The Churches of Christ in the Twentieth Century: Homer Hailey's Personal Journey of Faith

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The Churches of Christ in the Twentieth Century: Homer Halley's Personal Journey of Faith. By David Edwin Harrell Jr. Religion and American Culture. (Tuscaloosa and London. University of Alabama Press, c. 2000. Pp. xx, 472. $34.95, ISBN 0-8173-1008-8.)

Although Auburn University scholar David Edwin Harrell Jr.'s work on Pentecostalism is well known, his two-volume study of the Disciples of Christ, Quest for a Christian America: A Social History of the Disciples of Christ (Nashville, Tenn.: Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1966) and The Social Sources of Division in the Disciples of Christ (Athens, Ga.: Publishing Systems, 1973), is relatively obscure. His new work carries the story forward with a look at the conservative "Campbellites," known as the Churches of Christ, who have emerged as one of the largest southern religious traditions. This work begins with a brief introduction to the historical background of the Churches of Christ and of Homer Hailey, an important preacher of the tradition who lived through the controversies that Harrell narrates. A second, more interpretive section explores the major controversies of the Churches of Christ from 1920 to 1999. Harrell believes that a "wild democracy" existed for the tradition where controversy created a means for consensus around reevaluating "every belief in the light of a common-sense reading of the New Testament and by a primitivist commitment to restoring New Testament Christianity" (p. 42). Controversy also supplied the means for division, however, and Harrell traces the acrimony over pacifism, premillennialism, and institutionalism.

Harrell interacts with and often critiques the historical work of Richard Hughes, Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1996), Michael Casey, Saddlebags, City Streets and Cyberspace: A History of Preaching in the Churches of Christ (Abilene, Tex.: ACU Press, 1995), Douglas Foster, Will the Cycle Be Unbroken? (Abilene, Tex.: ACU Press, 1994), and Robert Hooper, A Distinct People: A History of the Churches of Christ in the Twentieth Century (West Monroe, La.: Howard Publishing, 1993). Harrell sees the institutional conflict over whether individual congregations could support extra-congregational projects--whether orphan homes or "Herald of Truth," a national television ministry--as the most important conflict of the twentieth century. …