Jul 2, 2008

Post-Denominational Denominations...?

The recent actions of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has made it clear that the theological chasm that has existed for the last 30 years between the conservative evangelicals and the liberal progressives is undeniable.

I believe that the commissioners voted to be faithful. But the problem is when you are faithful without knowing to whom you are faithful to, you're going to run into problems. I believe that the commissioners voted to help the church. I don't think there was a single commissioner who wanted to hurt the church. It was just that the presbyterian world has changed so much that people are no longer able to discern who we are called to be faithful to.

Many people were saying things like, "Jesus would..." "If Jesus were here today..." What was interesting is that they would say such things without any scriptural reference. Whoever this Jesus is, it certainly was not the Jesus of Scripture.

And the reality is that nothing conservative evangelicals ever say will change the progressive liberals. And nothing that the progressive liberals say or do will ever change the conservative evangelicals.

How then are we to be a church together?

It's not quite clear in my mind yet, but I think there is something to thinking about a post-denominational denomination.

Is that even possible?

I think so. And the more I think about it, the more I find it intriguing.

What do I mean by post-denominational?

We live in a world where the only ones to whom denominations matter at all are those who are already in our denominations. No one else gives a rip whether someone is Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, PC(USA), PCA, KPCA, etc. To the 2/3 majority of Americans who make up the unchurched, denominations just don't matter.

When a Catholic priest in Boston molests a boy, the 2/3 majority say, "That's why I can't trust you clergy." And if I were to protest, "But I'm not a Catholic. I am a Presbyterian." It wouldn't make one bit of difference. We all represent the "church".

When Ted Haggard has his moral failure, the 2/3 majority say, "You Christians are all hypocrites." And if you were to protest, "But I am a Presbyterian, not a non-denominational Christian," you might as well be saying, "Mumbo, jumbo, jumbo, mumbo." To the 2/3 unchurched, we are all the church.

The only ones who can articulate what the differences between the PC(USA), PCA, the KPCA, the Lutherans, the Evangelical Lutherans, the Methodists, etc. are those who are highly versed in the life of the church. They represent a tiny portion of the US population.

For the most part, what people want to know is, "Is God for real? Can I experience and encounter God at your church? Can God make a difference in my life? Can I make a difference in this world?" And if the answer is yes to these questions, people just don't care what denomination a church is.

That is the reality of the post-denominational world.

And the question I would like to pose is what would a post-denominational denomination look like?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. I will be posting my thoughts on these in the coming days. Thanks.


Reyes-Chow said...

Thanks for a thought-provoking post. These are some of the questions that I think the institution is afraid to confront because addressing them will force us truly into the unknown. I believe there is space/place from denominational connections, but what that will look like is still a mystery.

Chasburge said...

Good thoughts.

Post-denominationalism is upon us. It exists through non-traditional structures and media.

It is led primarily by layman and non-clerics.

It is decidedly entrepreneurial and anti-hierarchical.

It is an exciting and frightening time for followers of Christ.

Discipleship said...

Homosexuals have been seeking legitimacy for their lifestyle in many ways, Gay-marriage, and non-descrimination to name a couple. But, there is no more effective way than to get the "church" to say it is OK. To accomplish this PC(USA) among others have been hijacked so this endorsement can be made. This despite what the Bible says. And in the case of Gay-marriage, what laws and constitutions says.

So now it has happened. How can PC(USA) members abide it?

If the idea behind this post is to say there may be a way to allow a subset of the church to remain in the church but to be able to state officially that they do not subscribe to GA's changes. If there is some space that each subset can have their own profession of what they are called to affirm as true, then perhaps such denominational coexistence could happen.

If the GA and the denominational leadership want to force all the members to affirm that certain biblical truths no longer apply, then I see little hope for a continuation of a joint denominational communion.

dhollifield said...

Within the "post-denominational denomination" - or any other context in which Christians disagree - scripture plainly states that whether we "follow Paul, Apollos or Cephas," the foundation must be Christ and that the leaders are responsible to God for the building materials they use.

Post-denominational congregations advertising their "building materials" as Evangelical or Progressive or More Light is already occurring. Like denominational labels you mention, no one knows what those terms mean either, except for the insiders (and probably few of them).

I imagine that to outsiders, proponents of both sides seem to be rooted in an equal arrogant certainty. I have often been in churches (of both stripes) on Sundays where we prayed for the unity of the church. I don't ever recall being in a church where we prayed for seekers who are being drawn into congregations mired deeply in error, or where we prayed, (at least very often)for our own clarity. Such a prayer might drive our people into the Bible and the problem might take care of itself.