The Christian Church has suffered many different schisms over the past two millennia. This fact is because the Church is made up of, well, humans! Humans have been dividing since the fall. As humans, we want to be unified, but usually only with those who look, think, and believe like us. Denominationalism is a fact, and there are two ways of looking at it. First, there is the point of view that the separation of the Church is terrible and is a result of sin. The second view is that there are denominations because of the diversity of understandings of God, cultural history, language, ethnic background, and traditions. I don’t think these two perspectives are either/or but are both/and. I think that there is merit to both views.
Wounds in church experience are challenging because they are often conflated with the person’s view of God. If a pastor is abusive and involved in sinful activities, a person in the congregation can be hurt by that behavior. When a pastor, or a church, or even our parents hurt us, there is a desire to make meaning out of that pain by blaming God. This blame is where we must remember who God really is and what his character reveals about him. There is the temptation (and remember where temptation comes from, there is an enemy, and he wants the worst for us) to believe that this is how God works.
Lastly, this August, by God’s Grace, the UMC will have their General Conference. At that conference, there will be a crucial vote on the future of our denomination. The Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation is unfortunate, but in my view, a necessary move (NOTE – the conference was postponed to 2024). While conservative and progressive wings of the denomination have battled over cultural issues since 1968, those in denominational leadership have seen that the bitterness between the two sides is a VERY poor Christian witness. Sadly, our denomination will once again split (if the protocol is passed). However, what will come of it will be far healthier for all parties – conservative, progressive, and middle of the road.