Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Non-Class, One Cup Churches of Christ

Ronny F. Wade, The Sun Will Shine Again, Someday. Springfield, MO: 1986. xvi + 208 pp.

The subtitle of this book says it all: “A history of the non-class, one cup Churches of Christ.” The author, Ronny F. Wade, is a long-time, widely-regarded preacher within this group. As one might expect, the history he writes is characterized by advocacy. He is much like the sports announcer who, while calling the game, always cheers for his team.

A bit of background and explanation. The contemporary mainline non-instrumental Churches of Christ adopted the practice of having various Bible classes—sometimes called Sunday School—around the beginning of the twentieth century. They also adopted the use of individual cups for the Lord’s Supper. But not everyone went along. Ever since then, the “non-class, one cup Churches of Christ” have made up a marginal, though significant, group. Also, they are convinced that other congregations of the Churches of Christ—not to mention the rest of the Christian world—are in sin, unfaithful to the Lord. Thus, Wade refers to those outside the group as “digressives,” even those people who sympathize with the conclusions of "digressives" but who do not treat those conclusions as tests of fellowship.

Wade sometimes provides general background for the story he tells. For example, in Chapter Three he relates the rise of the Sunday School Movement, beginning in Great Britain and moving to America. At other points, Wade focuses on intimate doctrinal and personality conflicts within the non-class, one cup group. For instance, he sometimes quotes at length the correspondence between warring preachers and debaters quibbling over the terms in the propositions to be discussed. In these sections, the book seems more like a chronicle than a history.

Throughout, the author provides little in the way of social or political context for his story. Wade notes in Chapter Seven that the group he belongs to remained pacifist even during and after the Second World War. But he tells the reader very little about the group’s interactions with the federal government, which must have been a fascinating story still waiting to be told. Instead, the author focuses on what he knows so well: minute doctrinal history and the biographies of leading preachers, men like Dr. G. A. Trott, Homer L. King, J. Ervin Waters, and J. D. Phillips. Consequently, his book is almost always descriptive rather than analytical.

The Sun Will Shine Again, Someday includes numerous photos of leading preachers in the non-class, one cup movement. Documentation appears at the end of each chapter. The book is missing an index, which would have been useful.

Readers will likely admire the conviction and tenacity of the group Wade has described, They might also lament what some will view as the narrowness and penchant for remaining small and insular. Thirty years have passed since this book was first published. It would be interesting to know what has happened since then. Perhaps the author, now in his eighties, would consider producing an updated edition of his work. Either way, this book is an important secondary source on its topic.

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