Previously (here) I’ve set-up the problem of Christian unity and suggested that there are 3 ways potentially to solve it. Here I will examine a first approach:
Unite round the lowest common denominator. In the above issues [edit: gender roles in speaking, power evangelism and events in pubs], we all agree that males can speak, we all agree in evangelism (but not all healing in that way) and we all can hold events elsewhere. And so we err on the side of caution on all three.
What are the advantages of using this model of working?
- you’re already doing it on some level. To define who you’re working together with (other evangelicals), you first had to strip things down to a doctrinal basis or confession – things of first importance (cf 1 Cor 15 etc). Regardless of whether you have it on paper or not, you’ll have in your head a rough group of people and what characterises your willingness to work with them.
- it’s just very easy to work out what to do, and it seems to still allow for a lot of important things to happen. Missions with tens to hundreds coming to faith have been performed on this basis.
And the disadvantages of it?
- There are always more conservative positions to be found! For example, does having a Reformed Presbyterian (psalms only) in your group mean that sung worship should be limited to Psalms in CU? I’ve a Free Presbyterian friend who would go to the street and just read the Bible aloud and be disappointed with most other things. In practice, this model always leans towards the next one (2) in some ways.
- Much as no-one disagrees with certain practices, it does always mean that the charismatic and less conservative (in style, not necessarily theologically) have to stomach missing out on what they may think is the fulness of God and His ways of working. To derpive a female of speaking is degrading (so some will say). To not make space for the Spirit to work miraculously alongside our evangelism, takes much of the point away from it. And to not allow people to go to a pub actually speaks volumes to non-believers on what type of a God we believe in.
Another reply that is often used to some secondary issues is that gifts are to be performed in the church (services?), and therefore CUs and mission teams can work away without them (similarly female speakers are free to speak). I’m not sure I buy either of those ways in such a model. To do that, we’d need to say females couldn’t preach in church services, but can preach to the same audience at any other time of the week on mission? Similarly with power evangelism, I’m not sure Wimber (from what I understand him to be saying) would say there’s a requirement for elders to be present at such occasions anywhere in scripture.