Monday, June 2, 2008

Family of Faith

“You may have heard by now but I wanted you to hear from me. We have started the leadership transition process at WPC. I step down as president at the end of this week (May 31).” s/Jay Barber

Those words stirred waves of nostalgia and I remembered how Jay replaced my beloved friend and former parishioner, Marshall Christian. Marshall resigned and Jay has done a fantastic job. However, I go back a bit further--tutored by a faculty of A. F. Gray, Otto Linn, DSW Monroe, Mac/Irene Caldwell, et al. They transformed my life.

There, under the finest faculty in the church of that day, I was grounded in sound theology, a bible-based education, with cutting edge Christian Education, all wrapped up in an orientation of Christian service.

PBC/WPC was small enough that we “knew them” as sensitive, caring, competent contributors to us and to the larger church. Their names prompt recall of many more through the years (Marshall and Jay, for example).

I remember 1950 when Cal and Marty Brallier received their call from Anderson to prepare for Africa--5 years. Marty, her sister Ruth, and my wife, sewed feverishly for days, preparing and packing Cal and Marty for their 5-year stint--without return.

On occasion, my wife will yet discuss those days with me, and the urgency with which they had to prepare. And I still choke occasionally when I recall the posted notice telling us the Brallier’s buried that first-born in African soil.

These names, and many people just like them, are part of my Church of God faith family. Our congregational polity is not about a denominational hierarchy that I submit to in Anderson. Like the retiring Jay Barber, or long deceased O. F. Linn (as modest a man as I ever met), or Ron Duncan, for that matter - they are us, and we are a family of faith, united in the Body of Christ.

We stand equal at the foot of the cross, under the banner of the Lord Jesus. We are interdependent--interrelated congregations. As pastors, we may be gifted differently but we are equal by grace. As for “Anderson”, they work for us, but we also support them, just as surely as Jay Barber represents my love for Warner Pacific College in all that he does. In turn, he has certain obligations to me as an alumnus, as well as to his Board of Directors, as well as to Church of God Ministries.

I have a bad ankle from a fall during construction of a church building. I referred to it in my blog on walking. It pains me dramatically at times. Now: the broken relationships of non-accountability and self-directing independence in the church pains the Body of the Church as surely as my ankle distresses me.

Don’t talk to me about the theology of Biblical Inspiration and ignore the plain teachings of the Apostle Paul and others in the Scriptures. I don’t find a top-down polity in the Scriptures. I am not afraid of a denominational label for accepting accountability to others. Neither do I find Bible Christians running around being hands without arms and a body!

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