As the controversy continues on Methoblog and others, I keep coming back to an word a Lutheran friend taught me – adiaphora. Adiaphora is a Greek term that is most most of the time translated as “indifferent matters” or “indifferent things.” The Lutherans have a definite list of those things that are considered adiaphora and if you want to know lots and lots about the Lutheran church, you can research the development of this concept after Luther’s death and as the Lutheran church formed. It was not a bloodless conversation. People sacrificed and died for these ideals – blood, sweat and tears. Each of us have our own idea about things that are necessary for the transmission of the Gospel, things that are indifferent and things that undermining and ultimately destroy witness to that Gospel.
If something is necessary or a matter of indifference, it is considered good and acceptable for the unity of the church local and the Church Universal to practice these things. I suppose my favorite example would be things like liturgical garments, stoles, paraments, purificators and whatnot. These are adiaphora. Gavin once told a story about someone who released pigs in the sanctuary. This, too is adiaphora, but right on the line for me. It does not really destroy the witness of the church to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nor does it distort the Gospel for me, but it could make the message harder for some to hear (as well as being in really bad taste.) Communion is necessary, for me as a Methodist. It is a means of grace that cannot be underestimated. It is a feeding of the body and the soul in a manner that nothing else can even begin to approach.
So here is the question: what things undermine the proclamation of the Gospel and what things do not? What things can we agree to being necessary? What things are adiaphora? How are we to judge? By what method? We would (as we always have) begin with scripture.
I quoted “Our Theological Task” from the UMC Book of Discipline earlier this week. One of the most endearing things to me about the Methodist church is the encouragement of doctrinal inquiry. It is a hallmark of Methodism. As we each, individually, work through the doctrines and dogmas of our faith (and yes, I use the word dogma), we more fully appropriate into our lives. A part of that appropriation is a careful listening to each other. I personally am not so arrogant to think that a “liberal” or a “fundie” can’t teach me something. It takes a deliberate pause to not react, but to listen and try to understand another person’s position. I know that I am not that good at this task at times, so I’m preaching to myself here.
Jay noted today that somehow theological and doctrinal differences faded away into the background when his local pastor’s group joined in prayer for their community. Earlier he had asked for Resolutions for the next General Conference.
I propose that the Methobloggers unite in a Resolution for a monthly/yearly day of prayer for the unity of our denomination. And that part of that prayer have feet – that it required action of some sort/ service of some sort that will spell out unity across vast theological difference.
We are one in Christ Jesus, all one body
All one spirit, All Together
We share one God,
One mighty Lord,
One Abiding Faith
One binding love
One single Baptism,
The Holy Spirit uniting all.