It’s pretty common to hear people opine that we are living into a post-denominational future. There are fewer differences between many main-line denominations than there are within them. So, rather than work at propping up structures who’s usefulness has passed, why don’t we just chuck the whole mess, save ourselves some money and move bravely into this future?
Fredrick Schmidt, an Episcopal priest and associate professor at the Perkins School of Theology in Dallas has a response.
“[H]ere’s the problem: If denominations are dispensable, then why not disband them entirely and create a pan-Protestant reality like the one the early architects of the ecumenical movement envisioned? Or, better yet, if the Protestant confessions of faith mean that little, then why not simply return to the Catholic Church? After all, Benedict is waiting . . .
The answer, I think, is that we can’t and shouldn’t because there is a baby in the bureaucratic bathwater. That baby is the tradition, beliefs, and experiences that gave our respective denominations birth in the first place. Other than a distaste for yet more hierarchy, an all-male priesthood, and a doctrinal position or two, there really isn’t a reason not to go back to the Catholic Church—unless those confessions of faith really matter.
Post-bureaucratic is one thing. Post-traditional—a church without a theology, without a specific experience of God, or specific ideas about God—is another thing entirely. To believe in God is to believe something about God. And to claim otherwise is simply unaware or dishonest.
Ironically, then, we find ourselves at a rather strange place in Christian history: There has never been a time when it has been more important to be tolerant, more important to listen, more important to be generous and gentle. But there has also never been a time when it has been more important to be clear about what we believe, never a time when it has been more important to recover the distinctives of our denominational stories.”
Read the full article here.