by Al Maxey

Issue #698 ------- July 12, 2016
Though men determine, the gods
do dispose; and ofttimes many things
fall out between the cup and the lip.

Robert Greene (1560-1592)
Perimedes the Blacksmith

Communion Container Conflict
Response to a Christian Chronicle Article

I thought it rather interesting that in the most recent issue of The Christian Chronicle (July, 2016) there was space given to a preacher with the "one cup, one loaf" Churches of Christ to present a defense of his group's practice of using only one cup during the observance of the Lord's Supper. That article (which is titled "No Such Thing As 'Individual Communion'") may be read online by Clicking Here. The subject of this piece (actually an interview conducted by Lynn McMillon) is Brett Hickey, the preacher for the Denton County Church of Christ in Lewisville, Texas. The members of this group assemble in a space provided at the Bellaire Plaza Shopping Center (Suite 105). Brett also is host of a television program called Let The Bible Speak, a program that has been on the air for over 40 years, and which reaches 21 states and part of Canada. Brett is clearly a very dedicated servant of the Lord, and also one who has the ability to convey his convictions clearly in both written and spoken form. I thought he did a good job in the above mentioned article of presenting his beliefs about the Lord's Supper (and a few other topics as well), although I am certainly not in agreement with his conclusions.

Shortly after Brett's interview appeared in The Christian Chronicle, I got an email from a reader in Florida requesting that I present a response to that piece about Brett Hickey. This individual wrote, in part, "I do not know this brother, but I thought he did a fine job of stating the reasoning behind his opposition to what he sees as the 'glaring, hell-bound error' of using multiple cups when serving Communion. ... Al, I'd love to see you write an analysis of this man's article. ... There was a time, when I was a young preacher, that I would have gladly risen up and crossed swords with brothers like Brett Hickey. But the fact of the matter is that I simply no longer have the energy or the intellectual capacity to do so. Besides, I'm nearly 75, and would now rather spend what few years I may have left talking about the fundamentals of the Gospel: accepting the lordship of Christ, loving God and others, and, like Jesus, going about, as we are able, doing good works. I love you in the Lord, my brother!"

I have spent considerable time and energy over the years in dialogue with those who are in the so-called "anti" congregations of our faith-heritage. I certainly don't question, nor will I challenge, their love for and faith in the Lord. Nor would I ever suggest that God frowns upon their various expressions of their devotion, even though those expressions differ from my own. Romans 14 makes it abundantly clear, at least to me, that our Father accepts both of our worshipful offerings unto Him. Our God is little concerned with forcing and maintaining a uniformity of religious practice. Rather, God desires His children to be unified in their love for Him and one another, and that unity is to be found in a Person, not in some party pattern. Whether one cup is passed in an assembly of the saints or multiple cups are passed, the only thing that is of any true spiritual significance is that we remember Jesus as we eat of the bread and drink of the wine. Such peripheral matters as location, frequency, size or number of cups, who passes the emblems to those assembled, whether a hymn or video is shown during the observance, etc., may well be viewed as "weighty" by us, but there is nothing in Scripture that even remotely suggests such matters are of any concern to God. His focus is on our hearts. Frankly, that's where our focus should be as well. By elevating the particulars of our practice to the status of divine precept we promote somewhat of a sacramental perception of said practice, making the particulars more eternally significant than was ever intended by the Lord. Jesus gave us a simple symbol by which we may remember Him and His redemptive gift to us. To make that symbol a sacrament, regulating every aspect of this observance right down to color, size and number of containers, is to miss the point of this time of spiritual communion.

