Monday, June 16, 2008

The Brethren and the Adventurous Future

We have just concluded a review of the Brethren Bicentennial addresses in June 1908 Des Moines, Iowa. We now turn to the Church of the Brethren 250th Anniversary year. Annual Conference was again held in Des Moines, Iowa June 17-22. Once again, the Anniversary Year addresses, including those at Annual Conference, were collected and published in a book titled The Adventurous Future, compiled by Paul H. Bowman. Preceding the opening of Annual Conference, Harry K. Zeller, Jr. shared a sermon by the same name at the opening session of Standing Committee. An outline and excerpts of that sermon follow.

Anniversaries are weighted with danger. The predispose us to look backward rather than ahead. Not even the parable of Lot's wife is sufficient to shake us out of the nostalgia by which we are drawn to the past and hesitant about embracing the future.

The first problem posed by the adventurous future at a two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary is our concept of change. Our eyes will turn to the past as we observe our history; they may even be glued to the past! ... Spiritual values especially venerate the past. "The new is never holy," as Edith Hamilton reminds us. ...This anniversary ought to be the time when we remind ourselves that Alexander Mack was quite an innovator.

Let us push wider the door to the adventurous future by suggesting that this anniversary be regarded as the midpoint in our existence. We are now halfway between what the church has been and what it can be. ... Let us make a beginning toward this adventurous future by confessing that we do not yet know fully what it means to be Christian. We allow that God has more truth in store for us than we now know. We believe that the future may show us as much more about God as the past has revealed.

...a unity of spirit as we have in our oneness in Christ in no way lessens the need for our individual interpretations of truth as we understand them in Christ. We are required to give our particular tint or color to the whole canvass which is Christian revelation. ... As a church we are a fellowship of those whose religious traditions and insight have provided us with unique aptitudes which we are morally bound to share with other Christian people.
  1. We shall continue our emphasis upon the genuine life.
  2. As devoutly as we may wish it to be true, the present arrangement of human affairs does not permit us to regard war as finished. ... Our unique thrust in Christendom, our peculiar witness in the world, and the special genius of our message in the adventurous future must continue this interpretation of the gospel of Christ, as our special portion of the larger Christian witness.
  3. In the adventurous future we shall find anew that the answer is Christ. The Church of the Brethren will come to its own in the family of God by "following Jesus." In such an hour of this, as at the hour of beginning two hundred fifty years ago, the church is drawn again to Christ. In the providence of God it is not permitted us to know what of marvel or surprise lies in the unknown tomorrow for our church fellowship.
Source: The Adventurous Future, Chapter 16