My denomination (Church of the United Brethren in Christ) is currently having our national conference, assembling delegates from all over the United States. It's an odd process, mired in Robert's Rules of Order and competing views of what a denomination should look like. The past twelve months or so has been very contentious for us UBs. A referedum to pursue a merger with another denomination failed. A new organizational structure has been proposed to eliminate as much "middle management" as possible. The frequency and makeup of the national conference will likely be changed, as will the legal ownership of local church property. And the age-old argument of whether to require alcohol abstinace or promote it will rear it's ugly head once again. It's all very dizzying and it's not likely to improve.
Various local churches have thrown fits about one thing or another in this whole process. If no changes are implemented, some churches will probably leave the denomination. If any changes are implemented, other churches will probably leave the denomination. It's strange that an association intended to tie churches together can become a scapegoat for churches breaking apart.
Tie it all together with the attitude of some who are more interested in legalism than in sharing Christ with the world. Two suggested changes in the church bylaws are the outlawing of Santa Claus on church property and forbidding "loud rock music" in churches. Somehow I think there are more pressing issues the delegates should spend their time on this week.
I don't know what the best approach for a denomination is. But I do know that all the things the UBs have debated over the past year are not things to divide over. Yet I'm sure that some will divide. And that saddens me. It saddens me that some are more worried about loud music in a sanctuary than about the dying churches and the unbelievers dying without Christ. It saddens me that some are more upset by a different organizational structure than about living their own lives for Christ. And it saddens me that we treat the local church and the denomination like they were described by God on Moses' stone tablets while we ignore our purpose as Christians.
I know that not everyone is guilty of those things which make me sad. Many are on my side -- even those with definite opinions on the best organizational structure. Yet I have this feeling that the next 2 1/2 days at conference and the weeks that follow will be marked by too many people putting preference before piety and comfort before Christlike-ness.
Please pray for us this week.