A strategy for congregational research

My Nashville research across the last ten years has evolved from an interest in Central Church (where I was then Associate Minister) to a much, much larger scope including each congregation in the county, every para-church ministry based in Nashville, and how the larger issues within Stone-Campbell history interact with local history in one city resulting in the ministry conducted on ground, in the trenches, in the congregations.  With that comes the innumerable evangelists, ministers and pastors who held forth weekly from pulpits across the city. Ambitious? Yes.  Perhaps too ambitious.  That may be a fair criticism, but the field is fertile and the more I survey the landscape and read the sources and uncover additional data, the more I’m convinced to stay the course.

In the last four years especially I have focused my efforts to obtain information about the smaller congregations, closed congregations, particularly congrgations which have closed in the last 40 to 50 years.  My rationale for this focus is that some history here is in some cases, potentially recoverable.  There are larger affluent congregations which have appearances of vitality…they are going nowhere soon.  I can only hope some one among them is heads-up enough to chronicle their ongoing history and preserve the materials they produced.  On the other hand are congregations which have long-ago closed and chances are good we might not ever know anything of them except a name and possibly a location (for example, Carroll Street Christian Church is absorbed into South College Street in 1920 forming Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ…no paper is known to exist from this church, and I can’t even find one photo of the old building, and there is no one remaining who has living memory of this congregation).  For all practical purposes Carroll Street Church of Christ may remain as mysterious in twenty years as it does now.  I’d be surprised to learn of 3 people now living in the city of Nashville who have even heard of it.

But the several congregations that closed in the 50’s-80’s (and some even in the last five years) remain accessible if only through documents and interviews.  Theoretically the paper (the bulletins, meeting minutes, directories, photographs, even potentially sermon tapes) has a good chance of survival in a basement or attic or closet.  Chances are still good that former members still live, or folks might be around–in Nashville or elsewhere–who grew up at these congregations.  Theoretically.  Potentially.  Hopefully.

Yet as time marches on there are more funerals…for example in the last year I missed opportunities to speak with three elderly folks about their memories at these now-closed churches…they were too ill to speak with me and now they are gone!  I did, however, speak at length with one woman in ther 90’s who I thought died long ago!  She is quite alive and lucid!

So from time to time I will highlight on this blog these closed congregations…closed in the recent past…with hopes that someone somewhere might look for them (I get hits on this blog by folks looking for all sorts of things, among them are several Nashville Churches of Christ).  Maybe we can stir up some interest and surface additional information.

A few days ago I posted about one such congregation, the Twelfth Avenue, North Church of Christ.  I have in the queue a post about New Shops Church of Christ in West Nashville.  There are more, several more.

Stay tuned, and remember, save the paper!

Name Authority for Nashville, Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations

Name Authority for Nashville Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations, September 2012

Click above to download a document listing 319 variants of time-, place- and character-names for the 227 known congregations of the Stone-Campbell movement in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee from 1812 to September 2012.

To my knowledge my work in this area is the only such compilation, and therefore, the most complete.  The initial publication of the list to this blog was in May 2010 as a first step in my research toward a book on the Restoration Movement in Nashville.  I blogged then:

With over 200 congregations in this county, the congregational research alone will take years, perhaps the remainder of my life.  If I live to be 100 I may not finish even a rudimentary survey.  It may be too much:  too many congregations, too many preachers, too much ‘story’ to tell.

But this is where I am at the present.  I publish the list here to generate interest, additions, subtractions, corrections and clarifications.  Look it over and if I need to make changes, please let me know.

While congregational history is only one aspect of this project, this is where it all played out…on the ground in the congregations on a weekly basis.  Few congregations have attempted more than a list of preachers or a narrative of the expansion of the church building.  What I propose, as I wrote above, may be too much…too far to the other extreme.  But that fact changes not one whit the necessity of it being done.

The story of these churches in Nashville needs to be told.  I ask for your help in telling it.  look over my list; I solicit your critique. Contact me at icekm [at] aol [dot] com.

(The first version of the name authority, from May 2010, can be found here.)

