Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Lord's Supper in Stone-Campbell Churches

John Mark Hicks, Professor of Theology at Lipscomb University, a Church of Christ institution has an insightful blog for Stone-Campbell Christians entitled: "The Practice of Table in 20th Century Churches of Christ." His research identifies four characteristics of how the Supper was conceived during this period:
  1. Cognitive and Mental
  2. Introspective and Penitential
  3. Vertical and Individual
  4. Legal Test of Loyalty
Based on my experience in Churches of Christ, Hicks is on target with his analysis. I would contrast those four concepts then with my experience within Disciples of Christ. Here are four characteristics of Lord's Supper that I've seen in practice in Disciple churches:
  1. Oneness - represented by both men and women serving at the Table
  2. Centrality in Worship - centrality of the Supper in worship, including times other that Sunday
  3. Vertical and Horizontal - awareness of participating as a community of believers as well as an individual
  4. Sacramental - where we experience the presence of the resurrected Christ
Here are three quotes from three Disciple authors about the Lord's Supper within the Disciple heritage.

"They (Disciples) interpreted the Lord's Supper largely in terms of remembrance. Yet they viewed it as much more than a symbolic action designed to recall the death of Jesus. Disciples quite commonly think of this action as a communion - a term which refers to a present engagement, not a memory of the past." The Faith We Affirm: Basic Beliefs of Disciple of Chris, Ronald E. Osborn, 1979

"If as is commonly said, the sacraments are outward signs of an invisible grace which God gives his people, then Disciples, despite Alexander Campbell's disdain of the term, have two sacraments - baptism and the Lord's Supper." People of the Chalice: Disciples of Christ in Faith and Practice, Colbert S. Cartwright, 1987

"The oneness of the church lies at the core of why Communion expresses our identity as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) more than anything else we do together." Disciples: Reclaiming Our Identity, Reforming Our Practice, Michael Kinnamon and Jan Linn, 2009

Note: All three of these Disciple authors would agree that historically "remembrance" has been central to Disciple interpretations of the Supper.

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