Brett wrote, "The scriptural precedent for how to observe the Lord's Supper (with one loaf and one cup) is as weighty as for when to observe it (on 'the first day of the week,' as we read in Acts 20:7)." I would have to disagree. The NT writings give no weight to either how or when; that is an emphasis imposed by men, not by the Lord. Our Lord's only injunction to us was/is: As often as you do it, do it in remembrance of Me. No law was ever laid down, nor was any regulation imposed, that would legislate in any way the how or when of this observance; the Lord only spoke of the why. I would invite Brett to carefully and prayerfully consider my following studies:

I have written a good many other articles on the Lord's Supper as well, and these may be found on my Topical Index page under the heading "Lord's Supper." I think you will find some of them quite fascinating (such as: whether Communion may be served at a wedding, whether or not substitutions may be made in the elements of the Eucharist, why Campbell cast his Communion coin, etc.) as well as personally challenging. For those who really want to get into a deep study on this topic, I would recommend my book "One Bread, One Body: An Examination of Eucharistic Expectation, Evolution and Extremism," which is also available on Kindle (as are my other books). The Foreword for that book was written by a good friend, Dr. Dallas Burdette, who came out of the One Cup fellowship, and who has written extensively on that topic. You may find those writings on his web site (Click Here) under the tab marked "Sermons and Essays." I would especially urge you to read the in-depth study titled "A Brief History of the One Cup and Non-Sunday School Movement," which will be under the tab titled "One Cup and Non-Sunday School Church of Christ." All of this will give the reader a much better understanding of this faction within that wing of the Stone-Campbell Movement denominated "Churches of Christ." I would also urge the reader, and Brett Hickey especially, to read my own thoughts and reflections on the One Cup group: Reflections #330 ("The One Cup Fellowship: Reflection on a Conviction").

In the last study listed above (Issue #330 of my Reflections), I dealt extensively with the passages Brett listed that he believes make the case for the use of a single cup in the observance of the Lord's Supper. Brett, in his article, brought up Luke 22:17, Matthew 26:27, 1 Cor. 10:16, and several other "proof-texts." Again, I dealt in great depth with each of those in the aforementioned study (as well as in the other above referenced studies). Rather than reproduce that information here, I simply encourage the reader to access the above sources and examine that exposition of these passages. I believe there is absolutely NO logical or exegetical support for the legalistic, patternistic imposition of the One Cup sect's perception and practice upon this meal of remembrance. Their effort at rigid regulation of this beautiful symbol only serves to tarnish and taint it. Again, I believe I have adequately addressed each one of Brett's biblical arguments in the above listed studies, and probably a few passages he didn't even quote, but could have. Thus, I will allow those studies to provide the biblical response to his list of passages (as I have dealt with them far more thoroughly there than I have room to do here).

What I find far more significant in his article, however, are some of his statements on how his views impact his relationship and fellowship (or lack thereof) with other disciples of Christ who don't share his views. In effect, he has equated his practice with ultimate TRUTH, and thus to differ with him is to differ with God. When Brett was asked by Lynn McMillon (who conducted the interview with Hickey for the Christian Chronicle), "Do one-cup congregations consider themselves to be in fellowship with other Churches of Christ?", Brett characterized those who were not part of the One Cup group as those who had departed from the New Testament, and "so (we) do not consider them to be in fellowship with us." As apostates, we fall far short of being worthy of his fellowship. Being out of fellowship with God, we are thereby out of fellowship with Brett. He also points out that most of these other Churches of Christ have a Sunday School program, and "we find no biblical authority for segregated Bible classes." Many such "digressive" congregations also have utilized women in ways Brett doesn't like. Thus, again, we are unfit to be called his "brethren." Lynn McMillon asked Brett, "Can there be any unity among one-cup and multi-cup churches?" Brett, in a lengthy reply, essentially said, "No." He said he was pained by the division in the Body of Christ, "but truth comes before unity." And what is truth? It is the observing of the Communion with one cup. If we embrace that view as TRUTH, then, and only then, will we ever be in fellowship with Brett. Of course that is only the first step. We would also have to embrace as TRUTH: no Sunday Schools, no instruments, the muzzling of our women, and probably throwing out kitchens, fellowship halls, eating in the building, and on and on and on. Brett wrote, "We cannot have true unity with congregations that use instrumental music or individual cups in their worship services."

