A Ministerial Divide in New Hampshire… and in South Carolina… and Elsewhere…

Lots of things make me scratch my head.

My angst today has to do with two separate groups of pastors that exist in and around Hanover, New Hampshire.

One alliance consists of the old mainline churches: the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, the Congregationalists, the Roman Catholics, and the Cooperative Baptists. I was invited to participate with these ecumenical ministers in the Good Friday community service held at the Hanover Catholic church. They seem to focus on areas of agreement rather than discord.

The second configuration represents the self-described evangelical wing of Christianity. A nearby Charismatic church pays for this fellowship to meet once a month for lunch, which encourages participation. These churches sometimes wear their autonomy in their name, as in “Independent Bible Church.” Like the downtown folks, this is also a diverse gathering, and they also seem to respect one another.

It appears that I sorta fit sometimes in both groups. I’m not sure whether this is because…

  • I like Jesus, and can get along with most other people who like Jesus, or…
  • I am a wimp, which might also be known as a peacemaker, or…
  • My theology is inclusive, and forgiving, and attempts to major on grace, or…
  • Something else.

Aspects of both types of groups, I’ll admit, appeal to me and others irritate me. Example: When I retired, I wanted to worship outside my tradition, at least for a while. I have often visited with the Quakers (Society of Friends) when away from home, so I googled the Friends meeting house in Columbia. The banner across their website read: UNACCEPTABLE. Dang. I’d been fighting the problem of exclusion in the Southern Baptist world for a few decades. Now I turn to the liberal wing of Christianity and discover their first word is “unacceptable.” Double Dang. I don’t even remember the issue.

The Greek Orthodox officially think I’m not a Christian. Some Lutheran and Episcopal ministers judge me because of my accent or my “low-church” worship. So-called progressives, moderates, liturgical congregations, and liberals do not get a pass on being judgmental.

The evangelical, conservative, fundamentalist, Pentecostal wings of the church have their own demons. I want to think of myself as evangelical, if only that meant inviting people to warm up to Jesus. But nowadays, it means I’m required to be hostile to homosexuality, against women in leadership, and certain that everyone who doesn’t believe like me is going to hell. Depending on which brand of evangelical you encounter, you may also be required to adopt a Calvinist/Reformed theology or swear allegiance to the Republican Party. Some of the discussion at the luncheon with these pastors revolved around whether a church’s elders would let the pastor celebrate Easter during worship. Some people who had attended this group apparently quit participating when a woman pastor showed up one month.

There’s something wrong at the core of this divide.

One Lord. One Faith. One Baptism.

…that they may be one…

Categories: Faith/Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “A Ministerial Divide in New Hampshire… and in South Carolina… and Elsewhere…

  1. Bob Shrum

    …and God shed a tear.

  2. It’s so hard to look at the divisions. Christ created one faith: Christianity. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love seems to be taught in Sunday School but forgotten once we’re adult and “know what it’s all about.” Even my church, which attempts to be as close to first century Christianity as it can be finds it difficult at times. Christ wanted one church. Man, as always, has muddied the waters, probably with Satan’s help.

  3. Anonymous

    This reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a dear friend. Thoughts that make us scratch our heads, as well.

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