For whatever reason, being a catechumen of the Orthodox Church has given me the impetus to reflect on the last seven years of Orthodox inquiry as well as on my heritage churches, the self-described Restoration Movement churches. Although I think it fair to say that my time as an Anglican (Episcopalian) helped me in the transition from my non-liturgical background into Orthodoxy, it has been my Restorationist heritage that has most shaped me, and, in some respects, most prepared me for Orthodoxy.
This past Sunday, at a post-service breakfast with Father Patrick, Khouria Denise, and two other young men who’ve been coming to All Saints, one of the gentlemen shared with me how his brother had married a young woman from the a capella churches of Christ. He himself being cradle Orthodox had little idea about these churches, and wondered at the notion that his brother (also cradle Orthodox) would find it possible to be involved with those churches, so I gave a couple of points of strong affinity between Restorationist churches and Orthodoxy.
Indeed, in the summer of 2000, after my first incredibly disappointing, even wrenching, semester at the Episcopal seminary, one of the things I was struck by, as I investigated the Orthodox Church, was how many Restoration Movement Christians there were who’d become Orthodox. I read many of their testimonies online.
I was thinking about this phenomenon of Restoration Movement affinities with Orthodoxy in particular on the drive home from teaching my business ethics class last night, and thought there are several specific touchstones at which Restorationist belief and practice strongly parallel Orthodox belief and practice. I want to reflect on these in this post.
But first a disclaimer: the Restoration Movement churches have no official institutional organ which aligns, coordinates and enforces similarity of belief and practice, so to the things I’ll be mentioning there are likely to have several exceptions depending upon the Restorationist church you run into. The most famous example: the use of instruments in worship. The non-instrumental churches of Christ agree with their other Restorationist brethren that Scripture is silent on the matter, there are no express commands one way or another (which doesn’t stop some from trying to find those express commands). However, the a capella churches interpret that silence to be prohibitive while the other Restorationist churches interpret that silence to be liberative. Also, even the same congregations in which I grew up as a youth have changed somewhat on some of their practices (divorce, for example), so that what I will describe is my past experience, which may not be applicable today.
But there are the following touchstones of similarity that I want to touch on: baptismal regeneration and its Trinitarian nature and its form, frequency of observance of the Lord’s Supper, divorce, male leadership, and, ultimately, its allegiance to an undivided, normative New Testament Church.