Singing Methodist Songs Written by a Woman

Every 40 or 50 years there has been a big Christian revival in the United States. In the 1880s there was a big Methodist revival of faith and energy in Philadelphia. Out of that grew a group of song writers who met each year at Ocean Grove Methodist Camp, one of whom wrote about ten per cent of traditional Church of Christ songs: Fanny Crosby, a blind woman who contributed to the great success of Dwight Moody‘s Evangelistic campaigns. The only others to have more songs in our hymnals are Isaac Watts (Presbyterian) and Charles Wesley (Methodist Anglican).

Fanny Crosby, a blind woman, wrote about 10% of Church of Christ hymns, but never was in the Churches of Christ.

So why is a virulently anti-denominational church that believes instrumental music will bring you into danger of losing your salvation, and which will not let a woman teach a man, and which will not let a Presbyterian, Methodist or Anglican preacher preach in the pulpit, why are their hymn books filled with songs written by people who had amazing conversion experiences and amazing conversations and walks with God from the denominations and from women? Aren’t these denominational teachers having undue influence over the faith and belief of faithful members of the Churches of Christ? Churches of Christ would not use any of their Bible study materials in a Bible study. None of their prayers or diaries would be read aloud from the pulpit.

Isaac Watts, prolific hymn writer and minister in the Church of England (Anglican Church)

Why then are their prayers that are set to music sung with gusto by Churches of Christ, especially when these same members do not expect to see Fanny Crosby, Isaac Watts or Charles Wesley in heaven with them? No, they expect they will be roasting in hell fire. Not that they would judge them, mind you, they just cannot see any hope for them in the scriptures…the scriptures only hold out hope for those who are immersed under water for the remission of sins, i.e. for salvation, not just for church membership, and definitely not just as a symbol of what has already happened in their hearts. Also they believe the Bible only holds out hope for salvation for those who come out from among the denominations and worship with the Lord’s church (the Churches of Christ), which Crosby, Watts and Wesley definitely did not do.

Charles Wesley, hymn writer and revivalist, started Methodist clubs within the Church of England

How did this happen that the Churches of Christ have saddled themselves with singing unsaved men and women’s sentiments every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening? Well, the Restoration Movement started out as a unity movement: gathering all faithful Christians from all denominations, no matter how they were baptized, to worship under one roof. It slowly (or quickly) degenerated into an us-versus-them feeling of “If you won’t lay down your creed books and believe what we believe, and be baptized the way we see it in the Bible, then you are not saved.” But when they separated and marched down the street and opened up their own little church that did it right, they brought their favorite songs with them: written by the popular songsters of the day. And they conveniently ignored the fact that even as they were pronouncing all Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians and Presbyterians lost (because they only sprinkle water on babies, they don’t baptize believing adults like in the Bible), and even as they were banning women from the pulpit, they were still benefitting from the spiritual vigor of these self-same men and women who wrote beautiful psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

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About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
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10 Responses to Singing Methodist Songs Written by a Woman

  1. As long as the words are truth and members sing without instrumental accompaniment, what would be the problem?
    I am a member of the church of Christ, but I have no reservations in reading, quoting, singing or considering material from those within denominations. Maybe some in the church don’t share this willingness, but that’s a heart problem and misunderstanding on their part.
    We also sing modern religious songs without instruments, and again the point is that the words are truthful. Our ears don’t need to be shut to everyone outside of the church in order for us to not be hypocritical; Christians ought to be against falsehood, but there is a difference between discerning between falsehood and truth, and dismissing everything that is even partially disagreeable.

    You’re right about the us-versus-them feeling, but for whatever it’s worth, I don’t think you can overgeneralize and stereotype the “church of Christ”- it’s too autonomous and diverse to be restricted to whatever they teach in FC or the “brotherhood magazines”, etc. I don’t think everyone within the church of Christ will find themselves in heaven, and I don’t believe everyone in other denominations will be condemned, yet I know that those who are truly saved will be few..and I know I’m not the only one in the church that has come to that conclusion.

    • Hi Crunchy,
      Yes, there are many open and loving Churches of Christ. It sounds like you expect to see Fanny Crosby in heaven. You are in a very different space than the people I am writing about.

      My only point was that it is inconsistent for hard line Churches of Christ to hold up these hymns as spiritually uplifting, hymns written by people who they believe are NOT spiritual and NOT in the kingdom of heaven.

      • I guess I don’t really see it that way. If the songs are spiritual and truthful, I don’t see why it matters who wrote them.

        By the way, I’m curious more about your short bio- do you have a post or page explaining why you left after so long and after so much preaching?

      • Crunchy is absolutely right and fair in representing the mainstream of the churches of Christ.

