This week in my Wednesday Study Group we discussed chapter four of my book Freedom in Covenant: Reflections on the Distinctive Values and Practices of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (Wipf and Stock, 2015). Chapter four focuses on the Disciples vocation as agents of wholeness or unity. I brought into our conversation one of the founding documents of the Disciples tradition: the "Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery" (1804). The document is linked to Barton W. Stone, one of the progenitors of the movement that gave birth to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
This is what I had to say in the book about this document:
From the earliest days of the movement of which the Disciples are but one branch, we have tried to bear witness to the importance of Christian unity. But what is the purpose of this unity? If we shouldn’t compete with other Christian brands for customers, why do we exist as a separate entity? It is a question that was raised by Barton Stone and his colleagues who dissolved the Springfield Presbytery: “We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.”8 This act of dissolving into the body of Christ at large didn’t last long, as Stone joined in the creation of another entity designed to connect local congregations for ministry. Nonetheless, the “Last Will and Testament” is an important reminder that our denominational brands do not have ultimate significance. [p. 38].