Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Do Denomination Affiliations Matter Anymore?
Close communion is a topic guaranteed to generate heated and passionate discussion, especially when it impacts a family member. To see your son or daughter excluded from the Table because they are from a different denomination seems to some to be overly rigid and strict. And to some degree denomination affiliation means little to many in the pew today. ELCA, LCMS, or WELS - what's the difference, they say. They're all Lutherans, right?
People usually join local congregations for personal reasons (spouses, location, etc.), and only secondarily consider the denomination label, if they consider it at all. It doesn't matter to most. Although they may not state it quite this way, denominational affiliation is not all that different from belonging to the local Optimist or Kiwanis club. It's just another organization.
So do denominational affiliations really matter any more in this "post-denomination" culture? Admittedly many do not understand the differences, and few probably ever take the time to investigate what their church's denomination believes. Nevertheless, does that therefore mean the differences are meaningless? I don't believe they are, and I still hold that if you join a church you are wittingly or unwittingly joinin your assent to the confession of theg parent church body. We have long made an issue of Lodge membership in the Missouri Synod and for good reason. They are a quasi-religious church-like group that clearly states a confession in a false deity. Yet when it comes to other "Lutherans" the standards are automatically relaxed, even though in the ELCA, for example, active homosexual clergy are pastoring churches without any repercussions, killing the unborn is accepted, and the Bible is often treated as less than fully divine. And this only scratches the surface.
To belong to a church that states it is a member of a given denomination means that we accept the official confession of that church body. We may not always like the practices within it, or what some members and leaders choose to privately confess. There are also many hypocritical actions that make the public confession seem meaningless at times. But public confessions still matter (Why would the early Christians have bothered with creeds if they weren't?). Otherwise, it is back to Judges where everyone did what was right in his own eyes. This is an invitation to ecclesiastical confusion and chaos, which is all too evident in many of the liberal denominations today.
So, do denominational affiliations matter? As difficult as it may be to deal with it these days, I would still have to say yes. What do you think?