The American Restoration Movement began 200 years ago with Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, a call for unity and peace among all Christian denominations based on the pictures of God’s Church we see in the New Testament scriptures and on Christ’s prayer for unity on the night he was betrayed. The founding document of our particular stream of the faith declares that the Church is “essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one.” He called on all Christians everywhere to drop their denominational tags and creeds and party affiliations and come together as one body in our Lord Jesus. The plea was for disciples of Jesus to recognize that they are “Christians only, but not the only Christians.” Campbell exhorted all believers to speak only where the Bible speaks and to exercise grace and mercy where it didn’t.
Thousands and thousands of people gave their lives to Christ. And hundreds of churches dropped their denominational names and practices in order to embrace this call to Christian unity.
These are our roots. This is our foundation. It’s so simple. And powerful. This document spells out clearly the intentions of our founding fathers.
“…to manifest the realities of Christian unity in their tempers and conduct, to consider each other as the precious saints of God, to love each other as brethren, children of the same family and father, temples of the same spirit, members of the same body, subjects of the same grace, objects of the same divine love, bought with the same price, and joint heirs of the same inheritance. Whom God hath thus joined together no man should dare to put asunder.”
One hundred years ago, in Pittsburgh, over 25,000 members of the Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and Christian Churches came together at Forbes Field to celebrate a joint communion service in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Campbell’s Declaration and Address. This year, this Sunday October 4, bicentennial communion services are being held all over the world. Stone-Campbell Restoration churches are gathering together in Canada, Australia, China, Europe, and in dozens of places here in the United States to celebrate what Campbell called “that great ordinance of unity and love.”
The Great Communion D/FW is being held at the Compass Christian Church in Colleyville this Sunday afternoon. I have no idea how many people will be there. I don’t know if we’ll be sharing communion with a couple hundred brothers and sisters or a couple thousand. I don’t know. I don’t know how many people really know or care about our history and heritage in Churches of Christ and the strong ideals of unity and love that founded our faith movement. I’m not sure how many, if any, of us have ever read the Declaration and Address with its unyielding call to unity. I do know that this joint communion service Sunday at Compass will serve as a sort of family reunion. It’ll allow us to come together on the many, many things on which we agree, including the importance of a weekly communion celebrated on the day our Lord was raised from the dead. It helps us break down barriers and tear down walls. It allows us to live out, if even for a moment, the unity we preach and pray for. It provides a time for us to remember the great contribution of the ones who’ve gone before and to reflect on the call for Christian unity that birthed our movement. And it gives us another way to celebrate together our common salvation in our one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I hope to see you there.