Was there ever one Christian Church?
Today we squabble between claiming Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, independent, or … This seems little changed from the problem St Paul had encountered with the church in Corinth.
What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
— 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 (NRSV)
Differences, frequently appreciated only by those who have either been to seminary or have worked in the church hierarchy, keep us from celebrating communion together, recognizing each other’s clergy, even doing mission together. For this reason many noteworthy mission agencies, even those with a Christian origin, have become secular rather than ecumenical institutions. These arguments come from those with power to divide and rally those who are less powerful into submission behind them. Among those sitting in the pews, these divisions are of little value compared with the music chosen and how people are treated. Thus pew sitters easily transfer from congregation to congregation jumping denominational walls with ease.
Lately we have seen similar divisiveness in politics, with candidates being smeared with distorted charges and being labeled un-American along with their followers.
Imagine what these United States could accomplish if citizens considered ourselves first Americans and then followers of a particular party or leader?
Imagine what the Church of Jesus Christ could accomplish if Christians considered ourselves first as disciples, and then as members of a particular congregation or denomination?
I will have more to say about verses 10 through 18 of the 1st chapter of Paul’s first the Corinthians on Sunday, January 22nd, 2017 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor