Wednesday, May 13, 2009

unity in the Word

No little dissension and debate
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question. (Acts 15:1-2)
Dissension and debate have been present in the church from the first generation on to the present day. In October 2008, Rev. Matthew Harrison gave the church a gift in a paper entitled “It’s Time” (available online at In it, he points out that our disunity is killing us and our mission effectiveness, and that attempts at political coercion, or focusing on mission and structure without unity in the Word of God are all doomed to fail.
Harrison proposes that instead we follow the pattern that produced the Formula of Concord…”under the influence of Martin Chemnitz, points of controversy were set out not only in positive terms (theses) but also in negative terms (antitheses) – that is, the clear rejection of errors….It wasn’t until all sides agreed to proceed in this manner with each controversial issue that real agreement could be forged. It was an approach both doctrinal and honest about real differences. And this is how we must proceed to deal with matters which beset us now…This route is the hard route. It will take time and effort. It will take courage. It will take men and women of integrity.”
In the spirit of seeking true harmony and agreement for the sake of the Church and her mission, some members of the Johnson City/Knoxville Circuit meeting on May 12, 2009, identified the following broad areas in which there is no little dissension and debate among us:
 Role of men and women in ministry
 Clergy and laity, roles and distinctions
 Theology and form of worship
 Theology and methodology of mission
 Role and relationship of congregations and Synod
If anyone can clarify this list, suggest additions, deletions or corrections, that would be most appreciated. Could there be a group formed in Tennessee to discuss these issues and seek a better way forward? Perhaps our regional vice-presidents could take this on and schedule meetings based on Harrison’s proposal. With prayers for Resurrection joy to overflow from our hearts,

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