TRENTON, NJ – Why do so many people reject Christ? Why are many young people unwilling to even discuss the gospel? Why is it so difficult in this postmodern era for the church to hold a position of respect within the community? One body of believers says it’s because of a lack of unity within churches.
Pastor Sylvia Walsh, of Harmony-Trenton Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), told TBNN, “Several years ago we conducted a survey in our community to find out why people were not coming to church. The number one reason was that the folks out there had seen too many church splits. They told us they wanted no part of that. That’s when we decided to do something about it.”
At that time, Harmony-Trenton (HTPC) instituted a new program at the church that they named simply, “Agree to Disagree.” The purpose of this program was clearly stated, “We at HTPC are committed to being completely united in all things. Whenever we cannot come to unity, we will simply agree to disagree.”
TBNN has learned that this program started off very well. Frank Wheeler, a Sunday School teacher at HTPC, said, “At the beginning things were great. All of those issues that used to dog this church simply went away. There were no more arguments over things like the length of the worship services, where to have the youth meet, how big of a bereavement fund to keep, and what missionaries to support. We didn’t even dispute over the yearly budget. Because of this, we started to have a lot of new people from within the community join the church.”
About two years ago some new members began to “shake things up” at HTPC. According to usher Daniel Falk, “Two different Baptist couples moved to the area and visited our church. They liked our music so they decided to join. A little while later they started complaining by saying that we shouldn’t have a woman pastor. Also, they wanted to vote on everything. To top that, they even said we shouldn’t baptize babies. Fortunately, we just kept reminding them that we always agree to disagree. After they accepted that, everything was fine.”
At last count, the membership at HTPC has risen from 220 at the start of the “Agree to Disagree” program to just under 700 today. “We are so blessed,” said Pastor Walsh. “We are really branching out. Within the last year we have had Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, and Atheistic families join the church. We don’t ask them to reject their traditional beliefs – we just want them to feel at home. Sure, they struggle a bit during the more Christian holidays, but we help them get through it. Whenever anyone begins to feel uncomfortable, we just remind them that we always agree to disagree. I’m certain that God is pleased with our unity.”