. . . posts on faith and life
Yes, my therapist is still out of town. So, last night I ate dinner with Louis Morgan. It was great. What started out as a quick study break turned out to be nearly 3 hours of excited exchanges, giddy reactions, and good fellowship. It was one of those nights where one of us nearly got all serious and leaned in over the table with big eyes and said in a spittle-filled whisper, “If we stick together man, we could change this thing! We could change this whole freaking church!” Luckily we both resisted the “drugged out hippie-with-a-cause speech” and neither of us have anything to feel embarrassed about today. Still, we talked about a lot of good stuff.
That included a certain set of issues about which there seems to be a VERY significant disparity among various ministers, members, and attendees of CoG churches. The pattern generally, but certainly not completely, follows a pattern of age. So, for example, there are some things that in the mind of older ministers and members are absolutely set-in-stone part-of-our-identity not-worth-wasting-your-breath talking about types of issues. Yet, the younger ministers and members not only have the opposite view of the issue, they seem largely out of touch with the traditional stance on the issue and the fireworks they would likely set off if they tried to seriously have the conversation. I’m a little concerned about how out of touch with one another these two ends of the spectrum seem to be.
What’s an example of one of these issues? Alcohol. It’s probably good right now that many of the younger (I’m not talking about the youth group, I’m talking about under 40) members, especially the college kids, don’t actually seem to know what type of reaction they would get on discussing this issue. That would make some of them determined to have the discussion, and I’m not sure we’re quite ready to have that discussion on the “official” level.
There are others of course. I would include any sort of restriction on women in the ministry and speaking in tongues as “the initial evidence.” What’s unique about the alcohol issue is that there is actually room in our current statements to teach that consumption in moderation is completely acceptable. But not many people seem to know that. I have asked many young ministers what they think the church’s “official” stance on the issue is and they almost always say, “That it’s a sin to do it at all.” Well, that’s not our official stance. Our official stance is a commitment that reads: “We will practice temperance in behavior and will abstain from activities and attitudes which are offensive to our fellowman or which lead to addiction or enslavement.” I think that’s a great commitment, and there’s actually plenty of room for interpretation in it. I was surprised when I first realized that that was the closest we currently come to advocating total abstinence from alcohol. (NOTE: Tom Rosson pointed out that I was incorrect about this–see the discussion in the comments to this post).
I think those (alcohol, women in ministry, tongues as initial evidence) are three issues that currently have the potential to divide the church. It’s kind of embarrassing to say that. I know of a handful of non-coggers that read my musings. And I think they are probably kind of shocked to read that. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we can handle talking about those issues. Maybe those issues would not divide the church as much as I think. We’ll see.
Anyway, Louis and I agreed that those three seemed to mark a significant generation gap. What do you think? Are there more issues than those three?