Seventeenth Street Christian Church

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Seventeenth Street Church is in East Nashville…17 blocks east of the river to be exact…and quite close to Shelby Park.  The building is about 2 blocks north of where Shelby Avenue Church of Christ met.  Organized in 1896, the congregation first met in a white frame building of which I cannot find any photograph.  Micah Stirling Combs was the first minister, serving around 1898.  This brick building was built in 1908-1909 when J. T. McKissick was minister; additional classroom space came in 1950 (notice the boxy addition to the rear).  Its membership in the middle 1950’s was about 350.  The congregation relocated to Madison in the later 1960’s and is now known as Madison Christian Church.  Madison is one of a handful of Independent Christian Churches in Nashville (Madison, Lakeshore and Aspen Grove, which was formerly First Christian).  There were a couple others, but in Nashville and the Middle TN area they are few and far between.  In East Nashville, Seventeenth Street, as an Independent-leaning congregation, sort of fell between the Disciples-leaning Eastwood Christian Church (result of a merger between Eastland and Woodland Street Christian Churches) and the dozen acapella congregations.  Those dozen or more acapella congregations were not all of the same mind, either.  Furthermore, there aren’t a dozen acapella congregations in East Nashville anymore, but perhaps more on that later.

Carnal Warfare: A voice from the summer of 1942

This from the August 1942 issue of Apostolic Times, a monthly published in Nashville by James A. Allen.  In 1941 Allen is in his late fifties.  He has been editor of Apostolic Times, a paper he originated and printed himself, for a decade.  He preceded Foy E. Wallace, Jr. as editor of the Gospel Advocate, serving in that capacity for most of the 1920’s until 1930.  Though not a student of either David Lipscomb or James A. Harding at Nashville Bible School, Allen claims both as his teachers and mentors.  Allen’s family worshiped at South College Street Christian Church in South Nashville where Lipscomb was an elder and Harding often preached.  His father, J. G. Allen, was an elder with Harding at Green Street Church of Christ, a congregation planted by South College Street.  Late in life he worshiped at Duke Street Church of Christ in northeast Nashville.  Allen spent all of his life, that I can find, preaching and teaching for these three congregations (South College in 1920 moved a block east and took the name Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ).  He, of course, preached often elsewhere in meetings.

Allen’s paper opposes all shades of secularism, denominationalism, premillennialism, worldliness and modernism in Churches of Christ.  Allen hesitates little, it seems, to call names.  He praises his friends as strongly as he censures his opponents.  He envisions a simple and primitive Christianity and urges his readers in every issue of the paper to stay with the Bible and with the historic Restoration Plea.  He frequently contributes articles to the Times (as he did in the pages of Advocate) fleshing out his understanding of both of these…the Bible and the Restoration.

This item appears on page 152, as the editorial of the August issue:

—–

CARNAL WARFARE

Dear Bro. Allen:

I read the Apostolic Times every month, and I think it is a very splendid paper.

There is a question I would like for you to answer for me: Can a man who is a Christian participate in carnal warfare and still remain a Christian?  I know that it is wrong to kill, but if he is commanded by civil authorities to do something else, what must he do?

*  *  *  *

No, a Christian cannot engage in carnal warfare.  “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds.”  (1 Cor. 10;3, 4.)  “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-ruler of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ (Eph. 6:12)

The position occupied by the churches of Christ has been known and accepted by the Federal Government for many years, and it is nothing less than a tragedy that a few have recently endeavored to compromise it.  They argue that a man is in one sphere as a Christian and that the same man can act in a totally different sphere as a citizen.

But to assume that any one can live one sort of life as a Christian, in one sphere, and that he can step out of that sphere into another, and in the other do things that all recognize he cannot do as a Christian, is to assume that a Christian can live a sort of Dr. Jeckel [sic] and Mr. Hyde kind of life that utterly incompatible with the teaching of Christ.  The genius who thought up this absurdity ought to be real ashamed of his brain-child.  The Christian life embraces every thought and action.  When a man steps outside of it into another sphere he ceases to be a Christian.

God is the Ruler and Governor of the universe.  He is over-ruling all.  He is using every man for the work that that man has fitted himself to do.  He does not use Christians for work they cannot do as Christians.

It is not a question of love for or loyalty to this great country.  We are living under the greatest and best form of government in the world.  We would gladly give our lives for this glorious land of freedom and liberty if we could do it without violating the law of God as given in the New Testament.  The influence of the gospel is what has made the United States great and the greatest service a Christian can render his country is not to engage in carnal war but to labor for the spread of the gospel.

Some ask, Suppose a ruffian should attack your wife or daughter, would you kill him?  such a question is like asking what would become of the man who was killed on his way to be baptized.  Questions of this kind involve consequences and consequences are in the hands of God.  It is our part to obey God.  What happens when we obey Him is in His hands.

