Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Accepting Other Christians as Sisters and Brothers

Some two hundred years ago a person of one Christian denomination could not take Holy Communion in a church of a different denomination. In come cases you could only take communion in the congregation to which you belonged. Sometimes you had to pass a test of faithfulness to take it in your congregation. This was the case with the Presbyterian church When Rev. Thomas Campbell moved from Ireland to America and was assigned to a congregation in Western Pennsylvania.

In the sparsely settled area Thomas Campbell was Pastor of the only church for miles and members from other denominations liked him and began attending. Once when it came time for Holy Communion he decided to make it available to non-members whom he knew to be good Christians who had not been able to take communion in their own distant congregations for many years. 

He got in a lot of trouble for doing that. As part of his defense he wrote a “Declaration and Address” that has been one the founding documents of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Christian Churches and the Churches of Christ. In it he wrote; “So long as any man, woman or child declares his confidence in Jesus of Nazareth as God’s own son, that He was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification; or, in other words, that Jesus is the Messiah, the savior of men; and so long as he exhibits a willingness to obey Him in all things according to his knowledge, so long will I receive him as a Christian brother and treat him as such.”

Today many denominations are open to Christians of other denominations and invite them to share communion as Sisters and Brothers in Christ. That was a new thing some 200 years ago. We are all one in Christ.

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