I finally found a church I could live with. It is a compromise. It is a conservative congregation with a conservative pastor in a conservative diocese within a liberal denomination. The liberal denomination part is the compromise. But the locals seem to have themselves pretty well isolated from the national denomination on key doctrine as well as finances.
So I began attending a Bible study at this church. On my first visit with the group I was introduced to the study leader, a semi-retired pastor, not a member of this church. My first impressions were that he was a good teacher, a good communicator, a good discussion facilitator, knew his Bible well and gave a good first impression that he was solid in his interpretation of the Bible.
On my second visit the topics of homosexuality and abortion came up. Boy, was I in for a surprise. The study leader, I’ll call him Hank, asserted that if it wasn’t for right wing politics, homosexuality and abortion would not be issues in the church. Huh? That’s right. The ordination of openly practicing gay priests, the blessing of gay marriage, and the support of abortions (he says “who really knows when the fetus is a child?”) would not be divisive issues if the right didn’t bring attention to them. Hank claims that the Bible does not prohibit any of these actions nor call them sin. He believes they are made up issues of the right for political power and for political purposes.
In this man’s opinion these practices have always been part of the church, but it is right wing politics that has raised the level of awareness and made them into divisive issues. Apparently it matters not to this man that these practices, when subjected to the full counsel of Scripture, are sin. No, it doesn’t matter to him because he denies that the Bible teaches that these behaviors are sin.
Apparently he believes the orthodox interpretation of Scripture has been wrong for 2000 years regarding these issues.
I suggested to him that blaming the right for “divisiveness” because they raised these issues is like blaming America for Islamic attacks against us. His reply: “Maybe America IS to blame.” I reminded him that Islam has practiced an aggressive, supremacist, warring ideology antithetical to individual liberty well before the United States was around to blame.
Well, thank God for the right, then. Apparently without the influence of the right, the church would have apostatized and self-destructed long ago. Is “the right” the only influence for morality? Do those not of “the right” prefer amorality? It almost seems the case with Hank.
Hank has demonstrated to me that he believes as long as sin is unnamed, it is not a problem. Nobody notices – nobody cares. Don’t sin. We’re all cool with that. But as soon as someone gives sin a specific name, like “abortion”, or sanctioning homosexuality, or ordaining gay marriage, it is trouble-making by reactionary right-wingers creating new doctrine.
Hank and those of like mind would probably not have much trouble with pedophilia or rape. Those who bring such problems to the church’s attention will probably be accused of being divisive right wingers looking for power.
If Hank is so far off base on these 2000 year-old orthodox teachings of Scripture, how can any of his other Bible interpretations be trusted? Apparently he is attracted to teaching at this church because it is thought of as being part of a liberal national denomination ripe for his views. He is in a position to sway members of this, thus far conservative, church to his liberal, unorthodox ideals. I have to wonder under what authority is he sanctioned to promote his unorthodox beliefs at this “conservative church.”
I thank God this man is NOT a member of this church. It is bad enough I need to run as far away from his Bible study as I possibly can. I hope I don’t have to leave a church that my wife and I finally felt good about attending together.
This experience reinforces in my own mind the extent of compromise churches have made over the last several decades to survive. Some promote themselves through a “feel good” shallow gospel, some promote themselves through entertaining their flock, while still others profess a “believe whatever you want to believe” doctrine. Rare and mocked is the church that teaches a solid, Bible-based morality and promotes the clear historical teachings of Scripture as a light to transform not just fallen individuals but also to stand against a corrupt and corrupting culture.