Sunday, 25 October 2009
On the Church of God Ministries homepage, in the FAQ, there is a question that reads, "How do you relate to other churches theologically?" Part of the answer reads like this:We value the insights of those who espouse fundamentalist, liberal, neoorthodox, liberation, and process theologies, but we have some serious questions about some of the methods and conclusions of these schools of thought.
Another question asks what restrictions Church of God places on its members. (The honest answer is none, from the top - it's an open-content church, and all true restrictions are put in place by the community itself.) Part of the answer reads like this:Diversity, within the scope of the teachings of Jesus Christ, is expected. Conformity in all matters of doctrine and practice is not the goal of the Church of God for its people. We are mutually committed to God in Christ, to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and to local, national, and international fellowship with Christians. Some congregations and some individual Christians may tend toward a major involvement with social causes as an expression of their personal faith. Others may concern themselves principally with an individual expression of piety and often focus on personal religious lifestyles. There is room for both types of witness and concern.More relevant to my own views, the article on The Church of God and Military services contains both of the following paragraphs:[T]he Church of God recognizes that Christians can and do, in good conscience, enlist and serve in the military... The church also advocates that local congregations should support those in the armed forces with prayer and regular communication.andThe Church of God has a significant tradition as a peace church, and therefore, it supports individuals who register as conscientious objectors. Early documents of the church make strong statements regarding opposition to war and to participation in military service.The article in fact goes on to answer the question of, "What if, in addition to being a conscientious objector, I decide that I cannot in good conscience even register for the draft?"
Failure to comply with the law and regulations of the Selective Service System is a felony if convicted. Nevertheless, people are aware that their opposition to war may also include opposition to participating in preparation for war, and they feel that registration has those political and military purposes.
At present, only the most vocal or self-reporting non-registrants are being prosecuted, but if this is your stance, begin to prepare yourself spiritually and psychologically for possible trial and imprisonment. Gather support around you. Contact one of the groups listed in the back for referral to an attorney knowledgeable about current draft law. As described earlier, keep a record of your convictions and behavior accessible.Now, is all of this double-speak an example of positive openness in the church, allowing a wide diversity within the body of Christ? Or is it an example of weakness and equivocating on the part of leadership, refusing to come down specifically with Christian instruction?
Or is it both/and? Somewhere in between? Something else entirely?
Can the same church body really support both fundamentalism and neo-orthodoxy? Pacifism and voluntary military service?
What do you think?