TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
“Folks didn’t talk much about denominations, although we had everything from Baptist to Catholics attending. Everybody got along…,” Bob Smith, Editor-Publisher, Three Forks Tradition newspaper, Beattyville, Ky.; referring to his childhood (1930’s) days of worshipping at the Kincaid Chapel in Lee County, Kentucky.
In God’s providence I have had the extraordinary experience of working with the same like-minded people in Corbin, Ky.; church-goers who worship in their different denominational churches each Sunday, yet come together each Tuesday evening to “Jam” Gospel music; and the third Saturday of each month for a Gospel concert with some 150 folks of every religious description. Every time I look out over that crowd, I realize I am looking out over the Kingdom of God; so well described in Rev 5:9, 10, “You, O Lamb, were slain and with your blood you purchased souls for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”. Also I have had a singular and most blessed experience these past three years. Retired and freed from the pulpit of one denomination, my wife and I have gained acquaintance with many Christians of many denominations, joining them on Sunday morning for worship – all a little different in worship formalities yet all so identical in faith essentials. From visiting these many churches, my wife and I come away with three convictions: 1) God is pleased with the serious and sincere worship of his people; the diversity in worship demonstrates
the determined effort to do God’s will as best as it is understood; 2) the scripture, music and preaching are virtually the same, revealing the same Gospel, church and belief; 3) the sad fact (objectively and materially sinful for all of us) denominations for the most part avoid each other, not initiating contact nor relationship with fellow Christians in other denominations. We hear a clear, non-verbal statement, “We love everyone but have little interest in ever being with anyone of other denominations.”
With a longitudinal-historic view of Christianity, surveying the past 500 years particularly, it seems our biased isolationism is an inherited denominational trait. We’ve been taught that to be faithful to God we must be exclusively faithful to the one denomination in which we find ourselves – a denomination handed down to us in a revered family tradition.
There is objectively revealed truth from God which we all must seek and study. May the following be such a clear revelation to us all: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” [John 13:14] and “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me.”… [John 17:23]. Would that we obey these Scriptures, willing to turn back to the unity of that Lee County Church. May we take every opportunity for ecumenical worship.
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology
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