From Rodney Eivers
Since last communication I have had some discussion with a number of people who have shown interest in facilitating house-churches in association with the UCA. The idea is to maintain access of the general secular world to our expression of Christian faith without the impediments of doctrine, compliance, membership, finance, personnel and in some cases property, which currently exist.
One Synod Officer described the approach as “organised disorganisation” and perhaps there is something in that. You may be able to help me with one aspect which has been going through my mind.
Doctrinal or theological orientation:
In providing a coordinator who can direct enquirers to an appropriate house-church Contact Person for a given, postcode, town or suburb it will be valuable, indeed wise, to point the person to a group with which he or she will be comfortable. Such compatibility, may be in relation to style of worship. relative ages of attenders, language and so on but for religious celebration the most critical factor, in the long run, is theological orientation.
So, if we accept that the house churches need not follow any specific theological line (that is the point of dissociating them formally from the denomination), what is a simple classification that would have meaning for the average secular high-school-educated student of today?
Here is my attempt at it:
For a start I would limit it to three groups:
1. Literalist/conservative – Characterised by those drawn to the Assembly of Confessing Congregations
2. Liberal/orthodox – Characterised by the bulk of UCA attenders.
3 Progressive – Characterised by subscribers to the UC Forum
Common to each Group:
Following and seeking to live the Jesus Way of unconditional love as the means to a better life and a better world – The Kingdom of God
Characteristics of each group:
1.Literalist/Conservative attitude to:
Doctrinal change – reject
The Bible – read literally as complete guide to life
The supernatural – foundation of Christian faith that fails without it.
2.Liberal/Orthodox attitude to:
Doctrinal change – resist but modify
The Bible – read in context
The supernatural – accept in Christian doctrine, less so in life
3. Progressive attitude to:
Doctrinal change – explore and adapt
The Bible – explore and analyse
The supernatural – has no validity
So a conversation might go as follows:
Enquirer: I have friends who seem to get a lot of satisfaction through joining a community in a house church. Do you know of any such gatherings in my part of the world?
Coordinator: Yes there are some groups around and they tend to have different ways of approaching Christian faith. It would be good for you to go to a group where you would be comfortable.
Enquirer: Well, what’s the difference?
Coordinator. Well you might put them into three groups:
2. Liberal orthodox
A .The literalist/conservative values the past traditions of the church and is anxious that her or his worldview not collapse if the supernatural Trinity, and the divine source of biblical writings are questioned or abandoned.
B. The liberal/orthodox which is where the vast majority of mainline denominational participants sit, do not like to question much, are happy with traditional doctrines of faith (e.g. the supernatural Trinity) but tend to yield to current social ethos with respect to personal relationships even when conflicting with biblical rule-setting.
C. The progressive seeks to read the Bible and interpret Jesus’s message with relevance to 21st century knowledge and experience of nature and of personal relationships, at the risk of some uncertainty, confusion and loss of passion.
That these are live issues for people of Christian faith with the UCA can be seen from the correspondence to the Editor in the Winter 2018 issue of the Queensland Synod’s Journey magazine with an exchange of letters between Drs Ken Davidson and John Frederick. That they also tend to divide us can be seen in the debates on same-sex marriage which are about to come up in the National Assembly next month.
House churches of the nature that I am suggesting we facilitate, would allow us to maintain our differences and still in one sense be one body.
This is already happening de facto to some degree. For instance we have the Assembly of Confessing Congregations, we have the UC Forum, we have home study groups and some congregations with a variety of doctrinal stances but all seek to maintain their association with the Uniting Church without having to toe the party line.
I would be pleased to have your thoughts and suggestion on how the A, B, C statements above , while still being one sentence each , encapsulate the description of the three groups.
It is important, that the description be “neutral” in that each group must find it an acceptable wording of where they stand.