Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dominion Belongs to the Lord -- Reflection on Psalm 22:23-28

Saturday, February 28, 2015 Psalm 22:23-28 

You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.

 ********* 

Psalm 22 begins with words that Jesus cried out from the cross: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." These words reveal not only physical suffering, which most assuredly Jesus experienced, but also the emotional and spiritual suffering that emerged from his sense of abandonment by God. If we read this Psalm from a Trinitarian perspective, then surely the God whom Jesus cried out to must have experienced a sense of separation as well. Here in this moment a family bond is broken, even if not eternally. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Live Long and Prosper -- Leonard Nimoy (d. 2-27-15)


I didn't encounter Star Trek until it had finished its original run in the 1960s. I was around, but I expect we didn't get the channel.  But in the years since my first encounter,  I have probably watched every episode of every series, and every movie, multiple times.   Few fictional characters have made as much an impression on me or just about anyone else as Mr. Spock.  His Vulcan salute, his eybrow movements, and his embrace of logic, have all caught our attention.  While he at first sought to distance himself from the character, ultimately he embraced one of the great characters of TV and film.  I for one am deeply appreciative of that decision.

As many may have heard by now, Leonard Nimoy, known best to us as Mr. Spock, passed away today at the age of 83.  He will be missed, but to quote Mr. Spock, he will "live long and prosper" in our thoughts and memories. He will continue to remind us of the value of science and learning and reason, even if we need the balance of Dr. McCoy.  Together those two characters offered a sort of yin/yang expression of humanity.  McCoy was a man of science, but he was also a man of deep emotion.  The two were always in debate, much to the amusement of Captain Kirk.  

Yes, we must stop to mourn one who has accompanied us through life.  May his family and his friends find peace.  May we continue to engage him in our lives as well.

Destroying History


It isn't the first time and it won't be the last that extremist groups will seek to destroy the historical record.  While the ransacking of the important museum in Mosul by ISIS is horrific, Humans have been hard at work destroying historical and cultural artifacts, often in the name of God, for centuries. You would think that things would be different in the 21st century, but such is not the case.

In case you've not heard (I just learned yesterday), evidence has emerged that ISIS has broken into the Museum in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and one that is under their control (at least for now), and destroyed priceless artifacts of the history of the region.  These include evidence of the culture of ancient Assyria, which had its heartland in northern Iraq.  If you know your Bible, you will have heard of the Assyrian empire, which destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel in the 8th Century BCE. It is said that this is done in the name of religion, but perhaps this is being done in the name of nihilism.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Word AND Sacrament


                I am a pastor within a denomination that sees itself as being “Table-Centered.” That is, we have made weekly communion a hallmark of our life together.  Many other Protestant traditions could be considered “Word-Centered,” since they feature weekly readings from Scripture and a sermon, but not a time gathering at the Table (except perhaps monthly or quarterly).  In part this is due to a Zwinglian desire to stand separate from the Roman Catholic focus on the Mass.  [The Eucharist: Encounters with Jesus at the Table].

                My question is this – if we consider ourselves to be Table-centered, does that mean we can downplay the importance of the Ministry of the Word?  That is, can we just go to Communion without hearing the Scriptures read and the Word proclaimed?  I occasionally hear people in Disciples circles, including members of the congregations I’ve served, saying Communion is central to their spiritual life, but that they really don’t need the sermon.  Now granted the sermon might not speak to everyone at every service, but that’s not the point here.  My question has to do with the connection between Word and Sacrament, and whether one can truly draw spiritual sustenance from the sacrament without the Word?  I’m not sure that the Sacrament can spiritually nourish without some attention to the Word, not necessarily a sermon, but at least the reading of Scripture.

                When I share at the Table and give the invitation I try to connect what we’ve heard in the Ministry of the Word to what we’re doing at the Table.  I’ve also been writing post-communion prayers, which we share in unison to close the time at the Table, and I connect them with the theme of the Word.  My point being that the Ministry of the Word provides theological substance to our communing with God at the Table. 

                I think this is especially important for congregations that provide for an open table, as we do.  We make no distinctions about who comes to the Table, but my hope is that when we spend time at the Table, we have something to take with us into our meditation on the bread and cup. 


