This post inaugurates a new feature of this blog, “Glimpses of Post-Christendom.” Under this category I will curate a collection of examples of what I think the church of post-Christendom looks like. These will be inspiring and challenging demonstrations of what creative and entrepreneurial people of faith are doing out there in the world. If you come across something good, please pass it along.
Right on the heals of writing today’s post on “Unity not Uniformity in Post-Christendom,” I read a related article in the most recent edition of The Presbyterian Outlook. Here’s how Ina Hughs’ article begins:
In Christ there is no East or West — as the old hymn goes — but among his followers today there is definitely Left and Right. Liberal and Conservative. Traditional and Progressive. Red and Blue.
Tensions within churches and across denominational lines continue to unravel the tie that binds. Current tendencies to draw lines in the sand, so painfully headlined in the political arena, bring American Christians once again to a Babel-like crisis: hot button issues are so emotionally charged that some fear the church as the body of Christ is dismembering itself in the heat of those battles.
Is it too late for Christians to turn ideological swords into ploughshares? Are “church people” so far gone in vilifying each other over social or theological disagreements that they can no longer unearth the holy ground that is the Church’s one foundation?
This sounds familiar.
The article recaps a conference held in October at Montreat Conference Center on the theme of “The Church in Purple” and asks how we can move beyond blue-red divides. Here is a takeaway from a dialogue between conservative Thomas Daniel and progressive Pen Peery:
Both Daniel and Peery underlined the fact that unity is not the same thing as uniformity. Both agree that putting the emphasis on what liberal and conservative Christians have in common makes what they have in conflict less important.
In a similar vein:
Barbara G. Wheeler of Auburn Seminary in New York and Richard J. Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary in California — two recently retired seminary presidents from very different theological places — explained that though they have serious differences about serious matters, they count themselves blessed by the collegiality and mutual respect through which the Holy Spirit moves, enabling them to become better people and better Christians because of what each has learned from the other.
Wheeler summed it up this way:
“This, friends, is freedom in Christ: to be our best selves with each other, to tease each other gently across all kinds of divides, including theological ones, and to make fun of ourselves in one another’s presence. This is what it will be like, someday, in the church he came to build and the world he came to save: We will not hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain. Instead we will heal and repair, in our pluralistic societies, in the worldwide Christian communion … and in our churches.”
This is the promise of moving beyond the post-Christendom insistence on uniformity.