        It is why you add instruments that endangers the soul, and those teachers, who disregard the virtuous principles for singing and don’t mind adding to Christ’s perfect and complete words, are those who endanger themselves. As for babes in Christ among the denominations, who can judge but God?

      • Hi Scott,
        This blog is about the hard line Churches of Christ, not the mainstream. But you seem to think that one’s soul is in danger if one adds instruments of music. Are you sure you would not fit into the hard line category yourself?

        “Christ’s perfect and complete words” never refer to singing in worship. Could you be more specific?

      • First of all, I speak of false teachers. Those who are so bold to not speak just the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). Though some err, only God can say if they have left the faith as we see with the Church at Corinth when they erred in ways including worship in the Assembly.

        Jesus said, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the Assembly I will sing praise to You” (Heb. 2:12). Where is Jesus singing praises (Matt. 18:20, Rev. 1:13)?

        The words of Christ were given to His Apostles (John 15:20, 17:8; Matt. 28:20; Acts 1:2; 2 Pet. 3:2, Jude 17). You presume that you are familiar with 1 Cor. 14:15, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, Jas. 5:13.

        Should we add to “the fruit of the grapevine” in the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:29) anymore than to “the fruit of the lips” in praise to God (Heb. 13:15)?

      • Scott, you say that people who say we have the freedom to use instrumental music are false teachers, but then you back off and say only God knows if they have left the faith. Then you hint at the passage in I Cor 6 about withdrawing from a man who was committing fornication with his step-mother, and then you generalize it to every sin in the letter to the Corinthians, including Paul’s rebukes about their assemblies. Am I following you? This is the same dance that every Church of Christ preacher uses. Any sin equals loss of salvation equals withdrawal. Black and white, no gray. Go straight for hell fire, skipping all steps in between.

        But there are no arbitrary rules in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. There is no arbitrary rule about meeting every first day of the week to take the Lord’s supper, or about singing, or about preaching, or about giving, or about praying, unless you want to count the principle of “let everything be done for edification” (rather than showing off) as a rule. Or perhaps not letting the rich people shame the poor people during the Lord’s Supper. But these are not arbitrary rules, per se, they are general principles that emanate naturally from the good news that God has forgiven us through Jesus. Just as James (chapter 2) said that if we have faith in the gospel of forgiveness, we will naturally treat poor people the same as rich people in our assemblies. It’s not an arbitrary rule, it is a natural outgrowth of forgiveness-salvation vs. works-salvation.

        Wow, you really had to look hard for an example of singing in the assembly. Hebrews 2:12 is a quotation from Psalm 22, whose heading reads: “For the director of music… A psalm of David.” In other words it was a Psalm of David written, as always, to be accompanied by instruments of music. The writer of the book of Hebrews does not say: “By the way, from now on when the Lord praises God in the assembly, it will no longer be with instruments of music as this Psalm was originally directed by David to be sung.” If instruments of music were verboten it would be the natural place for the writer of Hebrews to say so. But he/she does not.

        There are no examples or commands of congregational singing in the New Testament after the death of Christ. There are examples of people singing a solo in the assembly (I Cor 12-14), but no examples of group singing. All the passages about singing and making melody in one’s heart do not specifically or necessarily refer to congregational singing. In fact those epistles say nothing about the assembly (except to read the epistle to the church). Why is the New Testament so vague about when, where and how people sang? Because we don’t need to know that information. The New Testament tells us what we do need to know: forgive your neighbor, turn swords into plowshares, don’t commit adultery. These are plain and simple teachings in the New Testament. How we format the Sunday morning worship service is not what the New Testament was written for.

  2. reyjacobs says:

    This concept came up maybe 10 years ago in a particular fellowship of the CoC. And the response was a call for CoC members to write songs. Which they did. The problem is, funny enough, there’s probably more Calvinism in the songs written by these CoC guys then in all the old standard denominational hymns combined (and that’s even with “Jesus payed it all, all to him I owe” being counted and that song that says “Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne”).

  3. reyjacobs says:

    You can extend the same question to Bible translations. The KJV was translated by Anglicans. The modern versions by varieties of individuals, usually a board containing members of various denominations, Catholic, Protestant, and in some cases even Jewish, Moslem, and Atheist. Probably the last CoC translation to be made was Alexander Campbell’s “Living Oracles” which was, I think, nothing but a copy and paste job from other translations.

  4. Music and Melody as such can set my mind free, I appreciate all that took the effort in the
    production in these and all that have this power, I am sure that different appreciation is due
    to what went on before we whir born, Sound is a inborn thing! so in that respect one can
    appreciate the we was brought in to this World, and the feeding that sustains this Spirit!

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