Is the Church what we think it is?
Who speaks for us?
The Shalom of unity is what we should strive for as Christians. To do this, we need to be working together in unity:
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)
It’s not just good and pleasant, but entirely necessary:
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Let’s be honest, we often could do better on this issue.
The first thing we should realise is that Paul is talking to the Church here. He is not talking to the “Church” as we currently define it. Can you imagine if he was? He would be asking the 40,000+ denominations to start working together and forget their differences! Just as well he’s not talking to them then. He’s talking to the Church, as originally defined, the ekklesia, you and me.
So we re-programme our minds and remove centuries of conditioning, telling us that the “Church” is basically a religious corporation, a vague controlling body on a higher plane, run by professionals and dog-collars! This is difficult, particularly for those who currently worship within the structures of a denomination, even if the local church expression gives the impression of independence.
Here is the problem and it’s one that seems to be currently growing. Some Christians are beginning to feel uncomfortable within the current system. At Foundations we are used to mopping up Christians that have left (or have been asked to leave) their churches over “contentious” issues, usually over Israel. But this is different. The thinking tends to be on the lines of, I don’t feel on the same wavelength any more or I feel uncomfortable about some of the pronouncements made by my denomination or even I can’t in all conscience stay in a church that compromises over …
There is no doubt that our society is changing, the cultural climate is becoming more restrictive and what we now say and do is under closer scrutiny than ever before. Now is the time for the Church to show unity, yet, here are some examples as representative of the problem at hand:
- The Church of England is torn over plans by The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States to remove the terms “husband” and “wife” from its marriage liturgy. The change is meant to make the church’s marriage ceremonies more “gay-friendly.” Gay and lesbian Episcopalians have complained that the language of the current liturgy is offensive and exclusionary. (Daily Telegraph 30/4/18)
- Transgender people are being encouraged to become Church of England vicars as bishops launch a diversity drive. Bishops in the diocese of Lichfield have issued new guidance to parishioners and clergy reminding them that LGBT people "can be called to roles of leadership and service in the local church". The guidance, titled "welcoming and honouring LGBT+ people", warns that the church's reputation as being unwelcoming towards gay and transgender people is stopping young people attending. (Daily Telegraph 26/5/18)
- The British Methodist Church, with the BDS movement, is distributing a questionnaire calling for a boycott of Israel. This is a significant step against Israel. It extends their 2010 partial boycott of “settlement” products. Now they are hitting all of Israel. (Jerusalem Post 16/10/13)
- There has been a deafening silence from all quarters of the established Church over the current rampant anti-Semitism in the actions of Jeremy Corbyn and the hard left in the Labour party. Yet clerics were all-a-tweetin’ when Boris Johnson made a clumsy joke about burka wearers. Active tweeter, Justin Welby, has tweeted nothing on this issue during the height of the furore, which is disgraceful. (His excuse would be that the C of E wouldn’t comment on ‘political’ matters, which is itself a ‘political’ statement). “Christian” anti-Semitism is, apparently live and kicking in the great halls of Ecclesiastica.
This is just for starters and just gives a taster of the wider problem. As the world sees these proclamations as the representatives of the ekklesia, is it no wonder that serious and worried Christians seek to distance themselves once and for all from those who will put the Biblical faith in Jesus Christ in disrepute?
This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp