Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Doctrine does not divide. . . or does it

For most of the last half a century, the Reformed Church in America, has discussed marriage and sexuality.  Admittedly, the RCA is a small denomination and is hardly ever in the news.  It was formerly solidly tradition in its teaching on marriage and sexuality and its implications against the prevailing move toward same-sex marriage and the church's own rules on who can be ordained. After the extensive study, it seems, neither side is moving and both sides believe that the divide has reached an impasse.  Dividing the denomination seems to be the old choice left.  Calling this option a "grace-filled separation," in July, the study team issued its final recommendations with a proposed process for splitting -- much like the United Methodists who have agreed to divide.  It seems that they wish to remain friends, however, and will not put up a fuss over the assets.  The denomination could be rescued, of sorts, if a plan to divide the church body into non-geographical units by affinity or teaching.  That seems the oddest of choices -- we cannot get along with respect to congregations but we can live in the same building as two different congregations. How odd!

What is the strangest thing of all, however, is that modern Christianity finds itself powerless to address the doctrinal divides over who God is, over the truthfulness of His revelation, over the tenets of the creed, over the path of salvation, and a host of other things BUT when it comes to sexuality and gender issues, the same Christians find a backbone.  We must live together in a grand ecumenical spirit of compromise and toleration and different opinions when it comes to the doctrines of Scripture related to God and our salvation but when it comes to matters of sex and gender, we set our feet in concrete and become immovable.  My point here is not to suggest that any doctrine ought to be considered expendable but to say that the new orthodoxy of Protestantism is not Scripture or creed but just that -- sexuality and gender.  Here there is no wiggle room.  Everywhere else we can find ways of accommodation but not when it comes to these issues.  The new tests of orthodoxy will allow broad diversity with respect to nearly everything else but when it comes to sex and gender there is no tolerance of intolerance.  The traditional stereotypes of intransigence are not the conservatives who try to maintain the Biblical view but those who believe the Biblical view must give way to  lead of culture.

Ecumenism and its lofty goals of one church have fallen victim to the sexual and gender divides in ways few could have foreseen.  The ELCA, itself a product of several mergers along the way, gave birth to two denominations in the wake of its 2009 decisions on sexuality and gender.  Presbyterianism has birthed many micro denominations along the way.  Methodists are no longer United.  But many of the same voices that once pleaded for unity are some of the same voices who have agitated for the full embrace the LBGTQ++ agenda.  For some years we have been told that doctrine does not or should not divide.  Apparently some doctrine does.  It is merely a matter of deciding which.


1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

So far as I know, the Bible still says homosexuality is sinful, immoral, and unnatural. We shouldn't even be having a conversation about it, but carnal Christianity crept into many denominations, and it became an issue. The problem going forward is conservatives churches have a target on their backs. For following the Bible, God's word, persecution will be coming quickly, more quickly than we have anticipated. The days are evil, but Christ will take us through the fires.