For more than a century, this publishing house has been a ministry of what is now known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As a mainline denomination, Disciples have experienced sweeping change not just in the past 50 years but in the past few years. As a denominationally supporting publishing house, we have a responsibility to provide resources for Disciples that document this change and reflect on how these changes impact our work as a denomination, in our independent congregations, and as individuals who call ourselves Disciples.
A decade ago, Michael Kinnamon and Jan Linn produced Disciples: Reclaiming Our Identity, Reforming Our Practice, examining issues such as finances, approval for ministry, education, and homosexuality in a denominational context. Since then, Disciples have seen notable growth in our ethnic congregations, notably Hispanic and Asian and Creole, and issued a statement of welcome for the LGBTQIA+ community. These changes prompted the update of their book and its reissue as Disciples: Who We Are and What Holds Us Together, a title that signals the book’s two main themes: identity (who we are) and covenant (what holds us together). The updated book launched in July at the Disciples’ General Assembly in Des Moines, Iowa.
The denomination roots itself in an ecumenical spirit best epitomized by the phrase, “no creed but Christ” – that is, if you consider yourself a Christian, you’re welcome in the denomination. Disciples enjoy hashing out the differences in opinion; we actually value the capacity to disagree and yet to stay united as a church. That’s easier said than done, of course, and Disciples have had our share of arguments that result in aggrieved parties peeling away from the denomination. Two veterans of the church, Kinnamon and Linn have seen their share of these internecine battles, and they understand the cultural and societal context Disciples address as we near the end of the 21st Century’s first quarter.
From their homes in San Diego and Minneapolis, Michael and Jan critiqued each others’ work and opinions, putting their cordial disagreements to work in fleshing out this second edition. The book that emerges is a rich look at a denomination in the throes of change, working to create an identity from a theological outlook that itself defies the creation of a single identity, a denomination embracing diversity in a time when diversity is being weaponized in political and societal manipulations.
From the outset, we knew we needed to ensure we had buy-in from those very communities we were discussing. We sought reviews from representatives of the Hispanic, Asian, and African American Disciples and used their critiques to sharpen the history and reflections in the book. We are grateful for this incredibly valuable feedback.
For Disciples congregations and those who study our denomination, Disciples will provide plenty of conversational fodder. You may not agree with Linn and Kinnamon – after all, disagreement is part of the Disciples way – but by participating in the discussion, you’re adding to the unique dialogue that is a part of our history and our faith.
Order Disciples: Who We Are and What Holds Us Together here.