda. We've all run into them.
David Cartwright is a retired Disciples of Christ preacher who is skilled at teasing out the message of Jesus in ways that is faithful to the text and connects to the audience. I say this not as one who has heard David preach, though he has filled the pulpit at my church during an absence. I can say that from reading this collection of fifteen sermons that carry the intriguing title "Wounded by Truth, Healed by Love." The title demonstrates the paradoxical nature of Jesus ministry, which at the same time wounds and heals. It wounds by making us uncomfortable with the status quo of our lives. It heals by bringing words of compassion and love to our lives.
The fifteen chapters (sermons) wrestle, as sermons should, with biblical texts -- in this case Gospel texts. They cover a variety of important issues, from ethics to questions of power in congregational life, from finding and offering welcome to offering forgiveness (and whether there are limits to forgiveness). Fittingly the final two sermons address death and resurrection.
The chapters are brief -- as sermon manuscripts should be -- making them useful for devotional reading. Scripture texts are provided for each sermon, so they can be read along with the sermons themselves. Although there isn't a study guide provided, I believe that this would be a wonderful text to use with a bible study group. In fact, we will be using it in that way.
This is a thoughtful book full of wise engagement with the Gospel stories. Jesus' message isn't always easy to understand or accept. Turning the other cheek doesn't seem to fit with human tendencies, and yet that is the calling. In the end, this is a book about the healing power of love, and we all need to hear that message! ...more
The Mainline Protestant Church(es) has been in decline for much of my life. The churches that make up the Mainline reached their height of influence aThe Mainline Protestant Church(es) has been in decline for much of my life. The churches that make up the Mainline reached their height of influence and numbers within a few years of my birth at the end of the 1950s. Once full churches now are either closing or live with a scattering of aging members remembering better days.
There have been numerous responses to this situation. Some blame the decline on liberalism or being too tied to the culture. Others suggest that Mainline churches haven't adapted to changing realities, failing to exchange organs and hymnals for guitars and screens. There have been some, including Diana Butler Bass who have pointed out pockets of strength, even among the liberal congregations.
Derek Penwell, a Disciples clergy colleague, who has evangelical roots, has written his own response to the plight of the Mainline. He beleives in the message of Progressive Christianity, which finds its home in the remnant of the Mainline, but he's concerned that the desire to protect the status quo endangers its ability to get the message out. He's not interested in a better marketing plan, but rather wants the church to be bold in its proclamation of this message.
Derek offers us a historical perspective reminding us that there are similarities to the post-Revolutionary Age, which produced the Stone-Campbell Movement. This movement sought to make the church and its message more accessible and adaptable to the Frontier. Interestingly late in the book he questions the value of an individualistic faith, but in many ways this was the hallmark of the religious movements of the early 19th century, including our own.
I've been waiting for this book for some time, in large part because I share the same denomination with Derek. I share his concerns about the denomination and its future. Like him I'm more committed to the message than the institution. As I read the book, I liked much of what I read. I agreed with most of his analysis. At times, however, I wrestled with the tone. Part of this has to do with the style, which is informal, almost blog-like. Part of it is generational. As a late Baby Boomer, I find myself conflicted about the nature of our communities. I believe in change. I've preached change. But I'm a bit more reticent to throw out some things that those younger than me might see as unnecessary. Perhaps the best way to put it is a feeling that the tone is somewhat argumentative. I realize that when it comes to tone, everything is in the eye of the beholder.
Derek offers a biting critique, especially of churches and their leaders, who have been slow in embracing the LGBT community. I understand his impatience. I believe my congregation has gone a long way toward being open and affirming. We've made great strides and we've made it clear that all are welcome, but we've not taken the vote yet. So, maybe my conscience was pricked a bit!
