How Diverse Can a Church Be and Stay Together?
As you can tell from the diagram the early church might not have been quite as "united" as those two texts I quoted at the beginning might like to suggest.
One of the questions that emerges from research such as this concerns the degree to which we should expect unity in the church today? And what should that look like. This is a question that Jim asks and deserves some thought.
Can we, for instance, expect a church to thrive with a wide variety of theological positions, from left to right? That is, can a church exist with people who have what we might call a "strict constructionist" view, so that whatever it meant then needs to be imposed on the church today, and people with a looser hermeneutic, one that would allow for women pastors and elders and even full inclusion of gays and lesbians. Can we live with strong Trinitarians and strong Unitarians in the same congregation? If we can, then how does this happen? And if we make peace on doctrinal levels, are we equally able to do so in other realms such as ethnicity or social values?
I have noticed that many of the most ethnically diverse churches are actually quite conservative theologically, while many theologically progressive churches are rather monochrome. Why is this? Is it possible that churches might be more open ethnically or culturally if they anchor their unity in doctrine?