Freedom in Covenant


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In an age of decreasing denominational loyalty, questions of identity have become important. Both church members and inquirers wonder what to make of a denomination’s core values, mission, and common practices. Because the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was born as a movement of reform on the American frontier during the early nineteenth century, it is marked by the time and place of its birth. The message it offered at the time was one of Christian unity rooted in theological simplicity and freedom of belief and practice. This message influenced the way the tradition came to understand biblical interpretation, theology, the sacraments, ministry, and its eschatology. As the movement matured, many recognized that this message of freedom could lead to unfettered individualism and tended to undermine congregational life and cooperation beyond the congregation. In response, Disciples leaders turned to the biblical idea of covenant to balance the message of freedom and link congregations with other forms of church without creating hierarchical systems. If, as some have suggested, this is a movement whose time has come, then it will important to understand the movement’s identity and core values, which have been formed within the fulcrum of the tension existing between freedom and covenant. “”As an urban pastor and church historian, Cornwall seeks to reclaim aspects of his church’s ecclesial inheritance that continue to resonate within American religious and cultural life. Using the principles of freedom and covenant as interpretive guides, he writes a succinct, readable, and persuasive interpretation of this distinctive American church tradition. Designed to be a study guide for individual readers and classes, this slender volume can help Disciples reframe the way they understand their church.”” –Keith Watkins, Church Historian, Open Road Cyclist “”This accessible yet thorough treatment on Disciples’ ethos and vocation counters the oft-used quip: ‘You can be Disciples and believe whatever you want.’ Rather, as Cornwall rightly argues, Disciples are marked by a peculiar call to a unity that encompasses diversity, a freedom fortified by responsibility, and a denominational particularity that nonetheless honors our common apostolic witness to Christ. . . . A timely, persuasive call from a thoughtful theologian and pastor committed to Disciples, and the whole church “” –Jose Francisco Morales Torres, Director of Pastoral Formation, Disciples Seminary Foundation, Claremont, California Robert D. Cornwall is Senior Pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Troy, MI. He received his PhD in Historical Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is editor of Sharing the Practice (Academy of Parish Clergy). His books include Religion, Politics and Dissent, 1660-1832, co-edited with William Gibson (2010), Faith in the Public Square (2012), and Unfettered Spirit: Spiritual Gifts for the New Great Awakening (2013).



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