Sunday, August 3, 2008

How To Make Friends Into Enemies

How To Make Friends Into Enemies

This column by Dan Popkey in the August 3, 2008 Idaho Statesman makes it sound like this new church in Boise, Common Ground, is kind of a church for pro-gay, Green, liberal Christians:

You might not expect a pastor to cite a Schlitz beer commercial as an expression of faith. But that's just what I heard at Common Ground, a new Meridian church that is part of a growing movement away from the extremism that's dominated evangelism for 30 years.
"There's not a lot of Christian functions where people say, 'Who's bringing the beer?' " said Dennis Dickson, one of the founding pastors. "But God intended us, as the beer commercial says, to live with gusto. It's just that we are not to leave God out of the discussion."
Dickson spent 25 years at Boise's Cole Community Church, serving as youth and men's pastor, among other posts. He was senior enough to get six weeks vacation. But two years ago, he and Cole's junior high pastor, Tom Bowen, left to form Common Ground.
"We want to build bridges," said Bowen, the lead pastor. "We are unshakably Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians who believe our job is reconciling people together to God and to each other, and not drawing them apart."
I was invited to attend by Bob McGraw, who read my recent solicitation for ideas from people "quietly occupying the middle ground."
McGraw has distanced himself from his conservative heritage in part because of his experience at Hewlett Packard. For a decade, McGraw, who has two mixed-race sons, was on the diversity team and committed to HP's inclusive values.
But when HP added sexual orientation to the rainbow, McGraw said he became "real uncomfortable." But he studied, prayed and heard gay colleagues describe harassment, threats and fear. "I listened and I said, 'No matter where you are on the issue, that's wrong.' That was a breakthrough."
Jill Gill, a Boise State history professor, said Common Ground is part of a growing moderate evangelical movement that's loosening ties to the Republican Party.
"Many are talking less about politics, period, and more about spiritual nurture in terms of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and being good stewards of God's creation," said Gill.
Bowen agreed. "We proclaim that Jesus is our King and is teaching us how to live in the world. On the flip side, we strongly believe God is neither a Republican or a Democrat. There is a new politic interested in both proclamational truth and social justice."
Gill said younger evangelicals are drawn to moderate churches. Common Ground is typical and an alternative to what Dickson called the "sourpuss faces" in some churches.
"I've seen so many denominations draw lines in the sand," Dickson said, citing homosexuality as a prominent divider. "We don't see that as a sin that's any worse than the other sins. So, you're welcome to worship with us knowing the direction we're heading."
The church hasn't gone soft. It teaches sexuality and marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman. There are no gay members, but neither is there shrill condemnation heard in some quarters.
So what, exactly, does this mean? I'm mystified by Dickson's assertion that there are churches that have made homosexuality "a prominent divider" and yet "sexuality and marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman." That's sounds like Dickson is sure doing some serious dividing, following the Bible's clear statements about homosexuality.

I'm mystified what Dickson means when he emphasizes that homosexuality is no worse than other sins. I don't know of any church that I have ever attended that disagrees with him on that.

Even alcohol--while many fundamentalist churches disapprove of drinking--isn't any real surprise. The Bible teaches against drunkenness but not against alcohol. I can't recall a pastor that I have ever talked to about this subject who argues that alcohol is sinful. While most of the pastors that I have known don't drink, and strongly encourage others not to do so, it isn't because alcohol is intrinsically sinful, but because the damage that alcohol does for those who can't handle it is so dramatic.

No, I suspect that Popkey is either intentionally trying to create a divide between traditional style churches and Common Ground, or knows so little about Christianity that he thinks that Common Ground is somehow radically different from most evangelical churches with respect to homosexuality. I can't see any difference at all.

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