                Here I would like to draw upon Karl Barth’s idea of the three-fold Word of God, a concept that suggests that the Word comes to us enfleshed (Jesus), in Scripture, and in Proclamation.  The sermon is Word of God when it is rooted in Scripture, and points us to Jesus.  That is the premise I take up in my little book The Authority of Scripture in a Postmodern Age: Some Help from Karl Barth. The reading of Scripture and the Word proclaimed serve to point us to the Jesus we encounter at the Table.  Without these two elements, who will the Word Incarnate be named and encountered? 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pope Francis -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Pope Francis is probably the most compelling religious personage of our day. His style and attitudes, his commitment to social justice and embrace of simplicity have gained for him multitudes of admirers, including among Protestants of most stripes (not that group that still wants to see the Pope as the anti-Christ).  He has his critics, especially among Catholic traditionalists who had welcomed the pontificate of Benedict.  He's still taking traditional lines on things like women clergy and LGBT folks, though less hard line.  In any case, we  have found much to admire.  Martin Marty takes a tour of the responses in this week's Sightings column.  
Pope Francis
By MARTIN E. MARTY   FEB. 19, 2015
Pope Francis greets pilgrims during a general audience                  Giulio Napolitano / Shutterstock
Depressed, weary, or frightened by stories of USIS and ISIS and other horrors, plus by debates over “religious extremism” and the role of Islam, we focus instead on the not-unimportant figure of Pope Francis, who makes news and inspires reflection. We recommend as a jumping off point Eamon Duffy’s review of three major books: “Who Is This Pope?” which is easy to access online (see “Sources” at the end of this column.)

For a change, we also word-searched “Protestants and Pope Francis” and were astonished to observe how many and how varied were the answers to Duffy’s question, “Who Is This Pope?”

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Divine Things or Human Things -- Lectionary Reflection for Lent 2B


Mark 8:31-38 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
At the DIA
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

                I enjoy the blessings of middle class American life. I have a nice house in suburbia. I have a job (ministry) that pays fairly well (not high end, but I do okay).  It is nice to have this lifestyle affirmed by my religion. I am quite inclined to save my life, rather than lose it. I much prefer a “theology of glory” over a “theology of the cross.” I like a Jesus who is meek and mild and doesn’t require too much sacrifice.  If we’re honest, most of us living in middle class suburbia would agree.  Preaching a message of sacrificial discipleship doesn’t go very far. We may be inclined to let Jesus spend some time on a cross, as long as we’re assured that it really didn’t hurt, and that it won’t require anything of us.  That is, as long as Jesus is our substitute then all is well. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Church in Exile (Lee Beach) -- A Review

THE CHURCH IN EXILE: Living in Hope After Christendom By Lee Beach. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 240 pages.

The age of Christendom is rapidly coming to an end. In fact, we are living in a post-Christendom world.  Christianity remains the largest religion in the world, but the former heartland of Christianity – Europe and North America is rapidly become more secular religious. Churches still exist and shall exist for the foreseeable future, but they no longer hold positions of honor and influence in our culture. Younger generations are either fleeing our churches or never entered them to begin with. For religious professionals, which includes me, it is almost as if we’re outposts of the Pony Express watching as the telegraph poles are being put up across the landscape. These are difficult times for the church. But this new post-Christendom age offers potential opportunities, if only we’re willing to open ourselves up to them. We may not have a seat at the table with the movers and shakers, like we once did, but maybe that’s a good thing. 

Where does the church in the twenty-first century North America find itself?  What images describe our realities? One image that has taken hold and has potential to ignite our prophetic imagination, to borrow a phrase from Walter Brueggemann, who pens the foreword to this book by Lee Beach, is that of exile. To live in exile is to live apart from familiar surroundings. You might not have control over your lives and destiny. There is a certain transience about exile, and yet it is often a time of refinement and rethinking one’s place in the world. These was definitely true for the people who inhabited the kingdom of Judah in the sixth century BCE. Their kingdom may have been small, but it was theirs. They had a Temple and a monarchy, but all of that went away when the Babylonians came to town, laying waste to the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, and carting off the king and the upper crust of the community.   The question they faced as a community was whether God was still with them, now that their Temple was gone and the leading citizens lived in a foreign land. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Realm of God Draws Near -- Sermon for Lent 1B

Mark 1:9-15

Each Sunday we pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  What does this request of God mean? What is this heavenly reality that we seek to experience here on earth?

After his baptism and sojourn in the wilderness, Jesus went into Galilee preaching the good news that God’s realm was near at hand? What does Jesus’ preaching mission have to do with you and me? How is this good news?

