Living in a new province and all, I'm trying to find a church to attend. At midnight on Saturday, I was sitting with my computer, trying to decide which of the many congregations in Moose Jaw to try the following morning. The problem I ran into, however, wasn't that of having too many choices. The problem was that the more research I did, the more frustrated I became. See, I'd like to be able to volunteer at whatever church I end up attending. And most churches, if not all, have you sign a statement of faith before you can really get involved - fair enough. So basically, if I can't sign the statement of faith without a massive amount of cognitive dissonance, then I can't volunteer. Which means that I need to start my search by perusing the various church creeds.
Before this weekend, I thought that Protestantism was a movement aimed at stripping away the baggage that came with Catholicism. It was about getting back to the simple truth about Christ and grace. Well, evangelical churches have certainly succeeded in being not!Catholic, but I'm not so sure about the rest.
Each church website I looked at had a list of detailed beliefs several pages long. Most of them were quite similar, and some of them I agreed with more than others, but in all of them, I would have had to misinterpret something or other on purpose in order to bring myself to sign them.
I could have happily attended, or at least visited, any of these churches. I mean, I didn't see any statements of faith that could be construed as anything but evangelical Christian. The frustration came with the way all these churches deemed the minor differences of opinion important enough to build their identity on them. Important enough to require anyone who wants to help to swear they believe them, too.
Does it matter if we believe the Bible is "verbally inspired and inerrant" or just "inspired"? Does it matter if we believe in the pre-millenial return of Christ or have other ideas with regards to eschatology? Does it matter if we believe we receive the Holy Spirit upon first repentance or as a separate event later in time? Of course it matters on some level, but does it matter so much that we can't worship and work together?
And really, you Pentecostal and Pentecostalish churches, please defend for me why you say that only people who can speak in tongues are saved. Talk about adding doctrine that is nowhere to be found in the Bible! I can speak in tongues - this isn't an issue of me feeling excluded from your ranks. This is an issue of me being aggravated that you would claim someone's salvation depends on it.
I'm not saying that churches shouldn't require volunteers to believe the same basic things. And I'm not saying that we're all equally correct in our different beliefs. In fact, I think some are definitely wrong. But aren't we all Christians? To use an old cliche, let's "keep the main thing the main thing." I thought we had learned to get along despite our differences.
Miao Yu, a Chinese Christian here at school couldn't understand why we have so many different denominations in Canada. In China there are only two - the Official Church and the Underground Church. But I can understand why we have so many denominations. It's because if we're not fighting for our lives, we're finding things to fight about amongst ourselves. It's because if all these denominations don't believe specifically what I believe and so won't let me be involved, then I need to start my own denomination.
As the night grew exceedingly late, I finally found a church with a statement of faith with which I could whole-heartedly agree. It quoted the Apostles' Creed and added a few statements about what a Christian is supposed to do with his or her life. It was a breath of fresh air. So I went to the Anglican church in the morning.
Evangelical churches, I'll try again later, but I'm disappointed.
“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer