11 December, 2007

"Agree to Disagree" Leads to Unity

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.”

7 comments:

Richard Boyce said...

I believe that doctrine should never be swept under the rug for the sake of church building or 'unity'. Here's what I have a problem with: doctrinally sound denominations who have churches within it that have nothing to do with one another because they differ not on doctrine, but on preference or opinion.

I believe the New Testament references the Church in Corinth, Galatia, Rome, etc...Scripturally speaking, the Church is not some brick building with a steeple on it. The Church was the body of Christ, the believers.

Why then have we decided that the Church should war against itself in matters that have nothing to do with Biblicity? Translations, music, style, etc...I think we need to pull our heads out of our butts, read the Word, obey it, and start being the Church again.


That having been said...good post, lol.

Richard Boyce said...

By the way...the plural denominations in the first sentence was meant to be amusing. Two factions cannot both be right while holding opposing interpretations of Scripture. Cough-baptistsrule!-cough.

Darrin said...

Good old Pastor Sylvia! She knows what to do! Good post, again showing the foolishness of a common sentiment by taking it to the extreme.

James McCullough said...

Quality post addressing a really big issue. Shows the foolishness of the eucmenical movement. Whilst as Christians we shouldn't "major on the minors" as you have pointed out there are some things we cannot agree to disagree over. Infact we should not agree but disagree about agreement to disagree on important disagreements!

Jordan said...

Well put mate, good post.

I wonder if this was inspired by our little discussion about the "unity" between Catholicism and biblical Christianity in the comments of the other post?

Either way, I agree in the foolishness of embracing everyone as in Christ no matter their beliefs.
But where is the line?
It seems in John 17 unity in the body of Christ was something so central to the heart of Jesus.

When do you sacrifice unity for the sake of good doctrine and when do you sacrifice doctrine for the sake of unity?

Elder Eric said...

Jordan,

Actually, I had been thinking about this post for quite a while because so many churches are abandoning doctrine these days.

I agree that unity within the body of Christ is very important. Jesus could not be clearer about that in John 17.

The line of division must be the gospel. When the gospel (salvation based upon grace alone through faith alone) is compromised, unity must end. Paul makes this very clear in Galatians 1:6-9.

EE

thomastwitchell said...

Finally, a doctrine that we can all younight on and agree, to disagree about....