2020 is here. It looks like it could be a bumpy ride. Fasten your seatbelts.
You may have read this week that the United Methodist Church is about to become the Divided Methodist Church. Here is how the news was reported last week:
(Reuters) – The United Methodist Church plans to split into two later this year, church officials said on Friday, a schism that follows years of contention over whether the church should end its ban on same-sex marriage and gay clergy.
But is that really what’s happening? No. The secular press is reporting what it sees. But all they see is the surface issue. It’s a little like reporting that a five-year-old boy pushed over a 20-foot tall tree by himself without noting that the tree was rotten. It’s true, but it’s not the whole truth.
I think David French is right when he says “The true fracturing point between Mainline and Evangelical churches is over the authority and interpretation of scripture. The debate over LGBT issues is a consequence of the underlying dispute, not its primary cause…
“…at heart, the disagreement between the Evangelical and Mainline branches of Christianity isn’t over issues—even hot-button cultural and political issues—but rather over theology. Indeed, the very first clause of the United Methodist Church’s nine-page separation plan states that church members ‘have fundamental differences regarding their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, theology, and practice.”
The issue that divides the Methodist church in our day is not a new issue. It’s the same issue that divided Adam and Eve from God in the garden. “Hath God said?” the serpent asked the woman. His message was subtle and sly. “I know you thought you understood His command. But is it really reasonable? Are you sure you heard Him clearly?”
Genesis 1 tells us that God created human beings in His own image. “Male and female created He them,” we’re told. Two genders. Not three or four or seven or fifty-five. Two. The man and the woman are a matched set. They literally fit together to become one flesh.
And by God’s design, that fitting together is meant to follow a covenantal binding together of two people who swear an oath before God and witnesses to remain in union with each other until separated by death. Any fitting together outside of that covenantal union does not lead long term to human flourishing.
A growing number of people in our day who profess allegiance to Christ have been persuaded that this understanding of gender and sexuality is antiquated. Some suggest that Christians have, for two thousand years, misunderstood what the Bible has to say on this subject. They say there are other equally valid ways to look at the passages in scripture that speak to this issue.
It seems to me there is arrogance behind that claim. There has been a clear understanding of these matters in the church over the centuries. Even in our day, outside of the US and Europe, the majority of the church affirms the historic teaching of the church on these matters. Anyone who would stand up today and say “my interpretation of scripture is the correct one, even though it conflicts with what the church has taught for years” ought to make that proclamation with a ton of humility and with a fair amount of fear and trembling.
The division that has happened in the Methodist church has not happened because theological conservatives have moved away from what the denomination has believed and embraced for the past two hundred years. The division is because some Methodists started to ask themselves the question “hath God really said…”
A hundred years ago, a prominent New York pastor preached a sermon that created something of a theological uproar in his day. Harry Emerson Fosdick was an articulate speaker and author whose books sold millions of copies. So when he declared in a sermon in May of 1922 that a belief in the virgin birth was unnecessary, that the idea that the scriptures are inerrant was untenable and that the doctrine of the Second Coming of Jesus was absurd, people paid attention. Using language that will sound familiar in our day, Fosdick declared that those who saw such beliefs as essential were “bitterly intolerant” people.
All of which led one of Fosdick’s contemporaries, J, Gresham Machen to state, “The question is not whether Mr. Fosdick is winning men, but whether the thing to which he is winning them is Christianity.”
We might wonder the same about the progressive faction in the Methodist church. Not because of what they believe about sexuality and gender. But because of what they believe about the Bible.
The new year means it‘s time for small groups to reconnect after the holidays. Our small groups will be starting up again next week. If you’re new to RCC or haven’t been part of a small group, this is a great time to visit a few groups and see where you can start to plug in and connect with others.
Click here for a list of group leaders and dates and times when groups are meeting this spring. And then be bold! Send an email to a group leader for info on where their small group will be meeting and to let them know you’re planning to visit!
Small groups are where life and relationships happen at RCC! Make plans now to connect this spring.
If you’ve been visiting Redeemer and you’ve wondered about membership, we have a couple of meetings coming up that can help answer any questions you have.
Many of you have heard the news, but just in case:
Time to start looking through your recipe files or your cookbooks for your favorite soup recipe:
Have you noticed a lot of new faces and new friends joining us at Redeemer? That’s meant a lot of cars in our crowded parking lot on Sunday!
We wanted you to know that we’re looking at what it will take to add 50 new parking spots on the east side of our property, adjacent to the education wing of our building. Once we have our plans in place and approval from the city, we’re estimating we’ll need to raise between $30,000 and $40,000 for the extra parking.
Please pray for wisdom and for God’s provision of funds as we move forward.
And a big thank you to all of you for your faithful financial support of Redeemer in 2019. Our operating expense budget for the year was $370,000. Our actual expenses were right on track with our budget. And while we’re still reconciling our books for 2019, our giving to our general fund was in excess of $400,000, enabling us to finish the year able to address some facility issues in the coming months. Thank you again for your faithful financial giving.
We’ll continue this Sunday looking at some of the spiritual matters the Bible calls us to prioritize in our lives and to “add to our faith.” This week, we’ll look at how we can grow in grace by growing in our knowledge of God and His word.
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!