Could we focus on unity in 2015? Without taking sides in the same-sex marriage issue, we could remind ourselves that the church has authority to interpret and reinterpret Scripture, even setting the canonical books in the first place. Sometimes those interpretations have been good, sometimes bad. In the first century (Acts 15), the church admitted uncircumcised Gentiles to membership. They had to reinterpret their Scriptures to do so — a good decision. In the fourth century the church decided Christians could — even should — serve in the military. We believe this to be a wrong decision. In the 10th century the church decided church leaders should be celibate. Not all agreed. In the 16th century Anabaptists said the church and state must be separate. It took several centuries for other groups to embrace the idea. In the 20th century the church decided women may be leaders. Not all churches agreed. Now in the 21st century we seem to have forgotten that it takes time to change. Although we may not know the outcome of our interpretations, at least we should stay together while we discuss the issues. For some reason we hasten to restructure, as though that would solve our problems. It would be sin for me to serve in the military, but must I cut myself off from brothers and sisters who believe God is calling them to fight evil in that way? Do I break with those who insist on a celibate clergy? Or from those who have 80 books in their canon? Or from those who ordain women? Or from anyone in a state church? Let us invest the many hours we spend in restructuring to proclaiming the Good News. Jesus said that by our complete unity the world will know that he has come from God (John 17:23).
Nathan B. Hege