Sunday, October 29, 2006

Are Denominations the Cause of Disunity?

Lately, I've heard a lot of people speaking negatively about the whole concept of denominations. For example, I overheard someone saying that if Christians could just come together apart from their denominations we'd have unity in a minute.

I guess the more I reflect upon it, the more I disagree with that sentiment; and that's not just because I'm a pastor. Consider for a moment what we would have without denominations. We would have a bunch of people: each with their own opinions, their own interpretations, and no accountability. We'd have, in short, pandemonium. (Even greater than what already exsists!)

We would have no ability to create consensus with such a group. That is, unless they wanted to come together to the lowest common denominator. And even then agreement would be impossible.

Also, I consider the phenomenon of many nondenominational churches. What ends up happening is that a nondenominational church realizes that it's very difficult to stand all by itself. It ends up finding other like-minded congregations or even an organization that is like-minded. Upon finding these like-minded cohorts they seek to strike an agreement to willingly walk together in ministry. They might even pull together their resources in order to more efficiently train pastors and send missionaries. Sounds an awful lot like a Synod.

I believe that denominations are the key to future unity in the Christian church. Representatives from denominations may come together to talk about theological agreement/disagreement. These representatives would be speaking on behalf of many Christians. Even that situation can be chaotic, but is certainly a whole lot better than bringing thousands and thousands of Christians together to all speak at once.

Denominations give accountability to their members and pastors. Without such accountability, it is very easy for people to be led far astray from the gospel. (Of course it's still possible for people to be led astray within a denomination. It's just that people have a recourse against a false teacher within a denomination.)

While I long for unity in the Christian church, I don't believe denominations are stumbling blocks to it.

1 comment:

Weekend Fisher said...

I'm with you as far as you go.

But I'm dissatisfied with how things are. That's hardly your fault, but still.

The conversations on re-union seem to be a) rare, b) low-priority, c) closed-door, d) half-hearted -- more rehearsings of differences than seeking whether they're resolvable, or whether it's one of the areas where Scripture leaves open more than one option.

If reunion is to have any hope or chance on any level of healing the schisms, then what would it take? I don't think what we're doing now holds much real possibility of unification, and unification mostly seems to happen when groups either a) stop caring doctrinally (which is not the same thing as studying and realizing the different views are both within bounds) or b) become endangered species and think a merger is expedient.

What happened to truth, to love ... in a word, to Christ?