More church divisions: 9-30-09
September 30, 2009
Since shortly after the start of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, the Protestant world has been dividing and dividing and dividing.
Atomized is a pretty accurate description, and some of us Christians think it must break the sacred heart of Jesus, who, as recorded in John 17, once prayed that we all "may be one."
The dividing continues in many denominations, including my own, the Presbyterian Church (USA).
This recent story from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will serve today as an example. It describes a large church in Arizona that has decided to leave the ELCA and Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, an association of 197 congregations in the United States.
The Arizona church cited several reasons for the split, but my guess is the most important had to do with action taken by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly on the topic of human sexuality. As an ELCA press release describes it, "The assembly approved a series of proposals to change ministry policies, including a change to allow Lutherans in lifelong, publicly accountable, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers." (My opinion is that it was a laudable, long-overdue action.)
Well, whatever the reason for the split, I find such decisions sad and evidence of an unwillingness to find peace and harmony with people who disagree with you. I am not saying there never is a good reason for leaving a faith community. I can think of several good reasons.
But what's happened in Protestantism is similar to no-fault divorce. It's easy for petulant people to pick up their marbles and walk away instead of doing the hard work of finding ways to reconcile differences or to live in community even when differences have not been reconciled.
It's a terrible model for the world -- a model the Christian church should be ashamed of.
(The graphic here today is from http://home.comcast.net/~DiazStudents/MiddleAgesChurchDivisions.jpg)
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YET ANOTHER COURT CASE ON RELIGION
Ah, the courts and religion. Seems as if there will never be an end to cases about faith that wind up in our judicial system. One the U.S. Supreme Court will have to decide has to do with a cross on federal land. Click here for the Washington Post story. On the whole, I think it's a good thing that some of these cases wind up in our court system. It shows that we Americans value religious freedom and the concept of separation of church and state. That doesn't mean I always agree with what the courts decide, but better the decisions be made there than by armed individuals facing one another.