This news story is incredibly apropos our current readings in Church, Ministry and Sacraments class. In it you will read about members of the hierarchy of The Episcopal Church soliciting contributions from lawyers to support lawsuits against individual parishes who are leaving the national church. Notice that the lawyers’ fund (The St. Ives Fund) is self-described on the website as “Mission Funding”! (I wonder how many new converts they’ve won…?)
Our class has been reading Lesslie Newbigin’s The Household of God, in which Newbigin teaches that salvation apart from the church is impossible — not because the church dispenses salvation (it doesn’t) but because all who have become one with Christ are one with each other in His Body, the Church. He says the Protestant concept of the “spiritual” church as opposed to the “physical” church is judgmental and sounds like something the Pharisees would have come up with.
I like Lesslie Newbigin a lot, and his points are very well taken. But there still must be some way to distinguish The Church (God’s people, the Body of Christ) from the church (the man-made institution). Confronted with deliberate evil and strategically planned disobedience to God within the church (the man-made institution) isn’t it essential for the Church (God’s people) to take a stand?
When the leadership of a church (the institution) is deliberately deceiving the Church (the people) by calling a lawyers’ war-chest “missions”, and using the money to sue other Christians (which is forbidden by Scripture)… how is it remotely possible that the church can remain undivided? The very act of deception is in itself a breaking of Christian fellowship.
Near the end of his book Newbigin makes a very good point though (speaking of missions): “our Lord forbids His disciples to stay and argue with those who do not receive them…” (p. 144) It’s a sad thing not to be received, and in fact to be preyed upon, by one’s own church. It’s no way to run a church, and certainly no way to do missions.
Time to move on and follow Him.