Source: The Christian Chronicle
Richland Hills among churches removed from directory
By Erik Tryggestad | The Christian Chronicle
FOUR CONGREGATIONS with a cappella and instrumental Sunday worship services are excluded from 2009 directory
Each edition of Churches of Christ in the United States contains a chart of congregations with the largest weekly attendance.
In the 2009 version of the directory, the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City and the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, share that position. Both reported a weekly attendance of about 2,200.
Conspicuously absent from the new directory is the congregation that has occupied the top spot on the list since 2000 the Richland Hills Church of Christ in Texas.
In the past six months, the Richland Hills church averaged between 4,100 and 4,200 people combined in its three weekend services, executive minister Mike Washburn said.
But the Texas church was one of 21 congregations omitted from the latest edition of the directory for using instrumental music in at least one Sunday morning service, said Carl Royster, the volumes compiler.
The one unifying constant that defines whether or not such a congregation is included in this document is the practice of a cappella worship services, Royster wrote in the directorys introduction.
SADDENED AND DISAPPOINTED
In the past, compilers have excluded congregations as they broke ties with Churches of Christ. In 2003 the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, then with about 3,500 members, added instrumental worship services and dropped of Christ from its name. The church was excluded from the next directory, published in 2006.
But Richland Hills elders have not broken ties with Churches of Christ, nor did they ask to be excluded from the 2009 directory, Washburn said.
From a church standpoint, were saddened and disappointed, Washburn said of Richland Hills removal from the book. We strongly feel like we are a part of Churches of Christ and continue a strong love for and commitment to excellent a cappella worship.
However, we are a part of a huge movement in our fellowship who do not believe a cappella worship is the sole way of defining who Churches of Christ are, Washburn said.
In 2007 Richland Hills added an instrumental worship service on Saturday nights. A few months ago the church added instruments to one of its two Sunday morning services. The churchs 9 a.m. worship remains a cappella, and on a recent Sunday 2,347 people attended that service, Washburn said.
Like Richland Hills, three of the other 20 churches excluded from the directory have instrumental and a cappella services: the Farmers Branch church in Dallas, the Jenks, Okla., church and the Redwood church in Redwood City, Calif. The other 17 are entirely instrumental.
Many of the entirely-instrumental churches have cut ties with Churches of Christ, Royster said.
That doesnt necessarily mean the 12,629 churches listed in the directory are entirely a cappella. The Quail Springs church in Oklahoma City, for example, added an instrumental Sunday morning service last year, but is listed in the 2009 directory. So are churches that sponsor instrumental events on weekdays or added instruments after the reporting period.
Instrumental congregations are not knowingly included in the data, but it is impossible to guarantee that one cannot be found, according to the directorys introduction.
Therefore, it is suggested that, as needs arise, the reader use the information provided in Churches of Christ in the United States
to contact a congregation in order to learn more details about it.
WHY NO INSTRUMENTAL LABEL?
Instrumental worship is not the only issue on which Churches of Christ differ. Since its beginning the directory has denoted subgroups within the fellowship, including churches that use one cup in communion or practice mutual edification and oppose the use of paid ministers.
When asked why the 2009 directory didnt simply adopt an instrumental designation instead of excluding churches, Royster said that doing so would compromise the accuracy of the publication as a statistical record of a cappella churches.
The directorys original compiler, Mac Lynn, began gathering information from Churches of Christ three decades ago. At the time two other branches of the Restoration Movement the Disciples of Christ and the Christian Church/Churches of Christ, both of which use instruments had directories.
But there was no comprehensive directory for the movements third branch a cappella Churches of Christ.
The most recent issue of a cappella churches going instrumental was not an issue at the time, said Lynn, who turned compilation duties over to Nashville, Tenn.-based 21st Century Christian after the 2003 edition and is no longer officially involved with the publication.
Including churches with instruments is problematic because the directory has always been a list of a cappella congregations, Lynn said. The exclusion of instrumental churches has not been on theological grounds.
When a cappella churches add instruments, they resemble the instrumental churches of the Restoration Movement, which have separate directories.
Whats happened is youve got a few churches in no mans land, Lynn said.
DIRECTORY NOT OFFICIAL LIST
Washburn said hes concerned that church members will see Richland Hills exclusion as a sign that the church has broken ties with its fellowship.
Thats not the case, he said, noting his congregations involvement with a cappella churches, ministries and schools associated with Churches of Christ.
We have great love for the people in our heritage, he said. We want to be a part of this fellowship.
Royster said that readers should use the directory as a simple resource, not a theological document denoting which churches are and which arent in the brotherhood.
This publication has never been intended to be any kind of an official list of authorized congregations, he said. I am saddened when I hear of people attempting to use it as such.
. . .
Largest congregations by attendance, according to the 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States.
1. (tie) Memorial Road Church of Christ, Oklahoma City
Attendance 2009: 2,200
Members 2009: 2,667
Rank 2006: 2
1. (tie) Highland Church of Christ, Abilene, Texas
Attendance 2009: 2,200
Members 2009: 2,000
Rank 2006: 3
3. The Family of God at Woodmont Hills
Attendance 2009: 1,750
Members 2009: 1,550
Rank 2006: 4
4. Madison Church of Christ, Madison, Tenn.
Attendance 2009: 1,740
Members 2009: 3,102
Rank 2006: 5
5. Saturn Road Church of Christ, Garland, Texas
Attendance 2009: 1,731
Members 2009: 1,707
Rank 2006: 6