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Christian unity ≠ going along to get along

Jaynan Clark Egland (WordAlone Network president)

April 2, 2009

photo of Pastor Jaynan Clark EglandNote to the Reader:The following is something I felt inspired to write down while meeting with the ACR—Association for Church Renewal—in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. ACR is a gathering of leaders from reform movements across the mainline denominations. The traditions represented at the meeting included Presbyterian, Methodist, Reformed (U.S. and Canadian), Lutheran, and Disciples of Christ. Many present have been meeting together for decades, WordAlone’s vice-president, Mark Chavez, has been attending for the last eight years. I felt it was timely for me to attend and was personally blessed by the experience and therefore felt moved to record and share with the group my impression of what was and is happening among us. I am sharing these comments with all of you as they were spontaneously jotted down and read to the gathering. I’m hopeful that they will help each reader come to an understanding that true ecumenism and unity are not human achievements but gifts from God and that  consensus is spontaneously achieved when the Word of God is authoritative over participants whose collective conscience is bound to that very Word. All present energetically gave a verbal “thumbs up.”

Recognizing and celebrating all the historic differences that make us who we are in our varied, faithful expressions of the Christian faith we realize true unity in our common confession of the ecumenical, historic creeds of the Christian Church. We join in one voice in the midst of these turbulent times and for the sake of engaging in the true ministry of the church, which is the telling of the story, evangelism and delivery of the promises of God to a world in need; we affirm and confess the following together:

+ That Jesus is the only way, the whole truth and life itself. That Jesus Christ, Crucified and Raised from the dead is the Lord of the church in which we gather in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

+ That the Holy Bible is the written Word of God and the source and norm of all of faith and life and it has authority in and of itself as it stands over us all interpreting the life of the church, its message and each individual engaged by this Word.

+ That the historical critical method for studying the scriptures was meant to be a tool but has been used as a weapon when it diverges from the Christian understanding of the Word’s authority.

+ That the declining basis of faith and the diminishing nature of all denominations are results of church leaders’ actions that have systematically rejected the basic teachings of the Christian faith:  Jesus’ lordship (Christology); the authority of the Bible as the Word of God; the definition of sin, repentance and forgiveness; the basis for marriage and family; the reality of miracles and spiritual warfare; and the primary mission of the Church.

+ That the primary mission of the Christian Church is evangelism in the name of Jesus Christ whom we are not ashamed of and not social activism, political correctness and justice apart from the Christian story.

+ That we are saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law, moralisms, legalisms or spiritual disciplines of any kind.

+ That what the North American church and globally the Christian church are experiencing is not about merely an attack or changes in any one denomination or human institution or even individual attacks on specific churches but rather we are witnessing a redefining of the entire Gospel, the rewriting and reshaping of the Christian faith and the denial of the theology of the cross and Christ Crucified and Risen from the dead.

+ That the current issues pressing every mainline denomination are only symptoms of churches’ abandoning their basic teachings on the created order, the definition of marriage and family, human sexuality and the elevation of self-expression over self-restraint resulting in a new ministry that engages in “unsinning sin” rather than forgiving repentant sinners and preaches acceptance and inclusion rather than forgiveness and salvation.

+ That historic and traditional definitions of sin, freedom and conscience have been changed significantly confusing both pastors and people in the pews in a new form of religion that finds its foundation in inclusivity and relativism of basic teachings of the faith.

+ We reject the notion that the tenets of the Christian faith can be systematically changed by consensus or contemporary majority votes of small delegations of any one denomination. Therefore, as Protestants, we stand together in proclamation and in “protest” against all church leadership that actively leads astray Jesus’ flock in the name of “love,” which is not the Christian love passed down for 20 centuries and recorded in the Holy Scripture. We actively affirm, confess and teach the love of Christ Jesus that addresses human suffering and sin and gives the gifts of forgiveness and salvation to this 21st century world so much in need of hearing the true Gospel and its good news for all ages.