There is something I like (well, a number of things, actually, without me personally entertaining the thought of converting to it) about Roman Catholicism in theory, and that’s how it includes diversity. Of course within the core commitment to scripture and tradition. Something of the same can be said for the Anglican Church or Communion, which is a large tent indeed. And this is true in significant measure I think of our church, the Evangelical Covenant.
I am amazed and perplexed at how narrow other churches can be as to what is allowed in the church. If you think differently at all, you’re walking on thin ice, or maybe on no ice at all. I think of such matters as faith and science, perhaps accepting evolution and not creationism. Or American politics in which one might not rubber stamp the Republican Party or be libertarian. Even matters like the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy of scripture. How about hell as eternal conscious torment being replaced by something else which actually might end up closer to what scripture says? While we’re at it, we might as well mention the charismatic side, which one prominent evangelical has cast aside as practically heretical.
There is the great need for wisdom in all of this. We don’t do anyone any favors by emphasizing the differences we may have with them. In fact the emphasis needs to be in the opposite direction, on what unites us in Jesus Christ and God’s good news of grace and the kingdom in him.
For those who think out loud and try to work through difficult areas, who are willing to think outside the box within the commitment to the orthodox Christian faith, there needs to be a safe place. That safe place is not on a Sunday morning in the pew or in teaching or even in sharing later, certainly not as a rule. But space is needed. If one is belittled for suggesting something which on later thought they may well reject, the danger is that they will become defensive and driven to defend a position which rather ought to be refined or even disposed of. Even if we strongly disagree with what is said, we need to listen well and ask questions, as well as respecting the other person. One such issue today is gay marriage and gay affirmation including ordination in churches. That is a fault line, maybe not breaking communion among Christians (I don’t think it does), but making it much harder for churches to be united. I studied that issue some time back, willing to change if I thought scripture warranted it. But I concluded that the traditional understanding is solid. Even if other matters surrounding the issue are not, like the reality that there are gay Christians, those who experience same sex attraction, etc. Simply for entertaining such questions or deviating from any norm makes one a “liberal” to many, or at least not one to take seriously.
As I get older I want all the more to concentrate on the gospel along with the Jesus Creed of loving God and neighbor. But that doesn’t mean I won’t keep on asking questions. Of course we need wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom might be nearly synonymous in wisdom literature, but not so in our culture. We might “know” something and yet not love, even getting a big head. No, we need wisdom both for ourselves and for others. But we also need a wideness, to be able to take in diversity and accept differences within the faith which we hold together in Jesus.