On the first Sunday of Lent, the lectionary readings from the Gospels focus on Jesus’ sojourn in the wilderness where he faced a time of testing before he began his public ministry. While Matthew and Luke are a bit more expansive than Mark, they all tell us that Jesus experienced what some would call an ordeal. In many cultures young people go through some kind of rite of passage. It might simply be a ceremony, like confirmation or baptism, or it might be something more demanding, like going out in the wilderness and facing down a lion. When you return home, you have moved from childhood to adulthood. Now, I’m not saying that these two are completely parallel rites of passage, but the wilderness sojourn reinforced Jesus’ call to ministry that was issued in his baptism.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Politics and the Church


I participate in a Facebook Group that is designed to give members of my denomination the opportunity to share ideas and create conversation.  For the most part it works.  It can get a bit rowdy at times.  After all, we Disciples are a faith community that values freedom to explore and espouse one's faith.  But, when it comes to politics things can get dicey.  Sometimes the tone of the conversation can get heated, and we can lose sight of what unites us. Indeed the  political polarization that exists within the broader community can infect the church. I've seen that happen lately, and people are choosing to leave the group, which is unfortunate.  

I participate in congregation-centered community organizing, with a focus on organizing suburban congregations. That is not an easy task because most suburban congregations, especially Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations, are comprised  of people with a wide spectrum of political beliefs and positions.  While politics gets discussed around the table in the fellowship hall and in the parking lot, it is supposed to be absent from the pulpit.  I expect that most of the members of the church I serve as pastor know where I'm coming from politically, but they expect that I understand that not everyone is on the same page politically.  Since community organizing is rooted in the premise that people get organized when it is in their self-interest to do so, that can make it difficult for congregations to come together, especially when the goal is to unite urban and suburban efforts. At least in Metro-Detroit, it's not just religion and politics, it's race and class that complicates things.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Silent Minority -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

Which ethnic group can claim to be number 1 in terms of population? You probably will be surprised by the answer. Context and history tells us a lot about how and why Americans understand themselves. As we debate immigration matters, it is good to have a conversation as well about the way diversity and assimilation enter into the conversation. So, let me introduce to you Martin Marty, who will tell us the story of America's largest ethnic grouping!



The Silent Minority
By MARTIN E. MARTY   FEB. 16, 2015
German immigrants boarding ship for US (late 19th Cent)                     Credit: German Traces NYC 
America’s largest ethnic group has assimilated so well that people barely notice it. So ran a headline in The Economist (Feb 7). Those of us who sight and study and report on ethnic groups are also busy studying their role in religion in American public life.

Of course, everyone knows about whom, in this case, we are reporting. Ask the politicians, the media leaders, and the pollsters about them. First, of course, are the African-Americans (41 million as of 2011) who topped the Irish-Americans (35 million), followed by Mexican-Americans (32 million). Let’s toss in the English, an historic stock, with 26 million. Don’t forget others in the top ten, among them the Italians, the Poles, and more.

Oh-oh! We forgot the Germans, who are Number One in “ancestry group population,” with 49 million.

Who noticed and who notices them? The Economist did and does, because of the visit last week of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her headline in the Wall Street Journal (Feb 14-15) read “Crises in Ukraine, Greece Test Merkel’s Influence, Stamina.”

The polls tell us that Merkel may be “the most important woman in the world,” but her picture, with France’s President Fran├žois Hollande, was buried in a corner of page 7.

The press has noticed that Germany has noticed crisis-level and “toxic” mistrust and anger among Germans over spying allegations involving the U.S. at a time when “free trade” talks are crucial. “Ami Go Home” is the new “Anti-Americanism, [which was] always strong on the German left, [now] beginning on the right.”

While the polls debate their issues, let’s use the Merkel visit to read The Economist's conjoined stories about Germans in America as the silent minority.

The news stories talked about how “inert” stories about Germans in America are. There is reason to ponder why those of the German-Reformed, German-Lutheran, and German Catholic cohorts are not more “-ert.”

German-American theologians like the Niebuhr brothers towered in the century past. Culturally, musicians like the so-often-performed Bach also resound under steeples.

(An aside: The “Marti” family is a Swiss-German clan to hundreds of Germans in our personal tribe. But “we” assimilated, along with the rest. We counted 29 (!) uncles and aunts and their spouses in our parents’ generation, but cannot recall any of them or our grandparents visiting Germany or Switzerland, or communicating with “the old country.” Ever. Compare them to Italian-Americans and others who kept close ties.)

What happened? First, World War I, when for a year German-Americans were suspect, as we fought “the Huns.” But soon, after suffering, they turned super-patriotic. World War II found the U.S. fighting Germany in its abhorrent Nazi incarnation, when most German-Americans were again in the super-patriotic front.

But those “enemy” events led many to disguise or drop or render “inert” mention of their roots. The Economist mentions the names of the assimilated Pfizer, Boeing, Steinway, Levi-Strauss, and Heinz. These were not singled out ethnically as were figures like Dukakis and Cuomo and Kennedy, who were very visibly Greek- and Italian- and Irish- Americans.

