She said it as if the whole group would surely agree. She was making the broader point that denominational affiliation isn’t the be-all-end-all of Christian life. So she said, “What matters of course, more than anything else, is that we’re all Christian.”
That was supposed to end the discussion. PC(USA), ELCA, EPC, LCMS, UCC, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, ABCDE – denominational affiliation shouldn’t be a stumbling block, she stated, the point is that folks are Christian.
At the time, I smiled and went with the meeting’s natural transition, but I should have said something. Such ways of thinking dangerously oversimplify both denominational affiliation and Christianity itself.
Now I don’t want to read too much into what was a informal comment, but it’s still gnawing at me weeks later. If I had taken the opportunity to respond, I might have said something like this.
First, having any sort of label function as a de facto cutoff point for faith makes me nervous. While I appreciate the openness of the label – all Christians are in! – it still approaches faith (or church participation) with a you’re-in-you’re-out model. And who, pray tell, gets to decide who qualifies as Christian?
Second, what of my Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, and Agnostic friends? What of those many young adults I know who have been baptized but haven’t darkened a church door for many years? They’re simply to be written off because they’re not Christian enough? We’re sorry, but they’re just not in the club?
Certainly, it’s important to have faith claims and faith communities, but their function is to show God’s inclusive love not narrow it. And I hope they encourage us always to broaden our community, to expand our circle of care.
As the PC(USA) Book of Order puts it, “The mission of God pertains not only to the Church but also to people everyone and to all creation.” Participating in God’s mission pushes us to a new openness that includes seeing, “both the possibilities and perils of [the church’s] institutional forms.” (F-1.0404)
My theological framework is less concerned about labels – denominational or otherwise – and more concerned about participating in God’s mission. If that mission calls me only to care about those who can be labeled “Christian,” it’s not much of a mission at all.
image by benji225