Division and Diversity in the Church

Fellow Regent student Beth over at The Beth Blog Ever has been discussing church unity and division (here and here). Since I am somewhat conflicted over the issue, I thought I would post on it myself.

The just of my thoughts are this: Some division is good, some is bad. Some diversity is good, some is bad. Clear? Thought so. An obvious good example of good division is at the Reformation when folks like Luther and Calvin took a look at the Roman Catholic Church and concluded it was not true church and took off. That kind of division I can get behind. The kinds of division I cannot get behind are those that arise because of silly differences. The problem here becomes: what is a “silly difference?” Churches and congregations have split of trivial reasons and that becomes sinful as the reasons will not justify such fractures.

Two areas of diversity that were brought up at Beth’s blog are the Eucharist and worship. Both areas are places that diversity can be accepted and even embraced. I cannot beleive that any one denomination (even all denominations combined) has a monopoly on worship. God is big enough that the way in which we worship him should be and can be quite diverse. Is a monk chanting any better than a gospel chior? A restrained presbyterian chior or a vibrant African tribal service? This type of diversity is a good thing within the church.

Do we have to agree on every aspect of the Eucharist in order to share it with other believers? I would have to say, for the most part, no. I am perfectly fine taking communion with my home Presbyterian church, or visiting at a traditional Anglican church, or even with a Catholic believing in transubstantiation. Just because I may disagree with some of the particular doctrine does not mean that Christ and the Holy Spirit cannot be found there.

Where do we go from here? How do we embrace diversity of tradition while at the same time rejecting (in a meaningful way) inappropriate (sinful even) division? Thoughts on this? Am I leaving anything out?

Categories: Religion, Theology
  1. March 3rd, 2006 at 12:41 | #1

    I think the Holy Spirit recognizes us as individuals - and relates to us that way.

    One form of worship may be more effective for the Holy Spirit to reach us at that moment.

    I think we as individuals are the key.

    Are we willing to let God direct us to where we need to be at that moment?

  2. March 3rd, 2006 at 14:04 | #2

    I definitely agree Allan, but I also don’t want to overlook the role of the community as the church. Salvation is just as much a kingdom thing as it is an individual thing. Thanks for the comment!

  3. March 9th, 2006 at 08:46 | #3

    Good questions; personally, can’t go with you to Catholic Eucharist, because understanding of what is going on, despite certain outward similarities, is just too different. Christ died once for all; the Eucharist, involving as Catholicism understands it, the actual body and blood of Christ, bespeaks an ongoing sacrifice, and I couldn’t be party to that. But a Presbyterian church? Generally speaking, no problem (my denom. tag is “E Free”).

  4. March 9th, 2006 at 11:12 | #4

    I understand what you are saying and it is definitely something that I still struggle with. But what I come back to is this: just because I think transsubstantiation is way wrong doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit cannot work through it. Sharing the Eucharist with a Catholic would represent solidarity in Christ, it doesn’t mean I have to believe in transsubstantiation.

  5. March 15th, 2006 at 18:27 | #5

    Catholics don’t really believe the Eucharist is an ongoing sacrifice. It’s one sacrifice, Christ’s death. They believe that it’s manifested over and over again as communion is celebrated, but that doesn’t mean the sacrifice wasn’t accomplished when he died. It just means its effects continue in ways that don’t line up with all the ways Protestants believe its effects to continue (which we do).

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