The United Church and Liberalism: How’s that workin’ out for ya?

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When Edward Norton (as the narrator) makes his clever comment to Brad Pitt’s character (Tyler Durden) in the movie “FIght Club” about him being “the most interesting single serving passenger he’s ever met”, Durden’s leading comment that follows is, “That’s very clever!” to which Norton’s character replies, “Thanks!”  Durden then quickly adds,” …how’s that workin’ out for ya … being clever?”, with the very clear indication that, from where he’s sitting,            it isn’t.

This is the exact comment that came to mind as i had the sad misfortune this week of picking up a copy of “The United Church Observer” magazine (a publication of the United Church of Canada) and reading one of many troubling articles.

Maybe it’s just the simple reality that, in pretty much all of my circles, “Liberalism” is never defined as a good thing.  Or maybe it was the other article on how, perhaps as Christians, we’ve “vilified” and misunderstood Vodoo as a spiritual path.

But after reading this interview from the magazine, in light of the massive decline in support and attendance for mainline denominations generally, and the United Church particularly, it just had to be asked,

How’ that workin’ out for ya?

What i mean is this:  when you take the historical moves described in this interview towards Liberalism, Viz. denials of inerrancy – questioning/denying literal resurrection of Christ and virgin birth – then, with your sole source for authority now gone, looking to “political theories, psychology, and the sexual revolution” for answers, which all seems to hinge on or around this decisive movement in the 60’s to come clean theologically, don’t you think somebody would look around them – like the prodigal son hungering after the pig slop he’s serving up – and ask, “What the heck are we doing here?!”  Or look back historically and trace where the decline all began and work to correct the course of the ship?

Sadly, the last answer in the interview seems to answer that query in a terrifyingly unapologetic fashion.  When asked about the moves made in the 60’s the interview-ee (Kevin Flatt) responds,

There is a link between the theology and the 1960s and the decline of the church.”

Which leads me to think that somebody has asked those questions, and still considers this path of “theological honesty” as revolutionary and worth following into the ground, never stopping to consider that maybe acquiescing to the culture and abandoning the authority of the bible wasn’t really revolutionary at all!

The fruit of this article for me was this:

1. As Evangelicals we should pray for the UCC as well as other declining mainline denominations – not in some arrogant “we have it all right” manner, but in humble pleading with the great Shepherd of the sheep that those places which still claim to proclaim the name of Jesus might do so in a way that honours Him above the soup of the day.  Pray as well that all necessary reforms and re-focusing might come about by the true brothers and sisters that surely still spot this troubled denomination.

2. As Evangelicals, we must read these articles like the letters to the churches in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Seeing that we must hold fast to the historic, orthodox teachings of Christianity against the mighty tide of C 21 culture, lest our lamp be removed.

Perhaps the lamp of the UCC has  already been removed, but perhaps not.  It may be overstating it, but, perhaps as Abraham prayed for Sodom should even 10 righteous ones remain, we can pray for the UCC: that the truths of the Word of God and His gospel might correct the course of this denomination for those faithful who are still working from within.

For the glory of His renown and for the biblical faithfulness of all who include the word “church” in their name and on their sign.

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