By Chris Altrock
Special to The Commercial Appeal
On behalf of Memphis-area churches of Christ, I’d like to say the following: Disregard anyone claiming to speak for churches of Christ.
Several days ago, a full-page ad appeared in The Commercial Appeal. Its author indicated that the ad was presented on behalf of “area churches of Christ.” The ad claimed to present the view of these congregations regarding same-sex attraction.
Ironically, churches of Christ are nondenominational. That’s a religious way of saying we have no formal superstructure, no official bishops, representatives or the like. For one person or group to claim to speak for churches of Christ is a bit like me claiming to speak for Memphis when I vote next Tuesday. My vote speaks only for me. Each congregation in churches of Christ speaks only for itself.
Anyone familiar with the history of nondenominational groups like churches of Christ would know it would be a miracle to meet with the nearly 90 congregations in the metro Memphis area and bring them to agreement on a written document like the ad in The Commercial Appeal. We’ve fussed over things much less significant (of course, we’re not the only group to do so). No such meeting took place. No such miracle was recorded.
Churches of Christ, and other Christian congregations in the U.S., have the perception of being repressive, exclusive and intolerant. Young people are leaving institutional Christianity by droves. There’s not an ad, no matter the author, that can adequately address these concerns. And, by the way, if I were going to take a full-page ad out in The Commercial Appeal, I’d probably speak of the transforming love of Jesus for all.
So if you’d like to know what people in churches of Christ think about an issue like homosexuality, don’t look for an answer in the newspaper. Visit a minister or elder at a local congregation. Go to lunch. Have coffee. Talk one on one with a real person. Who knows? You may just be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
Chris Altrock, a Faith in Memphis panelist, is senior minister of Highland Church of Christ.
The Commercial Appeal has canceled further publication of the anti-homosexual ad that appeared in the newspaper last week after questions arose concerning who sponsored the ad.
A line at the bottom of the ad says the ad was paid for by “churches of Christ and interested individuals.”
Now a church of Christ pastor has come forward to say that churches of Christ are not a denomination and do not speak with one voice. The Commercial Appeal agrees that the wording at the bottom of the ad could be misconstrued.
The Commercial Appeal fully supports the rights of people to express opinions, even opinions we or others might find objectionable. This right to express opinion is fundamental to a free press and The First Amendment. And that’s why the newspaper accepts advertising that doesn’t necessarily reflect our newspaper’s editorial page positions. However, upon further review, the ad that ran in the paper this past week clearly seems to have misrepresented its sponsor and therefore has been pulled.
For the record, the newspaper’s editorial board actively has opposed any kind of discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, and will continue to do so.
Chris Peck, Editor
The Commercial Appeal