Germans, says The Economist, imported Christmas trees and Easter bunnies and pretzels. “They built big Lutheran churches wherever they went.” Assimilation has great significance in American religious history, as in politics.

The Economist, reporting on the Merkel-Obama (etc.) visits and events: “Unlike Indian-Americans, who went wild when [Narendra Modi] their new prime minister visited America, German-Americans will barely notice.”

We are told that Chancellor Merkel is the daughter of a Lutheran minister and is herself Lutheran. But so far as we know, the German-Americans joined Scandinavian- and other Lutherans, plus German-American Catholics, who, again for many reasons, “inertly” “barely noticed.”
  
Resources
  

“The silent minority: America’s largest ethnic group has assimilated so well that people barely notice it.” The Economist, February 7, 2015, German-Americans.http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21642222-americas-largest-ethnic-group-has-assimilated-so-well-people-barely-notice-it.

U.S. Census Bureau. “Ancestry: 2000.” Census 2000 Brief. Issued June 2004, U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statics Administration.http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/c2kbr-35.pdf.

Carberry, Maegan. “This Map Shows Which Ethnicities Have The Largest Ancestry in U.S. Counties.” Upworthy: Things That Matter. Pass ‘Em On. Accessed February 14, 2015, Diversity and Equality. http://www.upworthy.com/this-map-shows-which-ethnicities-have-the-largest-ancestry-in-us-counties.

Troianovski, Anton. “Crises in Ukraine, Greece Test Merkel’s Influence, Stamina: Twin Challenges Highlight Two Sides of German Chancellor’s Style: Compromise and Toughness.” Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2015, World.http://www.wsj.com/articles/crises-in-ukraine-greece-test-merkels-influence-stamina-1423863768.

“Ami Go Home: Anti-Americanism, always strong on the German left, is growing on the right.” The Economist, February 7, 2015, Germany and America. http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21642211-anti-americanism-always-strong-german-left-growing-right-ami-go-home.

Image: German Traces NYC creative commons.

To read previous issues of Sightings, visit http://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings-archive.
Author, Martin E. Marty, is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His biography, publications, and contact information can be found at  www.memarty.com.

To comment, email the Editor, Myriam Renaud, at DivSightings@gmail.com.
Share
Tweet
+1
Forward to Friend
Sightings Home Page | Submission Guidelines | Reprint Policy
Facebook
Twitter
Divinity School
Email us
ALSO from The Martin Marty Center:
Copyright © 2015 UChicago Divinity School, All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday: Washed and Ready


“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 
******** 
16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

                The Lenten journey begins today. Millions of Christians will participate in some kind of service of worship at which a mark of ash will be placed on their forehead. It might be a cross or simply a line.  The mark serves as a sign that one is a penitent, a person who seeks to make amends with their lives. Sackcloth and ashes were used in ancient Israel as a sign of grief, and this sign was carried into Christianity.  So, we are marked – hopefully we have committed to turning our lives in a new direction.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ministry Prep --Lectionary Reflection for Lent 1B



In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[a] with you I am well pleased.” 
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[b] of God,[c] 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[d]repent, and believe in the good news.”[e]

                The season of Lent begins in the very same place as did the season of Epiphany – with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. The gospel readings for the first Sunday after Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ baptism, and we repeat that story again here.  But we don’t stay at the Jordan. Mark moves us quickly from the river to the wilderness, and after a sojourn in the wilderness we find ourselves in Galilee, where Jesus takes up his new ministry of preaching the good news that the realm of God is knocking at the door. All of this occurs in a matter of seven verses. Another way of putting it would be to lay out a nice three point Lenten sermon outline: Baptized, Tested, Begin Preaching. All we need is a poem and we have a sermon.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Missional Worship, Worshipful Mission (Ruth A. Meyers) -- Review

MISSIONAL WORSHIP, WORSHIPFUL MISSION: Gathering as God's People, Going Out in God's Name (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW))By Ruth A. Meyers. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014.  Xiv + 242 pages.



                In recent years there has been a strong trend among Christian congregations to deem themselves to be missional.  This is especially true among mainline Protestant congregations who have been seeking ways of getting out of their survivalist funk. To be missional is to focus on what God is doing outside the walls of the church, and then joining with God in that work.  It is a good focus—one that I have pursued. But, where does worship fit? Is it relevant to the world in which we live, especially worship that reaches back to earlier centuries? The use of rock music and drama—now that has evangelistic potential—but should we be engaging in something that seems so inward focused as worship within the walls of a church?