The practice of using multiple cups (aka: "individual cups") is nothing other than "a burgeoning denominational trend," for the use of a single cup from which all drank was "the teaching that was practiced for almost 20 centuries after the time of Jesus." Unity will come, suggests Brett, when all who differ with him acknowledge their heresy and return to the biblical mandate of Communion with only one cup! It is WE, the liberals, who by introducing individual cups into the worship of the church thereby divided the church. One of the leaders of this splitting of the church, by departing from the purity of the one cup in Communion, Brett identifies as G. C. Brewer (who happens to have been my cousin). Brett wrote that "Brewer had to battle within the body to promote the novel practice" of individual cups. In other words, G. C. Brewer waged war against the church. Brett provided the following quote from Brewer's autobiography: "I think I was the first preacher to advocate the use of the individual communion cup, and the first church in the State of Tennessee that adopted it was the church for which I was preaching, the Central Church of Christ at Chattanooga, Tennessee, then meeting in the Masonic Temple. My next work was with the church at Columbia, Tennessee, and, after a long struggle, I got the individual communion service into that congregation. ... Of course, I was fought both privately and publicly." I guess "heresy" goes way back in my family!!

I find it very sad, indeed it's a tragedy, when brethren divide over personal or party perceptions and practices (and that goes for both sides of most such struggles, whether the combatants be promoting a common cup or multiple individual cups ... or any other issue, for that matter). Our oneness is not to be found in uniformity of practice, but rather in union with a Person. I agree with the statement Brett made at the end of the article in Christian Chronicle. He said, "I plead with our dear brothers and sisters to carefully consider the grounds for unity on this issue." His mistake is in believing unity to be obtained by agreement on an "issue." If unity in the One Body can only be attained by all disciples agreeing with the particular patterns promoted by a particular party within Christendom, then unity will never be attained. The source of our oneness is found IN HIM. All other matters are peripheral. Few people, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, will ever find themselves in total agreement with other disciples. My fellowship with another disciple, or group of disciples, is not contingent upon them agreeing with me, it is contingent upon each of us being IN HIM. If we have the same Father, we be brethren; and the truth is: you don't have to be my twin to be my brother!! There is room at the Father's table for us all. Yet, how He must grieve when He sees His children sitting there at the table fighting one another over the utensils, while the meal grows cold. Shame on us!

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Mississippi:

Regarding Austin McGary (Reflections #697: "'The Texas Heresy' of Austin McGary"), I think many of us grew up hearing and being influenced by his take on baptism. It's sad that in religion when someone goes to one extreme, it often leads others to go too far in the opposite extreme. The endless tracts on baptism in "our" church foyers are never far from my memory. I've sometimes wished that Philip's exact words to the eunuch (Acts 8:35) were recorded for us! I hope this finds you feeling better and better after your radiation treatments. Please know that you and your family are in my prayers.

From Dr. Jerry Jones in Missouri:

Al, I have just completed a 15 year study of MDR (marriage, divorce, remarriage). My book is available on our web page (Marriage Matters) and through Amazon (also on Kindle). The title is: "Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: Seen Through the Character of God and the Mind of Jesus"). I appreciate the efforts of both you and Olan Hicks in dealing with this subject. I have read your book ("Down, But Not Out: A Study of Divorce and Remarriage in Light of God's Healing Grace") and there are a number of areas where we are not on the same page.

From J.D. Tant's Grandson:

Al, that was an interesting background study on the McGarys (Reflections #697). In a display case in my den is a knife that belonged to Santa Ana. It was given to my grandfather by Austin McGary. Our family story is that Isaac McGary (Austin's father) took a souvenir from Santa Ana the night he guarded him. It was then passed down to his son Austin. My grandfather had a collection of many items: a gun belonging to Sam Houston, a compass that belonged to Lewis and Clark, etc. We surmise that Austin gave this to my grandfather to add to that collection as a token of their friendship.

From Carl Ketcherside's Son:

Dear Brother, I'm sending you a copy of an interesting article Dad wrote in 1966 which touches on the Lord's Supper, but includes much more. I hope you enjoy it. In your email to me, your mention of "principles" reminds me of some thoughts on Jesus' teaching. I'm amazed (although I shouldn't be) that the vast majority of His teaching was principles. It's fascinating to me that in addressing His disciples (Matthew 5-7) practically the whole sermon expounded principles. The "Seven Woes" chapter (Matthew 23) consisted of principles about which His adversaries hadn't a clue (in spite of the fact that they were the "experts" in the Law). They were like the hunter who shot at a bear and missed the whole forest (not unlike some of us ol' CofC folks from years ago!). I'll drop my Dad's thoughts in the mail to you today. Thank you so much for your messages.

From a Youth Minister's Wife in Alabama:

Dear Bro. Al, I am from a county in Alabama that has no less than 69 Churches of Christ within its borders. I grew up as an elder's granddaughter and a deacon's daughter, and was well-schooled in "why we do what we do." I was a dedicated follower of Church of Christ doctrine and practice. Several years ago, though, I got the feeling that something wasn't quite right within our churches. I remember exactly where I was when I asked the Creator to "open my eyes" to see any lies that we may have been deceived into believing. One was: we were focused on "getting things right in worship," and that had become our Christianity! My heart hurts, because I now know that "it is all about Jesus!" That may sound immature, but please remember that everything I have been surrounded with for 35 years has been all about baptism and works! I cannot describe the freedom that comes with the realization that this life is about more than baptism being the end of the journey. It's about hope, love, peace; but most of all: it is about HIM. I have immersed myself in your Reflections articles for the past week, and it has been painful and enlightening, all at the same time. I am learning that our worship and our good deeds are simply fruit (evidence) of our belief in the Savior. Such a simple teaching, but I'm afraid it's one that has been neglected among "us." I appreciate your advice on change. In your articles about women in the church you mention that change doesn't come quickly, nor does it come painlessly; that patience and wisdom are necessary when dealing with traditional beliefs that have been entrenched for years in our churches. The thing is: I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I will be seen as one of those "young liberals" interested in change for the sake of change. If one is labeled as that around here, all chance of any positive influence is gone! The truth is, I have a deep, deep love for His church, yet I truly believe that some of "our" beliefs and practices are harmful eternally. My husband is beginning to feel the same way, and as a youth/associate minister he has begun to gently, lovingly speak about some of these things. Please pray for us that we may share what God has shown us in a humble, loving way!

From a Reader in Texas:

Last Sunday night our preacher here had a study on clapping. He usually takes the last Sunday evening service of the month to address questions which are placed privately in a box in the foyer. A member had placed this question there: "Is it Scriptural to clap after a person is baptized?" In response, he said that using the hand when you clap "is like beating on a drum" (thus: a musical instrument). Therefore, it is not Scriptural to clap when a person is baptized. I have thought about the angels in heaven. I wonder what our preacher would say about how they rejoice! I wonder if he would limit how they show their joy. Who are we to deny any God-given freedom to others just because of our own thinking?! God and Jesus know our hearts more than anyone here on this earth. The question in the box was placed there by the grandmother of a boy who had recently been baptized there, and after the baptism everyone was so happy for her, the family and the young boy that they clapped to show their joy. When the elders heard the clapping, one of them got up before the congregation and admonished every one of those who had clapped. I told the grandmother of the boy that I was sorry her joy was stolen by someone taking offense to this act of expressing joy. Later we heard that 15 people were "visited" by the elders because of this. From reading your articles in your Reflections Archives and our Bible, we have realized we are attending a congregation where the preacher and elders totally use the CENI method of interpreting Scripture. We have, therefore, made the decision to search for another congregation to attend. Freedom is a precious gift. God gave His Son for it. Al, my husband and I want to thank you personally for all you have done in sharing your time to write your Reflections. They have shown us who we all should be as God's people!

From a Reader in Texas:

I just wanted to let you know that I used a lot of your Reflections to help in responding to a Baptist friend who wondered why I don't believe in "once saved, always saved." Several years ago, I came across your Reflections web site, and I have enjoyed looking through it, but I had forgotten about it for a couple of years. Yesterday I was glad to find it was still up, since my friend needed some clarity on this issue. Thank you, Bro. Maxey, for your time in putting your site up for others to utilize. I really appreciate it. I hope you and your family are doing well.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

I was discussing with someone this morning a past Reflections article of yours (at least I was doing so as best as I could remember what you wrote in that article). The topic was about the resurrection and the story of the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus, with the former man in hell asking the poor man in heaven for a sip of water (and how this story was possibly just a parable). Could you please direct me to which one of your Reflections I'm thinking of?

