When I first heard the term "Post-Restorationist," I had already been primed by the likes of Brian McLaren, and other articulate authors, to resonate with such a label. Thanks to Adam Ellis, the word has given many of us a sort of leverage point from outside the box that allows us critically examine the stuff of Restorationism that has shaped us, and to somehow jettison the bad, but appreciate and indeed carry forward all the good we find therein. And to re-appropriate the words of Peter Rollins in describing the "emerging church," to be Post-Restorationist is more of a condition than it is a position. It goes without saying that there is no "Post-Restorationist statement of faith," but we do find ourselves having learned so many of the same lessons from our past, having so many of the same conversations today, and excitedly dreaming new dreams of a hopeful future for the church in her many contexts.
I leaned heavily on Adam's term "Post-Restorationist" in a paper I wrote for Stone-Campbell Movement historian Dr. Doug Foster at ACU, which was entitled "Stone's Hinge: The Return to Primal Restorationist Impulses in Post-Restorationist Church Plants." In that paper, I attempted to define what I intended by the label "Post-Restorationist." I offer it here, hoping that this small piece will allow folks with the condition known as "Post-Restorationist" to better locate themselves.
Without argument, the Churches of Christ departed from Barton Stone’s way long ago and pursued the “hard style” of the “radicalizing” Campbell. Yet there is of late a sense of return—whether intentional or not—to propensities more aligned with Stone. This “Post-Restorationist” movement can be witnessed most clearly in recent church plants moving beyond the Churches of Christ heading. Before pursuing such interconnectedness, however, we will move toward a definition of “Post-Restorationist.”For the complete pdf file of "Stone's Hinge," click here.
Writer Brian McLaren, himself raised in a strand of Restorationism (Plymouth Brethren), contends, “Beneath these squabbles over distinctives, one nearly always finds an idealism among restorationists.” It is that idealism that McLaren believes should be preserved, while the “less helpful static” should be jettisoned. Post-Restorationists seem to be capturing this (dis)continuation of Restorationism. The Post-Restorationist, as blogger and doctoral student Chris “Fajita” Gonzalez puts it, has “moved from a theologically loyal position in relation to the Restoration Movement to a theologically critical and explorative position” which Gonzalez argues was modeled by Stone and Campbell within their own initial movements. Avid blogger, youth minister, and wordsmith Adam Ellis coined the descriptor “Post-Restorationist.” He defines it best by adapting Dallas Willard’s take on “Post-Evangelical”:
Post-Restorationism is by no means ex-restorationism. There are, of course, ex-restorationists, and even anti-restorationists, but Post-Restorationists are Restorationists, perhaps tenaciously so. However, Post-Restorationists have also been driven to the margins by some aspects of Restorationist church culture with which they cannot honestly identify.
Just as Barton Stone was in some sense driven to the margins in being eclipsed by Campbell and his followers, likewise Post-Restorationists find themselves on the fringe of their heritage. Paradoxically, it is my thesis that there is an identifiable return to primal Stoneite impulses in Post-Restorationist church plants, and such a departure from the label “Church of Christ” in these church plants may actually be a faithful recovery of the vision upon which Churches of Christ originally built their identity.
Tyler Priest also blogs at http://thepriesthood.wordpress.com and looks forward to connecting with more Post-Restorationists.