–J.A.A.

—–

Allen does not print the querist’s name.  We are left to wonder whether it is a potential infantryman or one’s wife, mother or child.  We do not know if the author is a preacher.  We do not know if he or she is young or old.  In the end it matters little for us because there is no way we can know; it seems to have mattered none for J.A.A. and he very likely knew.  What I think is certain is that our anonymous writer is very concerned about the war and very concerned about how to live out in its midst a faithful Christian commitment.  This is Allen’s concern as well.

Save the Paper

Regular readers of this blog know that one of my research interests is Nashville’s Stone-Campbell heritage.  Judging from the folks who find my blog by searching for old Nashville churches like Foster Street Christian Church or Vine Street Christian Church or South College Street Church of Christ, I see I am not alone in my interest.  Here’s my appeal:

I am assembling information from, by and about these churches, ministers and related organizations.  Do you have paper (like directories or bulletins), photographs, sermons, postcards, old issues of periodicals like Gospel Advocate or Apostolic Times or ephemera from Nashville events like the Hardeman Tabernacle meetings or the Collins-Craig Auditorium Meeting, or the Nashville Jubilee?  Do you have photographs or postcards of church buildings?  For that matter, do you have an old map of Nashville that shows what the city was like in the 1940’s?  or earlier? Do you have clippings from the newspapers about people or events or congregations in the Nashville or Davidson County area?   Do you have memories of growing up at Vine Street Christian Church when it was still downtown?  Or Reid Avenue Church of Christ, Russell Street Church of Christ or Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ (all three are now closed)?  Would you be willing to talk with me–in person or by email or even by postal mail–to share your memories?  Would you allow me to borrow your old paper, copy it and learn from it?

Old paper is the stuff from which history is written.  And if it isn’t preserved then not only will vital data be lost but a story will be silenced.  I believe the Nashville story is a rich story, and a story worth keeping and worth telling and worth preserving.   With every funeral we lose some memory or story.  The time has come for us to assemble what remains while we can, and ensure that through its preservation the story will not be forgotten.

Check the steamer trunks in your attics, the boxes in your basements and the files in the closets.  Before you throw it away, email me.  Let’s preserve it.

icekm (at) aol (dot) com

Understanding Non-Institutional Churches of Christ: Some Suggestions for First Reads

I offer for this installment the suggestions of my friend Chris Cotten.  Several weeks ago I asked Chris to consider guest-posting to eScriptorium a short reading list on non-institutional churches of Christ (NI).  I told him there would be no parameters, no restrictions and no pay…well, ok, a meal at Wendell’s in West Nashville, but no lucre, filthy or otherwise, is at stake here.  Chris obliged and put together twelve annotated suggestions for first-reads on NI churches and issues.  Enjoy…

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First Reads: non-institutional churches of Christ

This list is my own.  The interpretations are my own, as well (although we can talk about the scholarship behind them in the comment box if you’d like).  There may be works that you would include that I haven’t; that’s ok, tell me about them in the comment box.

1. ‘The churches of Christ (non-institutional)’ via Wikipedia.  Don’t laugh, it’s actually a decent summary of the controversy of the 1950s and some of the later controversies within NI circles.  The article is aided considerably by the input of Jeff Barnes and others. 

2.  “Please Don’t Call Us ‘Anti’” by Ferrell Jenkins.  The text of an address delivered at the 55th Annual Pepperdine Lectureship in May, 1998.  It attempts, as much as possible, to give a snapshot of the NI fellowship as it stood at that time.  Much of what he says is still valid a decade later.

 3.  David Edwin Harrell, Jr., The Churches of Christ in the 20th Century: Homer Hailey’s Personal Journey of Faith.  Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2000.  Included in this biography of Homer Hailey is probably the most complete history of the NI churches following the split of the 1950s.

 4.  ________, “The Emergence of the ‘Church of Christ’ Denomination.”  Athens, AL: C.E.I. Publishing Company, 1972.  If you think the institutional debate was about kitchens, you don’t get it.  The young scholar turns the rigor of his sociological analysis of the 19th century Stone-Campbell Movement to an examination of the institutional controversy in this delightfully written, and frankly polemical, pamphlet.