Ruth A. Meyers, dean of academic affairs and Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, a seminary related to the Episcopal Church, believes that worship is the heart of missional life.  In her book Missional Worship, Worshipful Mission, Meyers uses the image of a spinning top to describe what it means to be missional.  Standing at the center of the spinning top, its core, is worship.  To understand what it means to be missional, we need to recognize, as Meyers points out, that “mission is a matter of identity rather than program” (p. 4). This is a crucial insight for mainline churches that are always on the lookout for the latest program that will turn the church around. All we need to do is buy a program, implement it, and then we’ll be ready to grow.  Such is not the case here. To be missional is to engage in ministries that reflect God’s concerns – ministries that include witness and service, justice and reconciliation. It involves incarnating God’s love in the world. If we are to be engaged in such work we will need to be connected to the God who is at work in the world.  Meyers defines missional worship as “an understanding and practice of worship that engages worshipers in the mission of God, drawing them into God’s self-offering of redemptive love through Christ and in the power of the Spirit” (p. 12). 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Circle of Redemption -- Speaking of God Sermon Series

Peter Bruegel, "The Wedding Dance," DIA

Ephesians 1:3-14

During this season of Epiphany we’ve been reflecting on our “God-Talk.” Even though our words are inadequate to the task, we do speak about God.  We use metaphors and analogies and stories to give voice to what lies beyond human understanding. We are like Peter, who came up to Jesus after watching him being  transfigured on the mountain and offered to set up tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. He made this offer because “he did not know what to say.”  

Can you identify with Peter?  Do you find it difficult knowing what to say about God?  And yet, we do speak of God.  We speak of God the creator, the God who is love, the God who judges, and the God who saves. As Christians we often point to Jesus and say, whoever God is, God is like Jesus! 

That is why most Christians use the word Trinity to speak of the God whom we experience in Christ and through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Most of us were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It doesn’t matter whether you were dunked or sprinkled. It doesn’t matter if this happened in infancy or later in life, most likely the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were spoken over you.  We also give praise to God as Trinity when we sing Thomas Ken’s Doxology or the traditional Gloria Patri.    

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Disciples of Christ and the Creeds

I am about to conclude an Epiphany sermon series with a sermon that will lift up the importance of the Trinity to our ability to fruitfully speak of God.  My denomination -- the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) -- has long prided itself on being non-creedal.  We like to say that "We have no Creed but Christ, no book but the Bible." We take the Protestant principle of "Sola Scriptura" very seriously.  We do have something akin to a faith statement -- The Preamble to the Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but while it looks creedal we rarely recite it in worship.  In fact I expect most Disciples don't even know it exists. 

As I was working on formatting a new book on Disciples values and practices that I've titled "Freedom in Covenant," I decided to beef up the section in the book on the role of "Tradition" in our interpretation of Scripture with a quote from William Tabbernee, the former President of Philips Seminary and historian of the ancient church.  In a chapter in the Chalice Introduction to Disciples Theology on "Theology and Tradition, Tabbernee addresses the question of the use of creeds.  He quickly disabuses us of the notion that the Campbell's disdained creeds.  They simply wanted to put them in their proper place.  

Tabbernee has helpfully written:

The rhetoric inherent in the Campbell's memorable language over-simplified and, to a certain extent, distorted what they really believed about the relationship between scripture and tradition. Martin Luther's sola scriptura ("the Bible alone") did not really mean "nothing but the Bible" but simply that the Bible should be taken as the final arbitrator of truth when ecclesiastical authorities, such as popes, bishops, or councils, promoted views which appeared to be in direct contradiction with what is revealed in scripture.  Similarly, the Campbells did not totally reject everything that was not "as old as the New Testament." They only rejected post-New Testament "authorities," such as "creeds," if these were made  "a term of communion." By "term of communion," the Campbells meant the criteria by which one was deemed to be deemed worthy to belong to a particular Christian denomination and/or receive the Lord's supper in that (or another) denomination. . . . Neither Thomas nor Alexander Campbell believed that it was inappropriate to use creeds or other aspects of the "Apostolic Tradition" for educational, theological, or liturgical purposes -- as long as they were not used to exclude Christians from fellowship!  Indeed, the Campbells' most vehement attack on "creeds" was primarily directed not against the "ecumenical creeds" of the early church but against post-Reformation "confessions" such as the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647).   [Tabbernee, in Chalice Introduction to Disciples Theology, pp. 46-47].
 
So maybe if we're going to be true to our heritage we might want to be more open to hearing the witness of the ancient church as it expressed itself in the creeds.  It's not that they are to be deemed final authorities, but they may have something to teach us.