Dr. Bob Rice of First Presbyterian Church in Norman, OK, thinks he has the answer for churches that want their people to think alike on things: It will never happen.
He’s talking about another church in his denomination recently pulling out of the group because of the PCUSAs stand on homosexuality. Here’s part of an article that tell’s Dr. Rice’s solution:
The Rev. Dr. Bob Rice, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Norman for 15 years, said he understands why First Presbyterian Church of Edmond chose to leave the denomination, but believes the problem is a lack of appreciation of diversity, and it won’t be solved by changing affiliation.
“I do think that [the members of First Presbyterian of Edmond] believe they can find a church where everybody thinks the same way. They don’t feel they can live with a church where gays and lesbians, for example, are allowed to fully participate in the life of the church, where we have a broad spectrum of people in the church in terms of their belief about who Jesus is…but my sense is if you think you’re going to find a church where everybody thinks alike, you’re never going to do it, because there never has been a church like that and there never will be,” Rice said.
Rice believes his denomination’s increasing polarization is a reflection of society’s increasing polarization. He thinks emphasizing mere tolerance is not enough. “I believe we should be tolerant, but I think the issue is more than that — it’s the ability to respect the otherness of the other, and to begin to celebrate some of our differences and to recognize them as God’s gift.”
Many churches are facing a crisis. They are torn between adapting their tenets to accommodate modern cultural developments and appeal to young people, and reacting against change in accordance with the wishes of their older members. But if these churches want to remain an influential and relevant part of peoples’ lives in the future, they must let go of their pet bigotries and narrow-minded theology. If churches do disregard bigotry, they will have the chance to be a source of unity and reconciliation instead of division.
I understand Dr. Rice’s rationale to a point. But he’s swung that position way too far out of whack in my opinion.
When things come down to carpet color, or worship style, I think his logic may work well.
But on matters of theology… not so much.
Celebrating diversity and openness in the case above causes many (me included) to give up what I think scripture says about an issue. That is something that we should not be willing to do.
How we treat people as a result of our theological understanding is a different story… but to just throw our theology out the window for diversity’s sake, or because the church ‘will never be perfect’ is just silly.
What do YOU think?
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