5.  Irven Lee, “A Friendly Letter on Benevolence.”  Athens, AL: C.E.I., 1958.  Included in this tract is the memorable, and very telling (I think) line, that Christianity “is a do-it-yourself religion.”  I think this gives significant insight into the NI mindset: Lee is not saying that you don’t need the church and that you can go it alone, rather that teaching, preaching, missionary activity, care for the poor¸ widows and orphans, are always the responsibility of each Christian and can never be “outsourced” to agencies that do those things for us without us ever having to lift a finger.  To me, this is a kind of proto-“missional” stance.  It has, incidentally, recently been dressed up and re-presented in Russell D. Moore’s book on adoption.

6.  Cogdill-Woods Debate: A Discussion on What Constitutes Scriptural Cooperation Between Churches of Christ.  Lufkin, TX: Gospel Guardian, 1957.  This debate between Roy Cogdill (representing the NI position) and Guy N. Woods (representing the institutional position) took place in Birmingham, Alabama, in November 1957.  (Interestingly, this major debate took place almost three full years after B.C. Goodpasture had printed calls for a ‘quarantine of the antis’ in the pages of the Gospel Advocate in December 1954.)  Although not a very edifying read, yet lauded as the textbook on the subject by many on the NI side, this is the standard presentation of the hermeneutical side of the institutional controversy.  The text of Cogdill’s first affirmative speech can be found here.

7.  The Cogdell-Turner Discussion.  Bowling Green, KY: Guardian of Truth, 1983.  A written debate between Gaston D. Cogdell (not to be confused with Cogdill above), representing the ‘mainline’ and Robert F. Turner, representing the NI position.  In general, I have found that written debates are far more effective than oral ones when attempting to understand a question.  Thus, I consistently recommend this debate over Cogdill-Woods if you want to examine a debate about institutionalism. 

8.  Cecil Willis, ed.  The Arlington Meeting.  Marion, IN: Cogdill Foundation, 1976.  In 1968, a group of well-known preachers and authors representing both the institutional and non-institutional positions gathered in Arlington, Texas, to talk things over.  Nothing came out of the meeting itself, but the speeches given were collected into a single volume by Cecil Willis and make a nice resource on the whole question, mostly because of the general absence of rancor on the part of the speakers. 

 9.  Steve Wolfgang, “History and Background of the Institutional Controversy.”  This is Wolfgang’s opening address at the 1988 Nashville Meeting.  Originally published in Guardian of Truth 33 (1989), it was reprinted in pamphlet form from Truth Bookstore.  The entire address is now available online in four parts: 1, 2, 3, 4.

10.  John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding.  Siloam Springs, Arkansas: Leafwood, 2006.  Much of what is described in this book – although not all of it – is passed from Lipscomb and Harding through John T. Lewis (a 1906 Nashville Bible School graduate) to a group of preachers (Benjamin Lee Fudge, Irven Lee, Hiram Hutto, Sewell Hall, Howard See, Carrol Sutton, etc.) and churches in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee during the first half of the twentieth century.  As it manifests itself in NI circles, it retains the Lipscomb/Harding position on war and government, the female head covering, prayer (and prayer posture), grace, etc., as well as Lipscomb and Harding’s ecclesiology (which this particular ‘school’ points to in defense of its adoption of the NI position in the 1950s).  When examining the history of the NI fellowship over the past twenty years, it is possible to see the tensions between “liberals” (the group described above) and “conservatives” (represented by Truth Magazine, Faith and Facts, Watchman Magazine, etc.) as another example of the strife between “Tennessee” (in Hicks and Valentine’s paradigm) and “Texas.”

11.  Benjamin Lee Fudge, “Can A Christian Kill For His Government?” Athens, AL: C.E.I., 1943.  This tract, published the year that Fudge graduated from Abilene Christian College, was extremely controversial.  It was published at a time when the slow trickle away from pacifism in Churches of Christ had become full-scale retreat, due in large part to the shift of Foy E. Wallace, Jr. from a pacifist to a militarist position following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.  In short, Fudge’s answer to the question posed in the title of the pamphlet was “No.”  As the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, Fudge’s unpopular position on participation in war, combined with his alignment with the emerging non-institutional movement (as demonstrated in his journal, The Gospel Digest), led to a nationwide boycott of the publishing enterprise he had founded during the 1940s – called C.E.I. (Christian Enterprises International) and at the time a major provider of Sunday school literature among Churches of Christ – that forced him into involuntary bankruptcy.  This tract has probably done the most to keep the pacifist option open in NI circles over the past fifty years.

