As Christians we are called by our Lord to go forth in unity. This mandate requires us to work together for the sake of gospel proclamation, a task that our past history reveals has been difficult for us. Our wheels into the future have not always been steering toward the same direction. We must then ask ourselves what can this mean for us and our message to the world around us.
To illustrate my pastoral concern here, I borrow from my previous career field, Please note that a few decades ago various automobile manufacturers produced vehicles which contained race-bred innovations. As example, you'll find that the famed Audi brand… of historic Auto-Union legacy... once advertised a new passenger car steering system. Its appearance was marketed during the late ‘90s. That wondrous engineering caused all four wheels to steer the car.
Aptly named “Four Wheel Steering” (4WS) by many, and also entitled “All Wheel Steering” (AWS) by others…the new steering systems caused the vehicle’s rear wheels to turn and help change the motivational direction of the car. The dynamic result was a better handling vehicle and much, much improved tire wear. In these vehicles, the rear wheels responded away from their traditional straight ahead position and worked in concert with the front wheels in order to take steering action. The change in rolling direction altered according to the driver’s steering wheel position and the speed of the car. At low speeds, the rear wheels turned slightly in the same direction as the front, and at high speed… they would turn opposite. The fervor for the improved concept even found its way into such as the domestically-produced Pontiac and Chevrolet high-end vehicles.
Unfortunately, the 4WS idea did not endure beyond a year or so of production in a few special models. Apparently increased manufacturer costs, more frequent wheel re-alignment requirements, higher maintenance and unforeseen repair complexities would not economically compute. This proved true even when the option was restricted to the more expensive vehicles.
I bring this example to your attention here for a reason, however, so to introduce a recent conversation about an alignment quandary for the Christian Church. Recently, I found myself informed of apparent parallel mishap. The problem was noted by me in conversations held during regional meetings in my own denominational expression.
Now, let me first present that I strongly favor coordinated, ecumenical church steering that should be always aimed at the proper evangelical mission of the Christian church. However, history reveals to us that even from our spiritual beginnings, we’ve not always been rolling forward together. Protestant Reformation-era tumults and more recent divisions over human sexuality and child birth... highlight our gross wanderings from center. As humans we sinfully come by this scattered penchant naturally,. but this should not be our future course for the Church.
Experts in biblical study point out that even the first apostles and disciples had differences in their over-the-road steerage. This was exemplified by the arrival of the “Hellenists” faction to see Jesus during his ministry, and also the inherited religious jealousies of the Hebrews. This tension is evidenced thoroughly by such writings as the following…
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. (Acts 6:1)
We also see that many difficulties were experienced by Saint Paul in Galatia and Jerusalem as he strove for acceptance over against Peter, James and John. These also speak of early discord.
Railing against such behaviors, we read the scriptural admonitions from Paul to the churches…
… for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men? (1 Cor 3:4)
In keeping with the Spirit of common faith, therefore, we Christians are to instructed to first take our disagreements directly to one another and attempt reconciliation. Failing that, we are told to point out our misalignment to the elders, and let them decide the future track to be taken. Thus, we of the church yet try to motor ahead. We look toward rightfully and collectively declaring both the Law and the Gospel to the world around us.
However, reconciliation is not always forthcoming... and a particular entity may be declared by leadership as unyielding and apostate. The offender then becomes an outside, evil force standing in opposition to the scriptural mandates given to the Church. Of such apostate definition is my stance made against the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). My claim as a Lutheran pastor rests in proper opposition that their penchant toward the ordination of LGBTQ ministers, who exist in dubious “married” relationships… and also their rather rampant endorsement of pro-choice politics and funding of abortions through their clergy medical insurance. All run counter to scriptural mandates.
Please realize that these rank specifications listed, I see as providing gross directional confusion in the public square. Disagreements over abortion, for example, publicly wears the church’s witness down and strips the tread right off our evangelical tires.
I now pray that our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier... our God who guides the alignments of even the stars in the universe, may see fit to unfold our collective future unto His peaceful kingdom. I dare venture that future conversations held between our denominations should re-aligned us toward promoting life-giving family security, and not be an endorsement of growth resistant heresy. So it should be… and so I pray. Amen.