The question in the end concerns what can be done. The future looks daunting. I'll make it to retirement. But will the churches I've served be able to call someone to serve in the same way I've served? Derek calls for boldness. That may be the way in which we get the message out. But I want more. I want to understand how we can take root in our communities. I want to understand how we can be inviting to younger generations, without telling older generations that they need to get out of the way. Finding that balance isn't easy. So the journey and the conversation continues. Derek gives us food for thought and resources for the conversation, even if I'm left wanting more.
I will have more to say in a later blog review. ...more
When I tell people that I'm a Disciples pastor, they will usually ask me about our identity? To make it simple, I often tell people that we're sort ofWhen I tell people that I'm a Disciples pastor, they will usually ask me about our identity? To make it simple, I often tell people that we're sort of like Presbyterians mixed with Baptists who have communion every Sunday. We sort of look like Baptists, but our roots are Presbyterian. We are also, I usually point out, an American born and bred denomination. We are a frontier people.
In "Whole," Sharon Watkins, the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) writes about identity. She uses our denominational identity statement: "We are a movement of wholeness in a fragmented world," to speak to that question of identity. She acknowledges that we have an identity problem in part because our name sounds generic on one hand (Christian Church) and cultic on the other (Disciples of Christ).
In this book, which Sharon writes both for Disciples and those interested in our mission, Sharon seeks to outline what it will look like for us to be a church for the twenty-first century. She explores these words -- movement and wholeness. She speaks of our historic commitment to pursuing Christian unity, and explores the need to move out into the world in mission (movement).
Despite our low profile, something she has experienced all her life (she's a life-long Disciple, born to life-long Disciples), Sharon believes that the Disciples are a church for today -- our time has come. This is of course, a matter of the ideal, and often isn't the reality for us. But, our commitment to unity, our embrace of freedom of biblical interpretation, our commitment -- at least in theory -- to diversity all speak loudly to our readiness to embrace the present and the future.
Included in the book is a set of appendices that offer us identity documents and statements. It also provides the text to her 2009 sermon after the inauguration of Barack Obama as President. In that sermon, she celebrated the new President's historic fete (first person of color to serve as President), but she also spoke prophetically, calling the President to engage in works of justice. She used the analogy of two wolves that are competing within each of us. One wolf is focused on vengeance and power. The other on compassion. The wolf we feed will determine who we are. I believe that we have all chosen the wrong wolf -- the wolf of vengeance. The sermon is a good reminder of where we need to be as a nation, but also of a prophetic statement to the world.
It is a brief book, which combines personal stories, stories from churches, and the biblical story. Itis accompanied by discussion questions for each chapter, making it a useful book for studies in local churches. I know I will be using it that way in my congregation.
Every time there's a disaster the affected community must discern a path forward. There is the immedate need to get people to safety, make sure everyoEvery time there's a disaster the affected community must discern a path forward. There is the immedate need to get people to safety, make sure everyone is accounted for, and emergency supoort provided. Then there's the long term question of recovery. The faith community is often at the forefront of these efforts. They provide financial support, volunteers, and moral support. They can be helpful or hindrances. The key, it would seem, is to be prepared to help and to provide hope.
Amy Gopp, now leading Church World Service, and Brandon Gilvin, associate director of Week of Compassion (Disciples of Christ), have put together an essential manualthat can help congregations prepare for a disaster ranging from a hurricane to a shooting that occurs in their building or community, to the felt need to help those outside their area who have been affected.
One of the important themes of the book, which is comprised of twenty-four brief chapters, written by people of faith who have been affected by disaster and who have assisted in relief efforts, is to use the words of Johnny Wray -- Stay, Pray, and Pay. Too often in our eagerness to help, we get in the way. We show up, hoping to volunteer, but simply get in the way -- having not thought about what tools we'll need, where we'll stay, and what we'll eat. As we learn in one of the chapters on volunteering, usually the greatest need for outside volunteers happens after the new media leaves -- three to six months later. The emphasis is also placed on the greater benefit of money over materials -- if we give money then those on the ground can determine what they need. Too often semis arrive with all kinds of stuff that is of no use and now must be stored somewhere. So what do you do? Find an appropriate and efficient relief group to work through. As a Disciple I find that working through Week of Compassion and Church World Service are the best bets.
