Observers of Christianity in America have suggested in recent years that the most interesting controversies of our times are those within denominations. That generalization may be generally accurate, but the other big story is the great and widening division between liberal and conservative denominations. In reality, these two visions of Christianity represent two different religions. This was apparent to J. Gresham Machen and others early in the twentieth century. Now, it must be apparent to any honest observer.
Monday’s vote by the United Church of Christ [UCC] endorsing same-sex marriage makes this point clear. The UCC has been moving steadily leftward over the last several decades, and the main trajectory of the denomination has been consistent in rejecting the authority of Scripture. Yesterday’s vote did not emerge from a vacuum. A line of doctrinal accommodation and theological compromise necessarily produces such a development. Without the norming authority of Scripture, anything becomes possible, if not inevitable. If the Bible does not serve as the authoritative norm, anything can be normalized–even what the BIble condemns.
The Rev. John Thomas, the UCC’s president and general minister told a press conference after the group’s vote, “On this July 4, the United Church of Christ has courageously acted to declare freedom, affirming marriage equality, affirming the civil rights of gay — of same-gender — couples to have their relationships recognized as marriages by the state, and encouraging our local churches to celebrate those marriages.” This language is characteristic of those who would defy biblical authority and forge their own versions of the Christian faith. Just label a rebellion against Scripture and two thousand years of church tradition as courageous.
The two rival visions of Christianity now represented in American Protestantism operate out of radically divergent worldviews. The dividing issues range across the spectrum, including even the concept of truth and the meaning of language. Nevertheless, the fundamental line of division is the issue of authority. In the end, this issue determines all others.
DOCUMENT THE TRAGEDY: Coverage in The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ABC News, UCC Newsroom [Atlanta].