I don’t think I would have gotten off so lightly.
I haven’t really talked about where I have been attending church the last few years, but what was intended to be a temporary location to place my butt on a Sunday morning has now turned into three plus years with all indications that it could become rather permanent.
I have been attending “The Meeting House”, a church in a denomination with an Anabaptist heritage. Here is the other interesting part. The church has an average Sunday morning attendance of 5000.
I am going to get into both the church’s size and theology over the next two weeks, and why it is a good fit for me In the meantime an item has come up that is getting some interest up here in Canada, and I thought it would be worth talking about here.
Let me give you a bit of background first.
The Meeting House is a member of the “Brethren in Christ” (“Be in Christ” in Canada). From Wikipedia:
The Brethren in Christ trace their denomination back to a group of Mennonites who lived just north of Marietta, Pennsylvania on the east side of the Susquehanna River. As they met to study the Bible and to experience God in the 1770s, the people of this group who became known as the River Brethren developed a conviction that believer’s baptism by trine immersion was the scriptural form of baptism. The River Brethren of the 18th century also held to a firm reliance on the centricity of Scripture. As their Pietist lifestyles and their beliefs regarding baptism continued to develop, they began to distance themselves from other Anabaptist denominations such as the Mennonites and German Baptists, of which groups they had previously been a part.
A Wesleyan emphasis on holiness had a strong influence on the group around the turn of the previous century, and then in 1950, the denomination decided to intentionally become more outward looking, and moved to align themselves more with evangelicals, ditching many of their established “rules and regulations” along the way.
Still, the denomination in North America was pretty small. When evangelicals met to hammer out the “Chicago Statement on Inerrancy”, the Brethren in Christ weren’t even invited to the table. As a result “Inerrancy” isn’t even part of the Meeting House vernacular. Neither is a whole bunch of other stuff which are typically of concern to evangelicals. I will be expanding on this next week as to why this is important to me.
Fast forward forty years.
Enter Bruxy Cavey (pictured above). From the Christian Courier:
The fortunes of this small denomination changed quite suddenly in Canada in 1996 when the celebrated hippie-like preacher Bruxy Cavey was invited to serve as pastor at a small BIC church plant in Oakville. Within a few years the community of 150 grew to over 1,000 and by 2014 what became called The Meeting House had expanded to include 14 different regional sites with 5,000 weekly attendees and probably about 8,000 people who call it their “home church.”
Not only did this one congregation more than double the number of BIC-associated people in Canada, it sent a ripple of change through the denomination’s culture. This marginal Canadian Christian group was suddenly seeing one of its congregations in national newspapers, and one of its pastors on Christian TV, with a bestseller on Amazon and one of the top “religion and spirituality” podcasts in the nation. People were joining The Meeting House from every Christian denomination in Ontario — from Roman Catholics to Reformed and even the United Church. Almost overnight, the BIC moved from the shadows to the limelight.
Some people got concerned. Bruxy, and indeed the whole denomination holds some views that other segments of evangelicalism are uncomfortable with. You can google “Bruxy Cavey Heretic” to get a sampling of these concerns.
Enter The Gospel Coalition.
Providentially, the TGC Executive Council was also beginning to feel the need for some sort of formal inquiry into The Meeting House phenomenon. Many of our churches were wondering how to relate to this new movement. Should they be considered allies? Enemies? Or something in between? We had all seen the video clips and the tweets but in truth, no one on the council was more informed than me so I was volunteered to open a dialogue.
We had three basic goals for the conversation.
First of all, we wanted to understand. Bad things happen in our world when people shoot first and ask questions later. We wanted to do more than react to statements and clips, we wanted to seek context, ask questions, hear testimony and probe motivations.
Secondly, we wanted to provide some kind of summary analysis and recommendation for our people. TGC Canada exists to resource churches in their efforts to reach their communities with the Gospel. It’s our job to do homework on behalf of busy pastors and leaders and then to share and distribute what we’ve learned. This analysis and summary represents my personal effort to provide such a resource; a collaborative statement will be developed and released shortly by the council as a whole.
Thirdly, we wanted to model a better way of engaging in dialogue with our theological and ecclesiological neighbours. Social Media is a mixed blessing – at best. It encourages sharing things that we do not really understand and have not personally looked into. It encourages mob mentality and it by-passes prayer and sober process.
Honestly, though, it did not feel like a conversation to me, nor to several other friends who have come upon the dialogue. It felt like an inquisition with The Gospel Coalition setting themselves up as judge and jury. A true dialogue would have had more challenges to the Gospel Coalition. For example, something along the lines of “So, don’t you think the Gospel Coalition’s treatment of women is a barrier to the gospel?”
Bruxy Cavey passes muster. The leader of the inquisition pronounced:
Having summarized my observations, I am ready to render my conclusion.
Bruxy Cavey is not a heretic.
He’s an Anabaptist.
Does he have no idea how pretentious that sounds?
Does he have no sense of the history of reformers (TGC is a Reform movement) pronouncing judgement on Anabaptists and then executing them?
But here is paragraph that really caught my eye in his recommendation to churches:
Within your church, state your convictions clearly
Preach, write, blog and publish what you believe. Work very hard to ground all of your terminology and definitions in the text. Go through your Statement of Faith with your Board. Make sure you understand what you believe.
Preach, pray and proclaim your heart out!
Be wonderfully and marvelously precise in your statements! Getting it right MATTERS! See, say and savor every aspect, shade and nuance that is legitimately present in the display of God’s glory in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Don’t pull your punches and do not be afraid to require essential agreement upon Gospel matters within your membership – and particularly within your leadership culture.
You see, if they had been investigating me, and my writings at Internet Monk, I don’t think I would have gotten off so lightly. From the paragraph above, I certainly wouldn’t be welcome within their church. This is a large part of the reason why I have ended up at a church like The Meeting House in the first place. More on that next week.
As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.