The book includes a section at the end entitled Congregational Tool Kit. In this section you'll find all kinds of tools from lists of dos and don'ts to liturgical materials. There's even a bible study guide on disaster preparedness and care of those in need.
I think every pastor should read this book, and everyone in churches who are involved in these various areas of ministry should read the appropriate chapters. Being aware and informed is key.
If these is one area that isn't addressed it is economic disaster. I've had this conversation with both Amy and Brandon over the years. While natural disasters get lots of attention, the economic disaster that affects many rural and urban communities doesn't get the same attention. We seem to assume that these folks brought their "disaster" on themselves, and therefore should dig themselves out. Because I've been involved in starting a ministry in the city of Detroit that seeks to bring new life to communities under duress, I wish this kind of effort kind be highlighted. I think that in many ways a ministry like Gospel in Action Detroit or Motown Mission can be good places of volunteer service while financial support goes to the immediate relief of natural disasters. Both kinds of situations require our attention, but let us not forget the economic issues of our time.
I read this several years ago. Jan Lin is a Disciples of Christ pastor, now retired, I believe. He has a strong sense of evangelism and offers this asI read this several years ago. Jan Lin is a Disciples of Christ pastor, now retired, I believe. He has a strong sense of evangelism and offers this as a way into the conversation. ...more
Joe Jones is a retired Disciples of Christ theologian. He is some what unique in that he has had an affinity for Karl Barth (an affinity I share as aJoe Jones is a retired Disciples of Christ theologian. He is some what unique in that he has had an affinity for Karl Barth (an affinity I share as a Disciples pastor/theologian) and for John Howard Yoder. His theological work is rooted in Wittgenstein's concern for words/grammar, and he is troubled by the lack of theological sophistication among many in the church -- especially the clergy of his own denomination.
In this book, we find a collection of essays, blog posts, and sermons. Most have been written since the publication of an earlier collection was published in 2005 (On Being the Church of Jesus Christ in Tumultuous Times). The book is divided into four parts. Part one focuses on theological matters -- "Ecumenical Theologizing with Ecclesial Friends." I personally found this section to be the most provocative -- as he takes on the questions of what it means to live out a "radical orthodoxy." He talks about theological method, spiritual formation, salvation, discipleship, and the eucharist.
In part two, writing from a Yoder-influenced perspective, he tackles matters of politics from the perspective of a Gospel of hope. Yes, his politics is liberal, but his roots are in the gospel -- for the question is whether we are American first or Christian first.
In Part Three, he takes up a number of conversations -- beginning with the story of his life growing up in Oklahoma and on to his decision to pursue theology rather than law -- being the son of a respected judge. He takes us to Yale Divinity School and introduces us to H. Richard Niebuhr.
Finally, in Part four, we have before us a number of sermons preached for various occasions from his daughter's ordination to the funeral of a friend. In each of these pieces we are drawn into the biblical story and the need to draw close to the God witnessed to by this story.
What comes through these various pieces is that Jones is committed to the church and to the one who calls the church into existence. We hear a clarion call to consider the importance of the Trinity to the life of this church -- a call that is not always well received in a church that is doggedly non-creedal (at least of the traditional kind).
Being that this is a collection of various kinds of written materials, different pieces will speak differently to a person, but as with the Pauline epistles, these are occasional pieces that give witness to the gospel for our day. ...more
In 1840 Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the movement that gave birth to my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), establIn 1840 Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the movement that gave birth to my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), established a college near his home in what was then Bethany, Virginia. He did so out of a belief that citizens and Christians need to have good well-rounded educations. In an age when most institutions were church-related, what made his somewhat unique was his decision to try to go beyond the classical education (Greek and Latin language and literature) to bring in the sciences, as well as Scripture. His belief was that education could contribute to the moral and intellectual development of young people.
The result of his endeavours, which had to compete with numerous other religiously affiliated institutions from his own movement, was an institution that has had its ups and downs, and while evolving over time, over its nearly 175 years of existence (the oldest institution of higher education in the state of West Virginia) it has sought to retain that balance between liberal arts and sciences and vocation. What has changed, rather dramatically, over time is the role of religion. While Bethany was not founded with the need to train clergy as its focus, its primary target audience was other Disciples. Today, the Disciple presence is relatively small -- dwarfed by that of Roman Catholics, and religion is considered private -- mandatory chapel was abolished in the 1960s.
Duane Cummins, a former president of the College, a long-time leader within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and a historian takes us on a journey from the beginnings in 1840 to the present. He sets the story within a broader story -- the development of educational policy and practice in the United States -- especially the trend that moved education from private to public providers, along with its original religious context.
This is a book with a number of audiences. It will appeal to Bethany College alums as they prepare for the college's Sesquicentennial in 2015. It will be of interest to persons seeking to understand the role of the liberal arts college in american education. It will also be of interest to those who seek to better understand the denomination in which they find themselves. I'm not an alum, but I do have interest in the role of the liberal arts (I'm of the opinion that the move away from liberal arts to professional arts is one of the reasons why our nation is so divided -- we don't know our history and culture). I'm also a Disciple historian and pastor who wants to understand this part of our story. I will add, that one of the Presidents -- Perry Gresham -- was the second pastor of the church I now serve as pastor.
It's a good book written by a Disciple historian and educator who served the college. He understands the full range of realities that have faced the college through time. From my vantage point I'd like to know more about the religious elements, especially over the past century. If at the turn of the 20th century the school was dominated by conservative factions within the movement, how did it ultimately move away from that perspective -- one that seems to have rejected higher criticism and evolution. Was it pragmatic or was there a theological reason for moving away?
I do have a question/concern. Cummins writes as an insider, having participated in the story. Therefore, I found his use of the third person in the chapter where he is featured disconcerting. That might just be me, but I think the story would be better served if he had switched to the first person in describing his own era, especially since it is a rather lengthy chapter.
In any case, if you're interested in Bethany, higher education, or the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) you might find this book of interest! ...more
As a "successor" (many years later), I find this to be a most helpful book to understand the complexities of my own congregation. It is also a helpfulAs a "successor" (many years later), I find this to be a most helpful book to understand the complexities of my own congregation. It is also a helpful read to understand what liberal Protestantism was like in the 1940s -- when American exceptionalism was interspersed with a hopeful progressive Protestant faith....more
Elesha Coffman has provided us with a wonderfully written, thoughtful, challenging depiction of the role that The Christian Century magazine played inElesha Coffman has provided us with a wonderfully written, thoughtful, challenging depiction of the role that The Christian Century magazine played in forming what became known as Mainline Protestantism. Born as a Disciples of Christ journal in the 1880s it became the leading liberal voice in the denomination, both before and especially after C.C. Morrison took over as editor in 1908. When it became increasingly difficult to sustain the magazine as a Disciples journal in the early 1920s, Morrison took it into the realm of an ecumenical journal, a status it holds to this day.
Coffman helps us understand the hopes and dreams and the challenges that the editors of the Century faced over the years. She reminds us that while Morrison would have liked a larger spectrum of laity to read the journal, it's primary readership was clergy -- whom have made up the majority of its readers. What the journal lacked in readership, it made up for in cultural capital -- seeking to influence religious leaders, especially clergy. It saw itself as the vanguard of a progressive Protestant establishment -- that is, it portrayed itself as speaking for Protestantism as it pursued the winning of the American soul. It wasn't until the 1950s that this vision began to dissipate and the Century had to revision itself -- still progressive, just not as grandiose in its claims.
If you want to understand what became Mainline Protestantism, you have to read this book. If you're a Disciple -- well you really have to read the book....more