Monday, June 23, 2014

Church Unity--All About A Common Table, Not A Common Label

Someone asked me recently, "Why are you so worried about churches maintaining organizational unity?"

True, I strongly favor good, faith-based organizations staying together, but I'm far more concerned about how our church splits are affecting our being able to share in the Lord's Supper together.

When I ask members of groups who are leaving MCUSA or Virginia Mennonite Conference whether I and other former fellow-members can still join them for their communion services, most quite willingly say, "Of course". After all, we are still fellow believers and in many cases long time friends.

But as a practical matter, we hardly ever get together for  communion after a church division. We are far more likely to remain "excommunicated" indefinitely.

If by chance we did show up at a departing church's worship service when the bread and cup of the Eucharist were being served, wouldn't it be more consistent for them to actually turn us away?

After all, if we can't be seen as worthy enough to do church business together, to engage in mission together, or to meet for regular sessions at a common table of discernment (such as at Conference Assemblies) how could we be considered worthy to partake at the Lord's holy table?

Or are our dissident friends saying that while they believe Jesus accepts us all in the most sacred act of partaking of his broken body and life blood, that they still can't unite with us for other far less important aspects of church life? How does that make sense?

So here are my basic questions:

Whose church is it, anyway? 

Who would Jesus welcome to intimate communion fellowship? 

Who will Jesus invite home to his forever banquet table?

I know Jesus says that the road to life is narrow, and only a relative few will find it. But the Bible also promises that in the end there will be "a great multitude that no one can count, from every tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb... wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands."

Maybe the Lord's table is ultimately much larger and more welcoming than we have imagined.
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