Seeking True Unity:
A Review and Interaction, Part 1
I came across this little book (64 pages) at the ACU lectures. I recognized the names of Dale Jenkins and Phil Sanders and decided to purchase it. I had the book finished before I went to bed in my hotel room later that night. Of the writers I have only personally met Phil Sanders before but I have corresponded from time to time with Dale Jenkins. Of the seven contributors I have no doubt they are men of integrity with a passion for the Lord. As it turns out I probably have few problems of fellowshipping them than they will of me … but I would gladly concede being wrong on this one.
First I want to begin with a commendation of these authors. Though it will be clear that I disagree on a number of minor and major points, I am gratified they affirm a passion for the unity of the body of Christ. Dale writes, “To a man the seven of us involved in this project want unity!” (p.7). He writes further, “We desire to reach across the years and reunite with those from whom we are divided. We desire to swim the channel – climb the steepest hill – we endeavor to achieve and to keep, to seek true unity.” (ibid). I can not tell you how thrilled I am by those words. The book brother Jenkins edits is a contribution to the ongoing dialogue of what “true unity” consists and how to achieve it. So brothers Jenkin(s), Sanders, Baker, Greene, Hatcher and Higginbotham I thank you for this small volume. I share your earnest desire to climb the steepest mountain to claim the right hand of my estranged brothers in the Lord.
I have contributed my own “book” with John Mark Hicks, to that conversation of unity and identity, Kingdom Come.
My interaction with and evaluation of the arguments of the book do not in anyway detract from our shared goal, desire or wish for unity. I pray that my words share in the worthy spirit of this little book. I will say, before I move on, that I think a richer and more healthy approach to this subject is presented in a masterful way by Monroe E. Hawley in his epoch book Is Christ Divided? A Study of Sectarianism
(Howard Publishing, 1992)
Seeking True Unity is well written and creatively designed around a theme as we will see. Each short chapter is divided up into six subsections: Opening Statements, Presenting the Evidence, Examining the Facts, Hearing the Testimony, Rendering the Verdict and Cross Examination (set of questions). One quickly sees that we have entered a courtroom – sort of a “Law & Order” approach to this subject of unity. And as we will see in any courtroom drama the evidence can be spun in many directions by the prosecution and the defense. As I read this book I came to the conclusion that what we are hearing from the prosecutions team of lawyers was a version of the evidence (I chose this language deliberately). I say version because the arguments are not dispassionate but come from vested interests and from folks with lots at stake. This is neither good nor bad just an important fact to remember and digest.
Counsel for the prosecution approaches the witness five times. Each time a lawyer well versed in his specialty leads the jury in a specific direction (we want no hung juries, 🙂 The voices we hear are
Dale Jenkins: Deja Vu All Over Again
Steve Higginbotham : Who Said You Could Do That?
Phil Sanders: Can’t We All Just Be Christians?
Mike Greene: How Did We Get Where We Are?
Jeff Jenkins: Same Song, Different Century
Mike Baker: What Do We Do Now?
Thus as I read and reflected on the prosecutions arguments, as a member of the jury, it occurred to me that what I was actually hearing was an apology for the status quo. For division. I kept hearing, through the testimony, why it is good for “us” to remain basically as “we” are. We are told that some “refreshing changes” are being made but we never find out what they are. The origins of this “case” (i.e. the book) we are hearing is almost surely the recent events with the Richland Hills Church of Christ, Tulsa Workshop and the North American Christian Convention.
My plan is to interact with each of the prosecutions key lawyers and their presentations. They are skilled and need to be taken seriously … and this we intend to do. We intend on asking our witness in the dock a few more questions and critiquing the argument of our panel of lawyers … for the sake of unity.
BTW it should be obvious, but sometimes it has to be pointed out, I am using the courtroom metaphor of lawyers and the like and am following the lead of the book itself and is not in ANY fashion meant to be derisive. It is simply a good metaphor …