Last night I had a discussion on the radio with a fellow Christian and Christ Church critic, Keely Emerine-Mix. This was my opening statement, more or less, but, because I ran out of time, I did not get all the way through it. For those who want to check it out, the entire discussion can be heard here. I was very pleased with how it went, and for the even-handedness displayed by our moderator.
Let me begin by thanking the radio station, Dr. McGehee, and Keely Mix for this opportunity. As I told Vera White when she asked about it, my purpose in accepting this kind invitation was to decrease the number of people who hear things about Christ Church second hand. I am convinced that the more we do this, the less frequently folks will jump to conclusions, and the less our town will have to deal with the kind of fallout that comes from prejudice. Making critical judgments from a distance is always dangerous. For those who have heard outlandish things about us, perhaps this discussion will help.
What is Christ Church? Who are we? To go right to the point, we are an historic evangelical church in the Reformed tradition. That is a mouthful, but this is what it means. If Christendom were a Baskin-Robbins, what flavor would we be? Before someone calls in to suggest tutti-frutti, and I counter by maintaining that we are really an elegant French vanilla, allow me to make a simpler point. We are ice cream. Every flavor in there has its distinctives, but those distinctives separate one kind of ice cream from another, not ice cream from, say, gravel in your driveway.
So when you hear someone say that CC holds to this or that, please keep in mind that what we are talking about is differences in flavor. We are not talking about a different kind of thing altogether. Area evangelical churches held an all-church picnic in East City Park about ten days ago. We contributed, and our people were there in force. Area pastors from area evangelical churches have a weekly prayer meeting which I attend regularly. We have our differences, of course, but the point of getting together is not to fight over them. Last year, we were a big part of the Katrina relief service held in the Kibbie Dome by many area churches. I serve on the Logos School Board, which is not a subsidiary of Christ Church. Different churches are represented on that board, and work well together. Many different churches send students there. So Christ Church is not isolationist. We are not sectarian. We work together with other groups happily.
We are evangelical Christians, which means that we believe that salvation is offered to the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are conservative theologically, which means that we believe that the Scriptures are to be our only ultimate and infallible rule for faith and practice. We try to live by the Book. We made a decision, some time ago, that we were not going to be embarrassed by anything in the Bible, and this has sometimes made us politically incorrect, but that’s all right. That is just part of the cost of doing business. These are traits we share with many area Christians, in many area churches. You will find people who believe this same ay at Trinity Baptist, at The Bridge, at The Crossing, at the Nazarene church, at the Christian Life Center, at Trinity Reformed Church, at the International Church, and at Christ Church. And this list of churches is not exhaustive. Faith in Jesus Christ, and faith in His absolute Word, this is what makes us all evangelical. This is why we are all “ice cream.”
But, as will no doubt be pointed out this evening by someone, we have some unique flavoring too. This is where some other words you may have heard come in — words like Calvinist, or Reformed, or postmillennial, or patriarchal. Some of these descriptions are accurate, some of the terms are accurate (with the definitions somewhat off), and some things that are said about us are just plain nuts. As I answer questions about these sorts of issues, what I want to do is avoiding squabbling about them. I would like to give a brief answer, perhaps point the way to something we have written or published that addresses the subject in more detail, and then move on.
There is one thing that will no doubt come up again and again, and so I would like to broach it now. This has to do with the question of our “political” involvement. Do we have political aspirations? Are we positioning ourselves to try to get our board of elders established as the ideal city council? The answer to this is a clear and unambiguous no. But wait, there is a reason for this confusion. While we do not have any kind of narrow political agenda, we do believe that the Christian faith is a public sort of affair. This means that as Christians are taught to live their lives and pursue their vocations in a distinctively Christian way, this will have a public impact on all sorts of things — education, the arts, literature, higher education, dance, and yes, sometimes politics. That is what I believe is happening here.
This helps explain Christ Church’s public impact. In the first place, Christ Church is involved in doing many things directly, and secondly, we are working together with Christians of other churches on common projects. As an example of the former, we founded New St. Andrews (which is now an independent trust). As an example of the latter we are supportive of Logos School, Atlas School, Schola Tutorials, Christian homeschooling, along with other Christian education options. But take these two larger entities as examples of “public effect.” One of the most obvious things is that NSA employs about 20 FTE. Logos School employs, in various capacities, about 45 people. Numerous families have moved here, from all around the country in order to enroll their children at Logos. Logos, by any number of objective measurements, is one of the finest private schools in the country, and the word has gotten out. So, these Christian parents moved here, not to help George Bush carry Latah County, which he didn’t need anyway, but simply to get a first-rate education for their children. They come, buy houses, establish businesses, pay taxes. This is the kind of public impact that I love seeing our people have. This means that we would like to affect our town, not by trying to seize political control of it, but rather through careful, diligent service to others. We want to be producers.
In contrast, there is a small handful of people who have kept a controversy going for the last several years. They have done this by filing numerous complaints with various government agencies — tax complaints, zoning complaints, boarding complaints, kids taking wine at the Lord’s Supper complaints, and they have chewed up many taxpayer dollars. So the controversy has been largely fueled by this process of filing complaints. Now, what do you call people who file complaints like this? Well, I would say complainers.
What is a more winsome vision for Moscow’s future? Complaining and accusing? Or working quietly, and producing? I would like to ask those listening this evening to please consider the possibility that Christ Church would really like to return to what we were doing before this ruckus began — being good neighbors. That is how Christ would have us influence a town like this — through responsible service in our vocational callings.