This morning I'm head over to the monthly meeting of the Drew County Minister's Association. Or Ministry Alliance…or something like that. We tend to just call it DCMA, and I know the DC is for Drew County. The MA, I'm not so sure.
What is a DCMA? It's a group of ministers from around Drew County. It's not any one specific denomination, but has Baptists, Catholics, Presbyterians, and Assembly of God in it. We do some basic things to help with the needs of transients in town, and put together a few community-wide worship services together.
Do we all agree? Certainly not. This forum cannot contain the various shades of theological disagreement. First of all, our separate church groups have standing differences. There are real divisions between Catholic, Baptist, Assembly, and Presbyterian understandings of Scripture. If the Methodists had time to be involved, we'd disagree with them too! A quick glance through the official documents of our churches will reveal those divides.
Second, we as people tend to disagree with each other. We have varying degrees of political opinions, various personalities, and hold to certain doctrines that conflict with each other.
How do we cooperate, then?
Very carefully. First of all, we find things that all of us do agree on. Second, we identify the things that we are at impossible disagreement on. Finally, we sometimes discuss the ideas in the middle.
We agree on coming together to express Thanksgiving and to celebrate the Resurrection.
We're hopelessly deadlocked on baptism and predestination.
We have a rousing discussion every now and then on literal interpretation of Scripture.
What makes this possible is a respect for each other, and, to be honest, a diehard belief that each one of is absolutely right. I can discuss security of the believer with my Free Will Baptist friends because I know I'm right. I don't have to get agitated or angry in debate because of my own certainty. I'm trying to elaborate and demonstrate to him a truth. Not my own commitment to that truth, since I know that's unwavering.
Likewise with any of the other issues we discuss. I find our local Catholic Priest, Father Phillip, to be a committed man who seeks to lead his flock closer to obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. That his method leads them there through the Pope is something I'm not so sure about, but he's sure, and he can calmly explain to me why, and I can calmly discuss why not. We respect each other's work, and we respect each other's right to be wrong in our eyes.
These things make cooperation on peripheral issues, like transient aid, possible. Why? We know what we're doing there doesn't hit the big issues, and when the big issues are in play, we all come back to our own churches. We don't seek to use DCMA to unify our churches into one, rather to unify certain efforts into one.
It's not a bad model. Does it always work? No. Would it work if non-Christian groups were involved? Probably not. At our core is the effort to obey the commands of Christ. How would it work if we involved people that didn't believe the commands of Christ matter?
It actually works better that we're all pretty hard-headed folks about our own beliefs. That sounds contradictory, but discussions are much more rational this way. So, to my friends in the DCMA, let's keep it up.
To my Baptist friends around the world, especially us Southern Baptists: Can we take a lesson here? Rather than worry about stomping out minor disagreements, can we trust each other a little more? Can we focus on the things we strongly agree on? Like, perhaps…The Great Commission? The Great Commandment? The commands to look after widows and orphans in their distress?
Just a thought….