My recent experience in a “conservative” church in a “conservative” diocese within a very liberal denomination taught me a lesson. See previous post, HERE.
I should have expected this after I was informed by various members that the church has no established doctrine in many areas. You are free to believe what you want to believe about any number of spiritual matters. For example, when asked whether the “host”, the bread and wine at the Lord’s supper, is considered the body and blood of Christ as Catholics and conservative Lutherans believe, the answer was “ you can believe whatever you want it to be; we have no specific doctrine on that.” Well, that spirit of “tolerance” didn’t stop there.
Apparently the church has no position on homosexuality, gay marriage, or Islamic supremacism either, given that a church-sanctioned regularly scheduled Bible teacher proclaims that the Bible does not really teach that homosexuality is sin and that the US, not Islamic ideology, may very well be to blame for Islamic terror against us.
One lesson learned is this: A conservative church is a very relative thing. Conservative relative to what? Conservative relative to its very liberal denomination? Or conservative relative to the average church? These can be two entirely different levels of “conservative.” As it turns out, this church is conservative relative to a very liberal denomination. It is NOT conservative relative to other churches.
A second lesson learned is this: A church which considers itself conservative or orthodox will not be for long if it gives free reign to the teachers it sanctions within its walls. Allowing an” anything goes” permissiveness just because a teacher may be an ex-pastor or decent Bible teacher is opening the door to the teaching of heretical doctrine. This is especially troubling when teaching in one area of established Bible interpretation is so far “out there” that it casts doubt not only on the integrity of the Bible teacher, but, if believed, on the reliability of other essential areas of Bible interpretation. An unorthodox teacher creates a very slippery slope of trust in the Bible.
This gives me a renewed appreciation for truly conservative churches that require all who take communion to profess belief in the doctrines of that church. With that standard, sound teaching is more assured and the long trek toward a liberalizing, watered-down, meaningless faith will not be allowed to begin.
A permissive, uber-tolerance regarding Christian doctrine may enhance the self-esteem and good feelings of many church goers. But it does little for our Christian faith. In fact, such tolerance of “a diversity of beliefs” within a church body eventually leaves a gaping hole where shared doctrinal beliefs were the norm. What is left is fellowship. Not the spiritual fellowship that has been the a significant purpose of the church, but the same kind of fellowship that can be experienced at a bar, nightclub, bowling alley, symphony concert or Elk’s Lodge. If a church is no longer where faith in a common, shared doctrine can be relied upon, then private, individual worship can logically and successfully substitute for a church.
It is no wonder that membership in this denomination is falling more rapidly than most.