Too far gone

Genesis 13:1-9
I am a part of the second largest protestant denomination in the United States. Just another part, I like to say.

We have millions of members across our country. Millions more across the globe. Right now, we are all expecting a big change. Turmoil within our church has brewed for decades. Before the pandemic deranged every bit of life, we were at the cusp of separating. Only the coronavirus protocols and concerns kept it from happening.

Now, certain events have demonstrated the split is more than ready. No one talks anymore about the chance for reconciliation. We’re too far gone, apparently. The writing is not only on the wall. It’s on new denominational logos and websites.

Within a couple of years, the church that brought me to faith will look quite different. Many of the people I have known will have chosen another church. Many collegial relationships will reshape themselves. Yes, we’ll still be ministers of the gospel. We’ll have decided we couldn’t do that in the same room.

Chances are, your church will change, too (if you’re another part of the denomination). I don’t pretend to know how exactly. But we’ll all have to make tough decisions. There’ll be people who disagree with you, and they may find another church. None of this will be easy for those who care about their church and ministry.

In some ways, this church was the obvious choice for me. I had personal connections to it. Again, it was the church that brought me to faith. When I explored other faith traditions, I only reaffirmed why this one was where I fit best.

There was room for a variety of thought and practice in this denomination. The notion of “practical divinity” sparked my desire to follow Jesus with more intention and devotion. And I haven’t let up. When I became aware of the the disunity our church faced, I didn’t worry much. I knew we would be the ones who would figure it out.

We didn’t.

I’ve come to terms with what may lie ahead. A church split isn’t the end of the world. When it happens, there’ll be news reports about it. After all, we’re the second largest protestant denomination. We’re too big to not notice. There’ll be snarky social media comments from people who have no part of what’s happening. Then the world will go on.

My impression is most people forget about Abram and Lot. They remember the salt thing, but not that they separated as well. Theirs was a literal this-town-ain’t-big-enough-for-the-two-of-us situation. So, they separated. And they did so with grace. But how big a deal is their separation to anyone today?

Their circumstances weren’t the same as ours. But we can learn something from them. My desire has been to approach all my conversations with grace and openness. To me, that speaks more to our spiritual convictions than anything else. A denominational split may not impact our day-to-day life. But how we live with each other does. How do we best care for our relationships? In what ways do we nurture the unity God created among us? If need be, how do we offer true grace when it’s time to part?

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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