My mother and I have an ongoing conversation about unity and truth. It is obvious that unity among believers is a biblical principle. But unity has to be around something. Something more than being able to tolerate one another's company while listening to sermons. Unity has to do with a purpose. It would seem pretty obvious from scripture that the purpose would be the Great Commission: making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe Jesus' commands. All of these things involve truth. For people to work together in a unified way on these things, they have to agree on some basics. For example, you have to agree on either infant or believer baptism.
I think that many churches try to stand for as few truths as possible so that they can be unified with as many people as possible. They usually summarized them as Statements of Faith. This is a super-condensed version of my church's:
1. There is one true God having three persons (God the Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit).
2. God loved us so much that he sent his son, Jesus. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died, and was raised again. In his death, he took on the sins of the world so that God's justice and mercy could remain intact.
3. At the point of salvation, each Christian is physically indwelled by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps the Christian make righteous choices and transforms us into a new person.
4. The Bible is without error and full of truth. It is God-breathed.
5. We are created in the spiritual likeness or image of God, but he allows us to choose to love him and act according to his commands. The first man, Adam, chose to sin, and now every person lives in a marred creation with a marred spiritual nature. As a result, every person will eventually choose to sin and subsequently become separated from God.
6. Salvation is a gift of God and cannot be accomplished by works. When we decide to trust God, we obey Jesus' command being immersed in water and demonstrating Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.
7. The church is the body of Christ and the family of believers. As such it is our duty to love others and share the Gospel to win as many as possible.
8. Those who follow Jesus will spend eternity in Heaven with him. Those who reject Jesus' will spend eternity in Hell without him.
While these eight things are all well and good, they don't address many issues. For example, can you tell from this if we have women elders or deacons? Can you tell what our position on evolution or do we even have one? The list could go on.
Some people would say that since these are not "salvation" issues that it isn't worth taking a firm stand on them. So that is my question. . . What is worth taking a stand over?
The Lutheran denomination is wrestling with this issue right now. Some congregations are separating from the ELCA because they believe that ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians is something that they cannot be a party to. I agree with them. But some would say this is wrong because unity is more important.
And is separating from one another necessarily disunity? My mother pointed out that Paul and Barnabas separated over John Mark. But were they bringing about disunity? They basically went their own way and REMAINED FRIENDS. That is often lacking when congregations part ways.
I, for one, wish that my church would take a stronger stand on many things. For example, pro-life issues, the biblical role of government, and creationism. But if they did, many people would leave. Others might come. How important is staying in the same congregation? How important is standing for the truth? Any thoughts?