Jul 3, 2008

Post-denominational Denominations Part 2

Post-denominational denominations...

First, stop. Just for the moment, chuck everything you know about denominations. Let's start with a clean slate.

Second, let's be real about the state of our denominations and call a spade, a spade.

When it comes to our so called connectionalism, about the only thing that binds us is the property clause and the name brand of our denominations. Whether we are presbyterian, methodist, lutheran, baptist, when it really boils down to it, unless we've got the balls to discipline, censure, and defrock one another, about the only things that are binding is the property and the denominational name.

Already within the so called connectional denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), there are people so far from where I am on certain issues that I have far more in common with my baptist brother and the pentecostal non-denominational sister in town than I have with the More Light congregations who have been advocating for the ordination of homosexual, transgendered individuals.

Just what in the world are we talking about when we say connectional? What does that mean?

I think the way out of this denominational dilemma in a post-denominational age is to re-think what it means to be a connectional church.

Although I may agree about homosexuality with my baptist and non-denominational pentecostal brothers and sisters, I am neither a congregationalist or a non-denominationalist. I am to the core presbyterian.

What do I mean by that? Let me give you some examples:
  • I believe wholeheartedly in the sharing of ministry between the teaching elders and the ruling elders.
  • I believe in women's ordination.
  • I believe that the church is best governed and led by a group of spiritual leaders rather than a bishop or a pope.
  • No single church in its isolation is the full manifestation of the body of Christ, but that collectively, we represent the body of Christ.
Although I may disagree with the More Light Congregations and the Covenant Network Congregations, there are huge areas of common concern. Not only the areas listed above, but thing such as:
  • Commitment to Evangelism and Mission
  • Commitment to Social Justice
  • Commitment to mutual participation in the governance of the church
  • Commitment to use both our hearts and our minds in approach to understanding God and our purpose as a church and as human beings.
There are huge areas of common passions. I am just writing off the cuff on my blackberry so I am having a hard time listing all the areas of common concerns. But there are many more that I can't think of right at the moment.

The reality and the dilemma is that I would not be a very good baptist, congregationalist, a methodist, or anything else. My expression of my faith is best articulated through the Presbyterian way of doing and being church.

And I bet this is the same for those brothers and sisters on the more progressive and liberal side of the church too.

The question then becomes, how can we conceive of being a church where these two polarities can not only co-exist but thrive together? Is that even possible?

I happen to believe it is. It will take a huge shift in how we normally think of denominations, but I believe it is possible. Not only do I believe this is possible, but unless we discern some new ways of being a denomination in a post-denominational world, you can kiss PC(USA) goodbye. But I believe there is huge potential to rethinking and discerning what God may be up to in this post-modern, post-Christian, post-denominational age.

More to come on this later.

Thank you for your comments. Let's keep dreaming and discerning about how best we can be a post-denominational denomination.

James <><>www.trinitypresbyterian.us

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

1 comment:

dhollifield said...

Okay. I agree with everything you've said about how some of us are "Presbyterian to the core" in the way we do church.

I also agree with the social justice things you mention.

I struggle with two things:

1) if we just "get back to work" in mission, in response to the Holy Spirit doing whatever with whoever does it best, regardless of their political/social views - somehow we must re-train ourselves to respond to the person working alongside us - we must quit judging their "Christian credentials." That would seem obvious, except for our seemingly protracted inability to do so. If this has been a behavior learned over 30 years, then it will take a very intentional effort to eliminate it.

Does this result in a church that looks more like a Rotary club? Maybe with regard to mission that's not terrible: Rotary does great social work.

2) I am concerned, though, about the governance part. Our greatest strength as an organization is also our greatest weakness. Even though it was spiritually conceived, it has become deeply political with all of the human components of ambition, avarice and distrust.

This piece will be a tougher go, I think.