The 119th annual assembly of the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)—with appropriate pageantry—voted itself out of existence September 28.

Its long debated restructure converts the “brotherhood” into a denomination with strong national and regional governing units. The precious tradition of autonomous local congregations is preserved. They will continue to own and control their own property, determine membership, and choose ministers. Affiliation or secession from the national denomination will be purely voluntary.

Outgoing Assembly President Ronald Osborn, dean of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, added a major point: no congregation of the renamed “Christian Church” can be taken into the Consultation on Church Union merger, or kept out of it, except by its own will.

In restructure a biennial General Assembly with delegates replaces the annual assembly where all in attendance voted. Executive power rests in a General Board of 250 that meets annually, and an Administrative Committee of forty that meets three times a year.

The spirited debate on restructure consumed a full day at the Kansas City meeting, but from the start it was apparent the change would win, as amendment after amendment lost on the floor.

The Disciples Yearbook previously listed 8,047 congregations. Of these, 2,113 have now served notice that they will not participate in the restructured denomination and want their names taken out of the yearbook (see August 30 issue, page 40).

Executive Secretary A. Dale Fiers estimated that “about 500,000 of the church’s nearly two million members will no longer be part of the church.” He regretted their withdrawal and said they could return later if they wish.

These congregations have been “minimal” in support ...

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