 12.  Daniel Sommer, The Rough Draft: Can’t We Agree on Something?  Daniel Sommer (1850-1940) was something of a spiritual grandfather for the non-institutional movement.  Let me hasten to clarify that statement because if I leave it alone I will catch flack from all sides. 

 It is difficult to speak of Sommer at all in Church of Christ circles.  Outright misrepresentation of his positions (or incomplete understandings of them) are rampant in Church of Christ circles.  A few things should be noted first for an informed reading of the Rough Draft.  First, it was common in mainline CofC circles in the 1950s to refer to those who advocated the NI position as “Sommerites.”  Partly this was to score rhetorical points – to call someone a Sommerite in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a shorthand way to refer to that person as an extremist or a fanatic. 

First published in the American Christian Review in June 1932, this is a fascinating document.  It comes from the “ecumenical” period late in Sommer’s life.  The positions elaborated in the document are, thus, moderate positions designed to appeal to a wide audience across the conservative end of the Disciples spectrum.  The compromise position on support of colleges enunciated in this document becomes, twenty years later, the NI position during the debates of the 1950s.  By that time, of course, the game had changed in Churches of Christ.  The push for denominational status (in the Troeltschian sense), respectability and institution-building in Churches of Christ in the 1950s made the compromises of the 1930s seem quaint at best, dangerous and radical at worst.

Christian Scholars’ Conference 2009

With its organizing theme as The Power of Narrative, this year’s conference drew to Lipscomb University about 400 conferees to hear over 230 presenters in 70 sessions. Topics ranged from studies in specific biblical texts to theology to poetry to literature to history to ethics to science to ministry to teaching (and beyond). Presenters represented something like 100 universities and institutions.

Plenary addresses by Hubert Locke, Barbara Brown Taylor, Billy Collins and Marilynne Robinson were superb.  Tokens old-time radio show was most outstanding.  The luncheon honoring the memory of Mike Casey was touching.  Meeting new folks, renewing acquaintances and seeing old friends was a true joy.  I even met some followers of this blog…all three of them!  (No books this time, we’re on a tight budget at the Ice house.  I’m trying to read the ones I already have…what a novel idea and if faithfully pursued will take care of my reading for the rest of my life without a single future purchase)

I took in these sessions:
The Impact of the Written Word: The Place of Editors in the American Restoration Movement with presentations on Isaac Errett by L. T. Smith, on David Lipscomb by Robert Hooper and Austin McGary by Terry Gardner.

New Explorations in Race, Peace, and Justice: Recent Dissertations in Stone-Campbell History, a session I chaired with papers by Wes Crawford on African American in Churches of Christ and on B. U. Watkins by Ray Patton and responses to the above by Barclay Key and Vic McCracken.

And the Word Became Flesh: Studies in Restoration History in Memory of Michael W. Casey, with papers by Thomas Olbricht on Recovering Covenantal narratival Theology, by Jerry Rushford on the Christians in Klickitat County Washington, and by Carisse Berryhill on the Rhetoric of Alexander Campbell’s Morning Lectures (some of which were published under the title Lectures on the Pentateuch).

Another installment of the Restoration Studies in honor of Mike Casey with papers on R. W. Officer by David Baird, J. W. McGarvey’s “The Authorship of Deuteronomy” by Mark Hamilton and Hoosiers, Volunteers and Longhorns by John Mark Hicks.

and

Reflections on Theological Education: Ministry and Ecclesiology with papers by Tom Olbricht surveying the past 75 years of theological education in Churches of Christ, on their experiences in the academy by Abraham Malherbe and James Thompson.

This was my first time to attend CSC.  I’m already making plans to attend next year.

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With this update of the CSC my blogging hiatus, I think, may be over. The flooding at work the last week of April threw a monkey-wrench into our collective and individual routines. Nothing was lost, and what was damaged has been totally salvaged. This is fantastic news. It turned out to be a real headache, and never were we so thankful to have a headache rather than a disaster. I think I am now back into a routine…just in time for the summer research season (one of my favorite times of year).

The end of the academic year has its own set of rituals, routines and events. The Ices had our fair share.  The long and short of it is that blogging wasn’t even on the list the last six weeks, much less down on the list.

But I intend to to resume.  On deck is the latest installment in my “First Reads” series. This one is a guest post courtesy of my friend, fellow blogger and partner in crime when it comes to Nashville church history, Chris Cotten. Chris kindly agreed to reflect on the literature by, from and about the non-institutional churches of Christ. I have found his list, and his comments about each item on it, very helpful.