Friday, May 22, 2009

Follow the money

I read a very sad editorial this morning, The Bully Pulpit, and it should serve as a warning for all of those who see size and organization and money as signs of success in the church.

In a nutshell, a small Congregational church (Center Congregational Church) that is part of the UCC (United Church of Christ), an infamously liberal denomination, has decided to no longer affiliate itself with the UCC because of the UCC’s heretical 2005 decision to permit homosexual “marriage”. That was too much for these folks and they decided to move on.

Not so fast. The UCC has decided that the property occupied by Center Congregational Church, held in a trust from the 19th century rightfully should be administered not by the people who faithfully attend that church but instead by an administrator from the UCC.

The intent of the trust was to preserve the location as a Congregational church. It is hard to believe that the land bequeathed as a gift by Mrs. Harriet Cox in 1895 was intended to be seized by a denomination that didn’t exist at the time and has abandoned any semblance or pretence of Biblical orthodoxy.

You may wonder why the UCC would bother to go through all of this trouble for a tiny church building that is breaking away. Why not just let them go and concentrate on tearing down the walls of orthodoxy? When in doubt, always follow the money. Look at this description of the area that Center Congregational Church occupies:

Center Congregational occupies a modest brick building on the edge of Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood, a district of mansions, megachurches and private schools.

Hmmm. Here is the description of Buckhead on Wikipedia:

According to Forbes Magazine, Buckhead is home to the 9th wealthiest zip code in the nation (30327), with a household income in excess of $341,000 per year and is the location of the wealthiest of Atlanta's neighborhoods. Home to the Governor Mansion the area's real estate market is also the most expensive in the state of Georgia with an average home value in 2005 of approximately $761,000

Double hmmm. I have been to Buckhead, I stayed there once on business. Where did I stay? The very swanky Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead. I recall vividly the enormous indoor swimming pool with plush Ritz-Carlton robes, baskets of fresh fruit and chilled bottles of water. It was very nice, one of the nicest hotels I have stayed at (and the stock market at that time was in considerably better shape!). Coincidence that “Christians” are suing to take away a church that just happens to be located on a quarter acre plot in a very ritzy area? I think not. Follow the money.

We are going to see more and more of this as denomination after denomination follows after the winds of “change” and accepts the spirit of the age. Christians who are trying to faithfully worship God are going to find themselves increasingly having to make the choice of gritting their teeth at the heresy of their denomination or finding themselves ejected from the building they have occupied and paid for over the years.

This is merely the latest manifestation of the institution of the church superseding the reality of the church. When we say “church”, the picture is of the building, the pastor, the denomination and not the people of God. The more power and money gets concentrated in the institution, the more likely that the Gospel will be set aside for the sake of institutional self-preservation.


Steve Martin said...

We are in the same boat.

Our congregation would like to break away from our very liberal ELCA denomination, but we would lose our buildings as well.

It is about money, and control.

gloria said...

Another great post, Arthur. I applaud the efforts of this church to break away from the heretical teachings that the UCC is espousing and I say leave the building to them too. I mean who really cares if one has a fancy lovely buidling or not..... what matters is that we worship God in Spirit and in Truth. The building is not important. But obviously to the UCC it is.
Again, makes me grateful for the little country church ( that btw, has an outhouse with no modern bath facilities!!) I attend.

God bless,