My recent article on cooperation among the traditional and non-traditional churches led to me receiving an email from a judicatory leader in a conservative evangelical denomination (a judicatory would be closest to an association in my denominational structure– not the same polity, but similar geography).
I’ve edited out references to the denomination, but (with permission) I thought I’d share here what happens when a narrow, methodological (rather than confessional) standard is imposed on a denominational family. You can decide if the letter speaks to other situations:
I was intrigued by your FB link, “Cooperating Together for the Cause of Christ,” and followed the original post, “Traditional, Contemporary, and the Future of the SBC,” not being steeped in SBC history I have no idea how long the conversation/challenge of “Traditional” and “Contemporary” has been going on. I decided not to post to your blogs to avoid interjecting a naive outsider’s comments and detract from the conversation. …
In our church body a small but very well organized and vocal ultra conservative group has ascended to leadership (as you know) that draws pictures of loss based on perceived liberalism and a promised return to/maintenance of “my grandfather’s church.” This “grandfather’s” church creates an interesting dilemma for me as a [non-Anglo in an Anglo denomination]…
Of course, it isn’t just genealogical longevity but also the ultra conservative ideological stance, new believers have been ordained and risen to positions of extreme influence on our Board of Directors because they had the right stance. That stance would insist that the contemporary liberals have taken over and forsaken [our] Confessions, worship, and Scriptures (unfortunately, by my perception, in that order of importance). It is the “Traditional” vs. “Contemporary” false battle (a red herring) when the real issue is how are we contextually… bringing or renewing people to faith in Jesus?
I share all of the above to encourage you to keep defining the reality and emphasizing what the SBC has in common over against what separates them. My experience of you personally and as a church leader is that you truly love the SBC, its doctrines, and rich (contextual) traditions while expanding the church’s mission.
Unfortunately, we who love our church, embrace our doctrines, celebrate our rich contextual traditions, while expanding the church’s mission are, at best, on the margins…
Confessional consensus is key– cooperation without common beliefs is not possible. As I’ve written before, doctrine enable and empowers cooperation.
Cooperating together in a denominational family requires a set of beliefs around which we facilitate our cooperation. This denomination has such a confession. So does mine. Yet, for some, they are confusing conservative traditions with conservative theology. The end result is that they are losing many of their younger and non-traditional pastors. To quote my friend, “Unfortunately, we who love our church, embrace our doctrines, celebrate our rich contextual traditions, while expanding the church’s mission are, at best, on the margins…”
My hope for their denomination (and for my own) is that we can cooperate together with common beliefs, yet now allow differences in style and even minor theological issues (within a confession) to undermine such cooperation.