“In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face.” (2 Corinthians 11:20 New International Version)
I took a walk downtown today in the late afternoon, and I noticed that the sign by the Civic League buildings (which once said “Shop Downtown”) now says “Boston Church of Christ.” I must say it saddens me that many American, English-speaking churches and denominations can’t seem to move out of downtown Framingham fast enough, while a controversial group like the “Boston Church of Christ” can’t seem to get in there fast enough.
I realize this piece could greatly upset some people. I want to state right from the outset that I know that there are many good, sincere people who belong to the Boston Church of Christ. There are many kind and good Christian people who have been recruited into the Boston Church of Christ. Back in the 1990s, my primary care physician, Dr. Gifford, was an active member of the Boston Church of Christ. He no longer lives in this area, but as far as I know, he still belongs to the church. There isn’t a much finer man than Dr. Gifford. But I also feel it’s appropriate that I share some (uncomfortable) facts about the Boston Church of Christ.
For those of you who are not familiar with much of this stuff, the “Boston Church of Christ” organization, also usually called the “International Church of Christ” and sometimes the “Boston Movement” has been identified as a potentially dangerous, overly controlling group by a number of experts, and by a number of people who have defected from that organization.
(I must clarify that the “International Church of Christ” is no more related to the “United Church of Christ” than is Jordan’s Furniture related to Jordan Marsh Company. The United Church of Christ is a mainly theologically liberal and politically liberal denomination formed by the merger of some Congregational Churches and other groups in the late 1950s. We have 3 U.C.C. churches in Framingham as well as a U.C.C. conference center on Badger Rd.)
The Boston or International Church of Christ was founded in suburban Boston (Lexington, MA is usually identified as the location) by Kip McKean. McKean was a minster of the Churches of Christ (again NOT related at all to the United Church of Christ). The Churches of Christ are a splitoff of the Disciples of Christ and I understand they are a 19th Century splitoff of the Baptists. The Churches of Christ believe strongly that baptism should be by total immersion in water and by those who’ve made commitments to follow the Lord and understand what they’re doing...NOT infant baptism. (On THAT note, I would pretty much agree with them.) I disagree, however, with the Churches of Christ teaching that says that if ANY person has NOT been baptized by total immersion in water, they’re going to Hell. I also disagree with their somewhat bizarre belief in NO MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS in church services. Kip’s group continued the beliefs of the Churches of Christ but became MUCH more controlling, insisting upon most of the people’s “free time” being spent in church activities including recruiting, almost blindly following their leadership, etc.
You can find a lot of info. on-line about the Boston Church of Christ and International Church of Christ.
Will the impact of the Boston Church of Christ in downtown Framingham be mostly positive or mostly negative? It remains to be seen. Should other religious groups attempt to communicate with the Boston Church of Christ and try to get to know their leadership? I think that’s probably a good idea. Certainly, the Boston Church of Christ folks would disagree with much of what I have written on this piece. I’m really NOT against them or any religious group moving into downtown Framingham. This is America, and we certainly believe in freedom of religion. Any religious group should be welcome in Framingham in general and in downtown Framingham specifically. My main purpose in writing this piece is to point out this irony: We have a large number of number of American, English-speaking evangelical Christians who seemingly can’t get out of downtown Framingham fast enough, and that what so many have perceived as a culturally and economically uncomfortable and unpleasant place to flee from, the Boston Church of Christ has perceived as a ripe mission field for them!
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