Eric Brubaker, a member of the ministry team at Middle Creek Church of the Brethren, admitted his apprehension at wrestling with the ramifications of the assigned topic, “How can a divided house stand?” at an insight session sponsored by the Brethren Revival Fellowship (BRF). In keeping with the Annual Conference theme, “Living Parables,” the selected scripture was Mark 3:20-26. Key verses are 24-26, referring to a kingdom and a house divided, and Satan risen up against himself.
Brubaker decided to dig deeper than the title question. If a divided house cannot stand, he said, then there are only two options: 1. Stop fighting, or 2. Keep it up and fall apart. He listed several observations including: it is absurd to think that a “house” can withstand self-destructive internal divisiveness; it does not make sense to “fight” with yourself; self-destructive patterns that start as dissension can lead to rebellion and insurrection. His conclusion was that scripture teaches against division.
Scripture also teaches about the importance of unity, in John 17, Ephesians 2 and 4, and Revelation 7:9, which mentions both unity and diversity. Brubaker also shared several scriptures that teach about divisive people and how to handle them. Since scripture teaches so strongly against division and divisive people, he asked, what should we do?
Brubaker then shifted attention from scripture to the writings of Alexander Mack as recorded in “Rites and Ordinances.” In “Rites and Ordinances” there is a section on the carnal aspects of a sprit of dissension, sandwiched between writing on separation and the ban. This led to a question, is all separation wrong, or can separation be good? One conclusion from Mack’s writing can be that scripture is not urging unity at all costs.
What is the church? Asking this key question, Brubaker defined the church as: 1. A body unified in belief and practice with an understanding of sin, where deviation is dealt with swiftly; 2. A body with a diversity of belief, practice, and thought, where such diversity is accepted and celebrated. Brubaker posited that the church may need to be both.
As he concluded the session, Brubaker asked, Is a diverse house the same thing as a divided house? There is a need for diversity of gifts, personalities, abilities, races, etc. Is there also a need for diversity of belief, vision, practice, lifestyle, or even religion? Then the question becomes, How much diversity of belief, vision, and practice can be withstood in the church?
Rather than answer these questions, Brubaker shared some conclusions based on his previous statements: It is probably important to deal with division early lest the divide become permanent. To maintain unity we need to agree on some boundaries. It is naïve to think that resolution on one issue is a final solution to division. It also is naïve to think that resolution on divisive issues is not needed.
Leaving the title question not completely answered, Brubaker made one final statement for his listeners to ponder. “The more theological diversity, the broader the unity or common identity gets pushed.”
-- Karen Garrett contributed this report.
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