I write this as both a word of hope (because I do not believe many are going to go this far) and a word of warning to those who see their congregations heading this direction.
So a friend told me about a program he attended in which two preachers who have preached in churches of Christ extolled the virtues of the Episcopal church. Why does it seem that those who are the liberals among us seem to have run so helter-skelter and with such rapidity “forward?” Why do they seem to be able to operate unchecked?
There is actually a simple answer. But before we go further please notice that I didn’t call anyone a liberal. The interesting thing about that is that most of the liberals among us today would self-identify. They know they are and accept it. It is those who wish to “play nice” with them that get upset when you use the label liberal. But if you think you don’t like labels just take all of them off your can goods and enjoy the next time you try to make a pie with sauerkraut instead of evaporated milk!
OK back to the issue at hand. The reason liberals can run amuck unchecked in our “brotherhood” is that we are simply that - a brotherhood. Very contrary to the liberals diagnosis we are not and have never been a denomination, much less a big sick one as one hater’s mistaken misnomer tagged us. And for their sake they had better be glad.
Let me explain. Were we a denomination they would have been kicked out, put on notice, reprimanded, etc. Their opinions on “our” creeds would have been investigated, interpreted and voted on and when (not if, see SBC) they lost their teachers would have been ousted from our universities, their minions would have been dethroned from our para-church organizations and they would have been censored. If Gulliver’s tales taught us anything (and I’m not sure it did), it’s that MANY and small always beats big. Yeah big looks, sounds and is fear-evoking but enough “smalls” will always suffer small losses and then lose.
But since we are not a denomination (and, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think God wants us to be one) all we have as an authority is the Bible. Now, some conservative will wince at that statement “all we have” - “what do you mean all we have? That’s enough.” And I’d bark out a hearty “amen.” But that only goes as far as our respect for and common understanding of the authority of Scriptures goes. And if/as that does/is changing there is nothing left to provide boundaries or bumpers to keep people on the path.
Therefore if a church in the Southern Baptist convention decided to be egalitarian (allowing women to serve as lead pastors in their case) they are to be “removed from fellowship” (see Southern Baptist Voices: http://sbcvoices.com/are-churches-with-female-pastors-southern-baptist/). They can continue to debate but a vote is a vote. Within our “brotherhood” churches must study the scriptures and come to their own decisions. Our autonomy will either be our downfall or a big part of our lifeline fellowship wise.
But back to the question. When “the scriptures say so” is no longer the most plausible explanation it will not be long till every “traditionally” practiced belief fall one by one. So, watch for those churches who call themselves of Christ to quickly begin to embrace practicing homosexuals into their fellowship and whatever else is the “finger in the wind” issue of the moment.
This is why when Christian Churches/Disciples of Christ/churches of Christ divided at the turn of the previous century it did not take long for the Disciples of Christ to become among the most liberal churches in America - now embraced with the uber-liberal United Churches of Christ (Unitarians). The wall of the Text was compromised and everything fell quickly. I’d watch for the same from the more liberal among us today.