Sam Storms, myself, and Tim Kimberly have been discussing this question on Theology Unplugged. As it turns out, there are quit a few people who are going through doctrinal statement “revisions” at the respective churches. Some are making the statement longer due to all of the traditional theological issues out there that are being challenged (penal substitution, the nature of God, imputation, committment to the Reformation, etc.). However, many people are putting their doctrinal statements on diets, cutting away what they believe to be excess weight in hope of facilitating more unity.
Yet “How long should your doctrinal statements be” (what we ended up naming the Theology Unplugged series) is not exactly what I am asking. Specifically, I often wonder how diverse that the church should be? And even more specifically, I ask how diverse should we intentionally try to make it?
Another way that I look at this is to picture myself starting a church. You do the same. What do I want that church to look like, doctrinally speaking? What do I want the members to believe? How much agreement to I want on the pastoral staff and elder board (or leadership in general)? If I wanted it to follow my flow I would say that it needs have these doctrinal bents (among other things):
- Soft complementarian (distinction in role between men and women)
- Evangelical Calvinistic (with some wavering/maneuvering on the fifth point)
- Somewhat liberal (or a better word, “gracious”) on the remarraige thing
- No tongues or prophecy
- Premillenial eschatology (but not too fanatical about it)
- Believers baptism by immersion
- Memorialist with regard to the Lord’s Supper
This sounds really nice and I am sure that we could have some great unity of mind at pastors meetings as we share our passions. But don’t I want some diversity? Isn’t that what being Evangelical is all about? You know our credo: “Unity in the essential, liberty in non-essential, love in all things.” Don’t I even want some diversity among the leaders? Wouldn’t this make it more Evangelical?
If so, how much and with what issues? Personally, I would have much less problem serving with someone who is a little more conservative on the marraige issue than I would rubbing shoulders with a nasty Arminian! 😉 (to say nothing of an Egalitarian!). But if the Arminian (and Egalitarian) is representative of a legitimate doctrinal position in Evangelicalism (i.e. it is not an essential issue and there are good people on both sides), then shouldn’t our staff and congregation have representatives from both sides? Shouldn’t I intentionally hire a Evangelical Arminian (or at least be open to it)?
Here are a few positives that might come from it:
- You will demonstrate the unity and diversity of the church.
- In doing so you will make the cardinal issues of Christianity more central.
- Seeing as how there are good (Evangelical) people on both sides of many of these issues, your people will have more of an opportunity to hear from the opposing position in order to discover truth. And is this not what we are after? Truth? Not prejudice.
However, with some of these issues it is not practical to encourage diversity. Think of the Egalitarianism/Complementarianism issue. If I were to hire a woman Egalitarian pastor, whose theology do we put into practice, her’s or mine? If I were to allow someone who believes in infant baptism to be on the staff, what do we do? Dunk adults at night, sprinke children at day? If we had both a cessationist and continuationist on staff, whose preference rules the Sunday morning service. Would not some of these issues, while non-cardinal, confuse the congregation? If so, does this outweight the benefits?
At Stonebriar Community Church, where I was a pastor for six years, while we had a pretty tight doctrinal statement, there was some diversity represented among the staff. While I had a more liberal position concerning divorce and remarraige, others were very conservative (they would always send everyone to me!). I was a five-point Calvinist (most days) and most of the other pastors were four-pointers. I was more of a progressive dispensationalist while others were more revised (I know . . . that is not THAT diverse).
Any way, enough of the introduction. I want to know what you think.
How theologically diverse should churches be?
What are your thoughts on this matter?