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Renewing Christian Unity: A Concise History…

Renewing Christian Unity: A Concise History of the Christian Church

by Mark G. Toulouse

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Considering its intended purpose -- to be a study guide for lay persons who are interested in learning something about the history of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) -- I gave the book four stars considering the magnitude of the task and the constraints imposed.

The 208 page book, which includes a nice six page index, consists of 14 chapters (to fit a quarterly study) that, after “Chapter 1: Disciples and History,” are grouped into five parts:

Part One – 1804-1832: Restoration Movements (five chapters, pp. 25-66)
Part Two – 1832-1861: A United Church Develops (two chapters, pp. 67-90)
Part Three – 1861-1906: Disagreement and Division (two chapters, pp. 91-112)
Part Four – 1890-1968: Culture and Theology in a Developing Church (three chapters, pp. 113-152)
Part Five – 1968-Present: Decline, Identity, and Unity in Diversity (two chapters, pp. 153-178)

I quote what I believe to be an important point that is included in Part Four: "By 1920, however, Disciples leaders were clearly set in their trajectory to join mainline Protestantism as full participants. As evangelical Protestantism divided into liberal and conservative streams during the first half of the century, Disciples paddled their boat toward the left fork." (p. 134) Some may believe that the "stream" has, over the years, become but just a "trickle" -- due to the significant and continuing decrease in the numerical size of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

A helpful Study Guide covers pp. 179-202. The author suggests five additional books be read as study aids:

a. Duane D. Cummins, The Disciples: A Struggle for Reformation (Chalice Press, 2009).
b. Michael Kinnamon and Jan G. Linn, Disciples: Reclaiming Our Identity, Reforming Our Practice (Chalice Press, 2009).
c. Mark G. Toulouse, Joined in Discipleship: The Shaping of Contemporary Disciples Identity (Chalice Press, 1997).
d. Fran Craddock, Martha Faw, and Nancy Heimer, In the Fullness of Time: A History of Women in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (Chalice Press, 1999).
e. Douglas A. Foster, et. al., Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Eerdmans, 2005).

I am pleased to report that reviews of each of these books may be found at my LibraryThing site.

The author also includes teaching/learning goals and a lesson plan for each chapter. Each chapter closes with a brief list of books one may use for further reading and several questions for discussion.

The book is the third and final one in a series on the history of Stone-Campbell religious heritage churches, published by Abilene University Press. Several nice sketches and photos are included.

I believe that the book would nicely serve as a brief introduction to the history of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for teenage through adult learners. ( )
  SCRH | Feb 13, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0891125434, Paperback)

In RENEWING CHRISTIAN UNITY, scholars Mark G. Toulouse, Gary Holloway, and Douglas A. Foster collaborate to provide an overview of the history of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that will serve all readers by giving a brief, authoritative introduction to this important American denomination.

Throughout its history, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been known for its commitment to Christian unity. The context for unity in the twenty-first century, however, is considerably different than it was in the nineteenth century. RENEWING CHRISTIAN UNITY provides a brief history of the Disciples and their unwavering but ever-adapting commitment to the unity of the church. Their story is one of both continuity and change. Disciples remain as those who are uncomfortable with denominationalism.

They still prefer simply to be known as Christians. But over the course of two centuries, the Disciples' understanding of Christian witness and of the ''one church'' has taken note of the changing times, and changed right along with them. This is partly because Disciples have always believed that human history is meaningful. God has entered human time to make a difference. Disciples celebrate this fact at the communion table and in the baptismal waters, through their active engagement with the world as they seek to embody both God's love and justice, and in their insistence that the church is one.

Alexander Campbell once declared, ''We . . . should hang our Sectarian trumpets in the hall and study ecclesiastic wars no more.'' Disciples have not always succeeded in meeting that expectation, but they do possess a history marked by an earnest desire to seek a renewal of Christian unity in the life of the church. In this book, readers will learn more about this significant group of churches, which has shaped the landscape of American Christianity.

RENEWING CHRISTIAN UNITY is the third volume in a series that also includes Renewing God's People and Renewal for Mission.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:11 -0400)

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