The Dismembered Body of Christ
Looking from the outside in, Christianity’s degree of denominationalism seems competitive and at times non-productive . . . and perhaps even a bit absurd. Although most Christians have surely heard Saint Paul’s words that we are one body formed of many parts, we don’t often act like it — even within our denominations.
I would be a bit more optimistic about the diversity inherent in our denominationalism if the “Episcopal “ear” ever coordinated with the Methodist “mouth” and Unitarian “uvula.” If we’re really one body, why do we operate as if we’ve been dismembered?
In my experience, the churches that actually cross those denominational lines for this dialogue or that ecumenical service do so for assorted reasons, some of which are more self-serving than any of us would like to admit — focusing on ecumenism is not only good, it’s good PR. Stewards of any institution will do what is best for the preservation and enhancement of their institution, which can include the good and the bad (and occasionally the ugly).
Take, for an over-simplified example, two or three small churches that are struggling to get by and spreading their leadership too thin. Conceivably, it would be in the best interest of all involved to consolidate and work on being a more effective and coherent group.
This idolatry is instinct . . . It is the deep yearning we share to delineate and control the boundaries of our lives.
Yet, the strong (and understandable) emotional ties to a particular building, tradition, or name might (and often do) prevent consolidation from happening. And with too few people spread too thin to keep an institution operational, the real work of a faith community often gets neglected.
In this case, the institutional mindset may be limiting growth — not only growth in numbers, but also growth in capacity for the important business of loving, to which I’d submit the body of Christ is called.
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