Friday, June 13, 2008

Church of the Future?

Who does your church play nice with? I think, if we’re honest, a lot of us find synod convention – family gatherings – difficult. Some have better relationships with the neighbouring churches of other traditions than we do with other ELCIC churches.

Back when the Full Communion agreement with the Anglicans was being talked about, I heard former Archbishop Peers talk about the sharing of table and pulpit between an Anglican and Lutheran church in Winnipeg – 30 years ago – before we started “ordaining” bishops (rather than “installing” them) and agreeing to a host of compromises – on both sides.

I wonder if part of the problem with the current divide is that we’re trying to maintain unity at an institutional level instead of a personal one. It’s true, we’re Lutherans. We have more in common than what we disagree upon.

This was brought home to me at the study conference when Paul Scott Wilson led us through a discussion of law and gospel. Hearing classical Protestant theology is like getting into a warm bath. And we all seemed to soak in it.

But our disagreements are not small. They cannot be dismissed too easily. And they make me wonder if synod gatherings simply magnify our divisions, to the detriment of our mission.

Even though we share a common history and theology, we’ve reached an institutional impasse. And we wonder quietly (or aloud) when the “inevitable” divorce will come. And will the church of the future look decidedly different than the denominational alignments that we have currently?

I wonder if the church of the future won’t be determined by institutional allegiances, but by personal connections.

Here at Good Shepherd we have ministry partnerships with the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, not because of the Waterloo Declaration or the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. But because our people drink coffee with their people.

And are those relationships any less valid because they haven’t been institutionally mandated?

Is that what God has in mind?

NB: Cross-posted at the synod convention blog

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