Originally posted March 27, 2011, at Recovery Worship of Fargo. Republished with permission of the author.
It is an interesting time to be church.
Some say denominationalism is dead. While I serve a worshiping community that does not consider itself a denomination, we probably would not exist today if it were not for the ELCA, so I would disagree with the theory that denominationalism is dead.
Some denominations act as if they are dead, or dying, or simply running in place, as they have been for centuries. They view the world through the eyes of those Patriarchal Fathers who lived in a time and a place much different from where we are today.
We Lutherans are as guilty of this as other denominations. Many in Lutheran congregations today quote Luther as if he lived next door.
Luther lived in Germany in the 1500s when the pope ruled supreme over Europe and few questioned his leadership and survived.
What Luther and other scholars of his day knew of the Bible, the culture of first century Palestine, even the Greek and Hebrew language was different from what scholars know today.
Yet, we hold on to every word that Luther wrote as if God had spoken it. Before you email the presiding bishop and demand that he withdraw my ordination papers don’t get me wrong, Luther is important, but I think we need to understand that his writings are from a different time and place and their relevance to us today in 2011 needs to be reviewed.
I think the church is in the midst of a reformation. The Episcopalians in the United States were first, along with one or two other protestant denominations.
We ELCA members took the plunge at the last churchwide assembly.
I am speaking now of issues far wider than sexuality; I am talking about what it means to be church.
By the simple act of ordaining people who are in committed same sex relationships, we have set ourselves free to be church.
Sure, we have seen a relatively small number of congregations leave, and that is OK, for them, and for us.
We live in a time of some great scholars who are very different, from N.T. Wright to Rob Bell.
They challenge us to think — something rarely seen in some denominations.
Bell especially challenges us to rethink scriptures, not in some modern New Age way but by doing something that people who say they read the Bible literally don’t do — reading it as a whole and not picking one or two passages and building a fortress church around those words.
He, along with N.T. Wright, wants us to stop using the Bible as a weapon in the grand war between good and evil.
Read Revelation. God wins! Love wins! The church of the future will be the church with the largest capacity to love.
In a hundred years, I believe people will look back at the church of today and see the reformation that is happening. Those denominations that are brave enough to change will thrive.
Find a link to Ray Branstiter’s blog Recovery Worship of Fargo at Lutheran Blogs.