Saturday, March 18, 2006

Issues: Unity in a Christian Union?

UCCF: The Christian Unions stand united on the basis of shared vision, values and doctrine.

Our Visional Basis of Fellowship is to make disciples of Jesus Christ in the student world - by students living for Jesus and speaking for Jesus

Our Valual (?) Basis of Fellowship is with evangelical unity (detailed in the doctrinal basis) and student leadership (supported by Staff, Relay and local church)

Our Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship are recognised evangelical distinctive doctrines about the gospel and scripture. (See Doctrinal Basis). Such statements are the historic norm of the church, and are constantly disputed by those who would avoid these life-giving, life-changing truths.

Defined from the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14 this is unity from the Spirit's confession that "Jesus is Lord". Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians Paul says that all Christian conviction is the Spirit's word, the mind of Christ which is "according to the scriptures" and concerning "Christ and him Crucified".

Christianity has always been confessional, all confessions are imperfect but they capture essentials in the context of false teachers who would undermine them. In the case of the Christian Union the our confession contains only matters of salvation and matters central to doing evangelism together (such as maintaining an historic high-view of scripture).

Our confessions are exclusive, but also radically inclusive... the streams, tribes and denominations of the church overcome by shared convictions in the gospel. Such unity in Christ promotes worship, evangelism and discipleship.

Propositions?
All truth comes propositionally (such as that statement). One could argue that our statement could be phrased in a more narrative form that would be more accessible, but it is what it is!

What's not covered?
Our doctrinal basis of fellowship does not specify positions on many issues - such as spiritual gifts today, womens ministry and many othe things. Shared convictions on the gospel are the basis of fellowship, this means we seek to work together even when we differ on other matters. This isn't to say the issues don't matter (mostly they do!)- but that difference in them should not prevent us standing together in the gospel.

This means that we must not break fellowship when we differ on these matters. So, if someone doesn't think, on good conscience that a woman church not teach then they do not have the right to break fellowship if a woman speaks at a Christian Union meeting. Likewise the cessationist cannot break fellowship if a prophecy is shared. Similiarly one should not break fellowship over an issue such as not having women speakers, or the absence of particular gifts of the Spirit.
(As indicated earlier in this series 1 Corinthians 14 does not address the issue of women teaching.... it is however a common issue faced by CU, and some principles for dealing with such matters can be derived. That issue seems to be abouyt authority. In a Christian Union authority somewhat dubious since most members are unmarried, and sit under the authority of the elders of their respective churches for most matters of teaching)
1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that we cannot say "I do not belong" nor that "I don't need you". The body belongs together, in all its diversity of gifts - united in common confession that "Jesus is Lord".

If I would follow the Holy Spirit then I simply do not have the right to opt out of being united with brothers and sisters in the Lord. Since evangelism flows best from the context of Christian community it will always be advantageous for Christians to band together as a "mission team" rather than work disperately in tribes or denominations on the same missionfield.... in the gospel such tribes stand united.

That said, how you find a working balance is a tricky issue! It is not always done rightly, and since much rests upon the make up of individual groups specific solutions ought not be global nor permanent... but rather considered carefully, reviewed regularly and lovingly communicated. We must be generous and gracious to our leaders and brethren as these things are worked out in practice.

Above all 1 Corinthians 13 teaches us that love is over-riding as a principle. What I want to see happen is insignificant compared to protecting and caring for others. I should allow myself to be laid down for another, allow myself to be wronged. The gospel is too important for personal preferences to be entertained, and I do not have the right to break fellowship just because I'm uncomfortable with something that is happening.

Further, whatever action is taken must be for the strengthening of the body, as 1 Corinthians 14 insists. This surely means not going out of my way to defile the conscience of my brothers and sisters.... whilst recognising that someone will always be wronged. Whether prophecy or not, whether women speaking or not... there will be someone wronged.... let us pursue love and clarity of contribution.... open dialogue with open Bible's where conflict arises and time permits.

Above all let us press onto fulfill our vision to see many won for Christ on the campuses of our nation... strangely enough in the heat of sharing the gospel, or seeing someone won for Christ most of our common squabbles cease to seem the major barriers they have been before. On the frontlines we do not have the luxury to endulge to disputes... much more important is the defense and explanation of the gospel to those who do not believe, preaching Christ that they may call on him and believe, and so be saved!

4 comments:

  1. I think 1 Cor 12:22f is particularly amazing:

    the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

    Considering what Paul means by 'weakest', doctrinal differences simply are no reason for members of a church/CU to split from another (of course Paul takes a very different view of teachers with doctrinal 'issues'). According to 1 Cor 1 splitting in such a situation is simply proof of our worldliness, and a denial of the cross. In the context of CUs, I think this is important with regard to Catholics etc that wander in, and are occasionally made to feel like outsiders unnecessarily.

    Thanks for the posts...you've got me reading 1 Corinthians again.

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  2. thanks for these posts.

    and amen to the bit in bold at the end of this one...

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  3. Dave,

    Yeah I think you're right we can very easily communicate and live in a way that makes people feel like outsiders - you'd think in a mission context that wouldn't happen, but it does...

    I guess the problem is that we judge people very easily based on our assumptions about them, or something they say, wear, do, or which church they come from... rather than actually getting to know people - which is the more costly exercise of love.

    Its easier to tell someone they're wrong (implicitly or explicitly) than to get to know them, love them and encourage them and run together to Jesus.

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  4. Yup "judge" is the key word there. There is nothing wrong with judging their doctine wrong, but often mixed in with this is pride that you know best - as if that was by anything but grace.

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