Regional News

Disciples – A Movement whose time has come?

November 4, 2015 Published by Neil Topliffe

Why do the Disciples of Christ have some distinctive values and practices that can provide us with real hope in reaching out to seekers and explorers for a substantive faith experience? One of our own, Dr Robert D. Cornwall, has just published a new book that lifts up why the freedom of covenant is so much a part of the Disciples DNA, making our gifts of faith and hope inviting to others.

Freedom in Covenant: Reflections on the Distinctive Values and Practices of the Christian Church is available from  Wipf and Stock Publishers, 978-1-4982-2323-2 / paperback / $12, www.wipfandstock.com

“Freedom in Covenant…” identifies that in an age of decreasing denominational loyalty, questions of identity have become important. Both church members and inquirers wonder what to make of a denomination’s core values, mission, and common practices. It is these questions of identity, values, and practices that this book explores. It is history, but more than history. It looks at the current state of the church, but it is more than that.

The following excerpt demonstrates the authors inviting writing style. It’s an engaging and informative good read for clergy and laity alike. The book is a compilation of sermons by Cornwall over a number of years in several congregations. 
         “Although Disciples do not have creeds, we do have some wonderful slogans that remind us to take the Bible seriously. One of these slogans declares: “We have no Creed but Christ, no Book but the Bible.” Another one proclaims: “Where the Scriptures speak we speak, where the Scriptures are silent we are silent.” What these slogans suggest to us is that a person’s own interpretation cannot have priority over that of another person. It also means that the essentials of the Christian faith should be few in number, for in essentials we are to be unified, while in nonessentials there is room for difference.”

Keith Watkins, retired professor of Christian Theological Seminary, church historian, says of the book, “As an urban pastor and church historian, Cornwall seeks to reclaim aspects of his church’s ecclesial inheritance that continue to resonate within American religious and cultural life. Using the principles of freedom and covenant as interpretive guides, he writes a succinct, readable, and persuasive interpretation of this distinctive American church tradition. Designed to be a study guide for individual readers and classes, this slender volume can help Disciples reframe the way they understand their church.”

Reviewer – Neil Topliffe, retired Disciples minister and Michigan Disciples web news editor