The United Episcalminian Charismatholic Church

Laurie and I were in Bible school in 1998, and one of the guest speakers told us to get into small groups, look up John 17, and talk about the pros and cons of denominations. These two verses changed my whole perspective:

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one even as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” – John 17:22-23, NLT

Jesus prayed for his Church to be unified. That unity was to be infused with his glory and love, reflecting the very unity of the triune God, standing in stark contrast to the greedy, self-serving people of the world.

This is not our reality. And I’m afraid we’re okay with that.

Paul rebuked the Corinthian believers for acting like the rest of the world, breaking into factions, some with Paul, others with Apollos, others with Peter (1:12), yet we seem very comfortable calling ourselves Wesleyans or Calvinists or Lutherans. In fact, we tend to stand in our denominational sub-cultures and point fingers at other denominational sub-cultures, making jokes, as if we are not of the same Spirit, as if we do not share the same Father.

Even though I was raised in a home church during the Jesus Movement, I have spent the majority of my life working in various denominations as a teacher or worship pastor. I have experienced great fellowship with the Nazarenes, Presbyterians, Methodists, Assemblies of God, and all sorts of people in multiple non-denominational mega churches. I still have great relationships with many of them. But I can understand why they stand apart.

Our divisions allow us to have different interpretations of Scripture without living at each other’s throats. They allow us to be comfortable in our worship services, letting thinkers think with thinkers, and feelers feel with feelers. Sadly, this only seems to reinforce the idea that we are dealing with human issues in a spiritual ideal.

When God created Adam and Eve, he called them one flesh, setting a precedent for all future marriages. He said that it wasn’t good for humans to live in isolation. Marriage reveals and reinforces the communal nature of the Godhead. And even though divorce was never God’s intent, it was permitted because of the human weakness that came with the Fall.

In the same way, I think God permits his people to stand apart, even though he said, “Let them be one even as we are one.” In our fallen state, our divisions seem to be necessary, just like many divorces are necessary in order to avoid all kinds of physical, mental or emotional distress.

So what should we do?

If we try to form a new church to include every believer we might find the water so shallow and lukewarm that it is almost impossible to pick an appropriate worship song or sermon topic. We would have to avoid key issues like salvation, the work of the Spirit, or eternal security. We would essentially form a church without the rich sense of history and tradition that we find in so many of our longstanding denominations.

But Paul did offer a solution to the struggling Corinthians. He gave them a vision of God’s ideal.

The people of Christ are like unique and important parts of a body, unified under one head (Christ) through one central nervous system (the Spirit). The problem with God’s body, as opposed to a human body, is that each part has an individual will. If God’s people do not yield themselves to the Spirit, or submit to one another in love, the Body will not function as a unit. It’s that simple.

Love is the binding agent. Not a worldly love, which expects something in return, which will abandon truth for the sake of peace. No, this is a love based in the very nature of God, a God who exists as a unity of three persons, a God whose very mantra can be summed up in seven words that we should all take to heart:

“Not my will but yours be done.”

11 thoughts on “The United Episcalminian Charismatholic Church

  1. All right John!!

    Trying to get the denomination term to “pronounce” right for me! Kind of reminds me of “Mary Poppins” with “SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!

    Are the Tsoukalas’ getting these, Matt, & others. You may be on the “cutting edge” of new theological horizons!!

    Keep it up!!

    Susan to come home tomorrow.

    One of Susan’s nurses has a nurse friend, originally from Jackson, who lives in Vacaville, CA, with family. Not far, about 30+ miles SW of Sacramento. This nurse has been out there & flies into San Francisco Inti. Wonder how flying will adapt now with the “Ebola” virus. Just how can it be “fail safe!” Wonder is some fundamentalist pastors feel that “Ebola” is God’s wrath on America as some preachers felt that Hurricane “Katrina” was God’s judgement on New Orleans, LA.

    David Y.

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    • Thanks, David! Interesting point about God’s wrath, which I think is something that should be considered and explored, despite our postmodern ideas that push aside things like judgment and wrath and sovereign standards. Would I be daring enough to post on something like that . . . . . . not sure! 🙂

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  2. This Is so good, and very relevant. I’ve been stretched because of my Lutheran background. Many people are more leery of me thinking I’m super liberal and just want to dunk their babies. But I’ve also been in circles where both parties have been enriched by denominational emphasis because the conversation is girded in Love.

    My take is that denominations have doctrines that they hold dear. But the important thing when interacting, is getting to the heart behind them, the ‘why’ of it all. Why, does a Baptist believe in eternal security? Why does a Lutheran accept infant baptism? It’s usually because of a response to an aspect of Gods character. And when you’re communicating this is love, than you end up not divided, but focusing on Jesus, and celebrating Him.

    And for the record, I have no memory of that assignment at bible school. I must’ve been doodling or talking with girls 😉

    -Dave P.

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    • Ha! Well, maybe that assignment didn’t strike you as hard as it did me. It was just a quick, casual exercise. But it really affected my thinking. Then, going through seminary, I have really been thinking a lot lately about how the nature of the Trinity affected the way things are made and our eternal destiny. Wouldn’t a project that you make reflect who you are? In the same way, our existence and destiny should reflect the actions of a COMMUNITY, not just a solitary, sovereign being. Interesting stuff.

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  3. Love does not exist between beings of exactly the same nature. Even identical twins develop identifiable differences. Love is how we harmonize the differences rather than submitting or dominating. When we had one language and united to build the tower at Babel, God confused our language and caused us to disperse. Note our motive: “let us make a name for ourselves”. (Genesis 11: 4) The temptation to “be like God”. (Genesis 3: 5) “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God… I will be like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14: 13-14) So God says: “let Us go down and there confuse their language”. (Genesis 11: 7) Note the use of the plural God. Besides holding us in check, this may be seen as an effort to create diversity for harmony. There is no harmony if we all sing exactly the same note.

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  4. I am sure you have heard: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. While I agree with the sentiment of that quote, the problem is “who decides what is essential?” Ah, there’s the rub, hence the denominations. Some groups have decided one thing is essential, while another decides it isn’t and they build dogma and worship and liturgy around that. And we certainly forget the last part about charity. Perhaps God let’s us struggle through these differences to reveal what is important. It’s like those movies where family member squabble and fight and are at each other’s throats until one of them is diagnosed with a terminal illness and all of a sudden there is laser-like clarity about what really matters and they forgive one another and just celebrate the time they have left. If we just realize at the end of the day we have each other and Christ we can start to love and appreciate one another. Here’s a line from The Proclaimers I love: one day I will stand before the author, not some interpreter of His word. Let’s remember until we are in glory, we are at best interpreters of His word.

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