From a Reader in Virginia:

Al, your writings have had an enormous influence on my life. I pray that you are recovering from the loss of your mother and from the many weeks of daily radiation treatments you experienced for your prostate cancer. It is my prayer that you can get back to your work with energy. I also appreciate the organization of your web site: it really makes it easy to search by topic or Scripture text. In fact, I use it quite often.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Just read your article "'The Texas Heresy' of Austin McGary." I had never heard of him, but I would probably have liked his style. Sort of reminds me of Harrison Ford in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Instead of fighting with that big Arab dude, Harrison just drew his side arm and shot him! I was born and raised in that distorted theology promoted by men like McGary. It always seemed right, because that's what all the preachers always preached and thumped their Bibles about! So, I was a good member of the Church of Christ church. I believed everything they taught, and even condemned several people to hell because they didn't preach baptism "properly" (like WE did). It's amazing what a little study and the passage of time can actually do to "fix stupid." I stopped following preachers years ago, and started following JESUS. It sometimes takes some of us longer than it does others to have the veil lifted from our eyes! Thank you, brother, for all the work you do for the cause of Christ. Bless you, Al.

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, It is so very sad to think of all the misery Austin McGary has caused for so many people over the years because of his teaching on baptism. His is a legacy I would not desire!

From a Reader in Georgia:

I just finished reading about Austin McGary. It seems he not only had some significant influence on the sacramental view of baptism among the Churches of Christ, but his compromised theology of CENI also may have served as the lightening rod for name calling and rock throwing at those with whom we disagree. I couldn't help but notice his castigation of David Lipscomb. It seems that even today, a hundred years later, we still have people who at the moment they realize their argument is failing begin to name call and disparage anyone and everyone with whom they disagree, claiming that if anyone disagrees with them, then they disagree with God. Wish we could have sensible discussion without all that! Love ya, brother!

From a Reader in Delaware:

As always, my brother, a reading of your Reflections is stimulating, challenging, and always edifying. Thank you!

From a Reader in Nevada:

Your study of the so-called "Texas Heresy" of Austin McGary is among your best work, Al. The last paragraph is precious -- a very good summation. Have a wonderful day, brother.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Al, I noticed that in a recent response to someone who had a question about musical instruments you referred him to Revelation 15:2. I went back to read it and noted that John said the harps of the victorious were of 10 strings. As you know, Western music has 12 notes per musical scale. So, although we can't discern the musical key from knowing only the number of notes in a scale, there is a good possibility that the key was what modern musicians would call a "blues scale" or a "jazz scale." Middle Eastern scales often have that peculiar sound rendering it distinctively Jewish or Arabic. I bring this up because I am reminded of what some people have said in the past about "Christian" music. It should sound a certain formal way and in no wise sound "common." What a surprise some may have if the angels hand out harps tuned for jazz or blues!!

From a Reader in Washington:

Al, you continue to amaze us in the work that you do, and we thank the Lord for you! Recently, in thinking about the last two of your Reflections, I have decided that fully knowing God, through Jesus' life and the corresponding message through the entire course of the Bible, could be described as a process: much like peeling an onion, for there are many layers of understanding. Superficially, it is easy/simple enough that a child, or a less educated person, could "get it," yet it is richer in depth and perception the deeper one goes. The legalistic patternists fear digging deeper. I once heard someone say, "A person can get so educated that they get themselves educated right out of the church." I thought that was an odd thing to say, because it seems to imply ignorance is acceptable. We have only to read the book of Proverbs to disprove that idea! "Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to (increase) his learning" (Proverbs 9:9). Thanks, Al, for all you do. Keep it up!!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

After reading your article on "Preachers Swapping Pulpits" (Reflections #696), I had to wonder: What would you, or the elders there, do if the visiting "denominational" preacher, in his sermon, taught something that was not in accordance with the Scriptures, but was rather according to the beliefs of his church? Has that happened? When you speak at those "denominations," do you avoid subjects that are controversial? I can't imagine any church giving free reign to a speaker who is opposed to their doctrinal beliefs. I enjoy your Reflections, by the way, and look forward to each issue. Thanks for making these studies available to us!

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