Saturday, July 11, 2009

Church Gone Awry

This is from:

John Calvin at 500 -- Faithful and Welcoming Luncheon, General Synod Grand Rapids

presented by Charles Hambrick-Stowe

By contrast, the tendency in the UCC since 1957 has been overwhelmingly toward human action, social action, social reform, living your faith in the public arena. Our activism -- our gift -- believing means doing -- most certainly stems from our Calvinist heritage (whether UCC members know this or not). But -- and this, it seems to me, is the spiritual problem of the United Church of Christ -- our commitment to faithful living is no longer rooted in a theology of redemption. In many places and at many organizational levels of the church, the very concept of justification and sanctification are ignored or even rejected as obsolete, meaningless, or hurtful doctrines. Salvation is construed as getting in touch with your true self, perhaps especially your true gendered self, so if there is a theological emphasis at all it is on the doctrine of creation ("God doesn't create junk") and, with regard to Jesus, the doctrine of the Incarnation, God-with-us, validating us just as we are. But . . . the Fall? Atonement? Reconciliation of sinful humanity with the God of holiness? Word that Christ died for our sins? Who in our churches knows what any of this means anymore?

Kent comments:

This is from a group of United Churches of Christ that are attempting a kind of reform movement within that group.  These ‘Faithful and Welcoming Churches’ see their group as an alternative to withdrawal from the UCC.  While they don’t like the direction the UCC has gone, they don’t think becoming an independent congregation is a good idea either because, among other things, they think a denominational structure can help keep churches from going astray!

One has to ask, “How’s that working out for you in the UCC – which by your own admission is so messed up that you have to have this reforming group?!?”  Nevertheless . . .

It is very interesting to get this inside look at some of the things that concern a reform-minded minister of the UCC.  Hambrick-Stowe is here particularly interested in the heritage from John Calvin.  But some of the matters he mentions here transcend Calvinism.  ‘Activism’ can be a good thing IF you know what to be active for.  Too often, ‘activism’ has become a code-word from ‘actively promoting state-enforced socialism.’  This is certainly true of most of the UCC.  I hope this is not the case with these ‘Faithful and Welcoming’ people.

The characterization that in the UCC, “Salvation is construed as getting in touch with your true self, perhaps especially your true gendered self” has become the standard fare in the mainline denominations.  I can sympathize with anyone who found that sort of thing in the group he was affiliated with and wants to do something about it.  And who can be surprised that a man who admires John Calvin wants to reform something!  While I can’t fully agree with the approach of the ‘FWChurches’ (that’s what they call it) people, I also can’t help but wish them well.  Almost every church I have ever known needed some degree of reforming.

But beyond all this, we should make note of something very important.  These matters that Hambrick-Stowe complains about here – serious departures from the Christian faith – are pandemic in much of the UCC.  Some churches, and some ministers, are much further ‘down the tubes’ than others.

It is within the theological/ecclesiastical mess that B. H. Obama found his ‘church home.’  It is where he learned ‘Christianity.’  It is the source of his ‘theology’ such as it is.  There has been a lot of discussion about Obama’s religious background, where the Obama family will attend church while he is president, and so forth.  While that might all be of interest to the media paparazzi, if you want to know what Obama thinks about religion, you need to look at what the very worst parts of the UCC believes.  That is Obama’s spiritual womb.

As this insider reveals, it is not a pretty picture.

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