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Every denomination needs one of these...


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Pastor Dan makes some excellent points (and some not so good points) regarding the importance of covenant today in challenging my recent posts on First Congregational Church of Marshfield. As a denomination, we need to have MORE discussion about covenant and what it means if we are serious about unity.

First, Pastor Dan is absalutely correct that "keeping the community together is spiritual work". However, his logic is completely flawed by defining community by the bureaucractic structure of denomination. "The Church" is not "the denomination".

Pastor Dan uses a very narrow, very denomination-centric interpretation of scripture that I see more broadly. If we were to follow his interpretation of scripture, we would have to disown our own Reformed roots and all become Catholics. "The Church" is broader than our singular denomination.

Pastor Dan goes further:
Most important, however, is that this is not a matter of "denomination first." Whatever the faults of John Thomas or the national leadership of the denomination - and I'm sure there are many - the fact is that each congregation has entered into covenant with the wider church. That is what holds our denomination together, and you're damn right I have nothing but scorn for the people who would undermine it. I'd have the same contempt for someone who taught his congregation that the marital covenant meant nothing.
Right! But...

Covenant is a two way street. All of the discussion I have seen from the UCC national office in reaction to churches leaving the denomination has centered around the obligations of the local church to remain in covenant and very little about the obligations of the national office to remain in covenant. Each party has a responsibity to remain in covenant and each has an obligation to respect the other if they are to remain in covenant - that includes the national office, General Synod, the conferences, the associations and the local churches.

The example is extreme, but if a spouse feels abused in their "marital covenant," is it our expectation that they remain in covenant simply for the sake of covenant? Of course not - so why would we place that expectation on local churches that feel used or neglected by their conferences or national office?

That said, local churches also have an obligation to be active rather than passive if they have concerns about the wider church body. More than a few of the churches that have left the denomination have been distant for some time and have gotten to the point where they simply won't engage their association, conference or national office... and that is their fault. Again, covenant is a two way street.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Could churches be breaking the covenant by remaining in the UCC?

We only talk about breaking the covenant by departing for reasons of orthodoxy.

But do churches break the covenant by remaining in the UCC when they are heterodox and no longer confessing the Christian Faith?
commented by Anonymous ReformationUCC.org, 9:49 AM  

If you truly believe the UCC no longer confesses the Christian Faith you are certainly welcome to worship elsewhere. The UCC is neither coercive, nor dogmatic, given our congregational polity. If you are unable to find a UCC congregation which fits your theology perspective there are a multitude of other denominations to choose from.

commented by Blogger David, 1:15 PM  
How Pator Dan ties those particular verses to the denomination specifically and not the broader church is beyond me.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:39 PM  

Your comment has nothing to do with my question whatsoever. I asked why it is that orthodox churches who leave are accused of "breaking covenant" and why heterodox churches who stay are not assumed to be "breaking covenant"?

Thanks for your concern, but I find many congenial UCC churches where people want to preserve the historic Christian Faith. Sadly many in these churches feel coerced, alienated, and despised by a dogmatic denomination.

commented by Anonymous ReformationUCC.org, 3:28 PM  
"Let me ask you, David. Do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant and fully revealed word of God?"

I'm curious as to what denomination this could be. Given our congregational polity, it is impossible for it to be the UCC.
commented by Blogger David, 5:51 PM  
Going back to the First Congregational Church of Marshfield, how can it be argued that a conference minister's sermon on global warming amounts to a the United Church of Christ defaulting on its covenant with First Congregational? I don't see it.

There are obviously others here who believe that the UCC has defaulted on churches in other ways (I do not agree, but that's fine), but in this specific case, what's the problem? A single sermon delivered by a conference minister? Get over it already.

What a blessing that this church's denomination leaves the power in the hands of the congregation, instead of enforcing binding resolutions from the top down, as happens virtually everywhere else. Fortunately, there's room for theological disagreement from congregation to congregation--and yet, we are still bound together through these covenants, as God's people. It's truly a beautiful thing.
commented by Blogger Tom, 12:27 AM  
David said...
It was asked of you David ~ "Let me ask you, David. Do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant and fully revealed word of God?"

This was your response: "I'm curious as to what denomination this could be. Given our congregational polity, it is impossible for it to be the UCC."

Your assessment is incorrect and you did not answer the question. "Do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant and fully revealed word of God?"
commented by Anonymous omd, 11:09 PM  
If I may jump in, I think I agree with David's broader points, but have trouble with his response to (whose?) question above. Actually, given our congregational polity, it is indeed possible (and probable) that there are UCC churches which adhere to the belief that "the Bible is the inerrant and fully revealed word of God." In this congregational denomination, neither this doctrine nor its antithesis are binding upon all UCC churches, thank goodness.

I'm curious whether there's anybody here who believes that a belief in biblical inerrancy is requisite for participation in Christian faith.

commented by Blogger Tom, 8:53 PM  
As the Bible is ALL ABOUT Jesus to declare it to be in error is to cast doubt about Jesus. So, although not a requisite it is a truth.
commented by Anonymous omd, 11:36 AM  
"As the Bible is ALL ABOUT Jesus to declare it to be in error is to cast doubt about Jesus."

I have trouble with this. You are conflating faith in Jesus with faith in the accuracy of the Bible, but one does not depend on the other. It is belief in Jesus Christ - not in biblical accuracy - that is the source of our salvation. Whether we believe the Bible is "in error" to some degree is ultimately a secondary matter.

Believing in Jesus Christ as Savior does not mean that you must avert your eyes to the contradictions, and yes, there are plenty, found in the Bible. Neither must we make excuses for the horrific violence done in the name of God, or for crazy ancient practices found in the Bible. The Bible itself does not claim that it is infallible, just like it does not claim that it must be taken 100% literally.

But you can call into question some parts of the Bible without saying the whole thing is useless! The Bible was written by faithful Israelites and Christians, many of whom we would consider to be divinely inspired. It is our heritage, and there is much to be learned from our ancestors.

commented by Blogger Tom, 2:01 PM  

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