By David E Braden
A recent article in the New York Times reads, “Conservatives Expected to Split Episcopal Church.” Honestly, the idea of this schism really frightens me. I mean, these people want to create their own denomination within the Anglican Communion claiming they are the rightful Church over the Episcopal Church in the USA. These same people want not only to bar queer people from the ministry but women as well. I look at the primary photo of this article and I wonder for whom these Bishops are "saving" their Church? Who will be leading it in 50 years when they're all dead? But that's morbid ...
Realities like the ones portrayed in this article make me wonder, “What is it like to be in the midst of such a rupture within the Body of Christ?”
All of the Protestants in their day and age had their reasons for doing what they did – godly and ungodly.
But what does it say when groups bid adieu to the Mother Church? What is a “good” reason to secede from the Church and form your own denomination?
My thoughts on this are really fixed on the image of the Body of Christ given to the Church in Corinth.
1 Corinthians 12
21The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
I think this is really a discussion about what it means to be in community together. If we are to be a healthy community then we cannot be telling entire groups “I have no need of you.” This is when we invoke "dissension" within the body – when we fight against the Body itself instead of the Evil that plagues our world.
I am still vehemently concerned with what will happen to the Church Universal, the holy catholic Church, if we continue to segment ourselves apart from one another according to our individual beliefs and affinity groups. Are we really still the Body of Christ?
I’m worried about our own restructuring of our own United Methodist Church. Will our considerations of the world-wide nature of the Church reflect a restructuring that encourages dialogue, interaction, missions and having to work together across lines of difference – including lines of class, gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality and all the other human categories – something that truly encourages our uniquely Methodist Connexion?
Or will reorganize so that everyone is safe to worship in comfortable homogeneity? Gays with gays, whites with whites in one corner, people of color in another, and the Church outside of the USA all on its own?
We may save our denomination from schism in this fashion but I wonder how much of the Church we’d still really be … Are we really still the Body of Christ?