by Terry M. Smith
Some church leaders say that denominational loyalties aren’t what they used to be; we can no longer assume support for our programs because a person was raised in a particular church. Does this concern me? No and yes.
In Canada there is a confusing display of evangelical and Mennonite churches. Many of these divisions can’t be defended today even while knowing the historical reasons for them. More mergers are welcomed.
Still, look deeper: theological and church loyalties continue. The research of Dr. Reginald Bibby, from the University of Lethbridge, says that in Canada when evangelicals and mainline Christians change churches, they stay within their broader theologies. In other words, when a Mennonite and a Nazarene swap churches, they continue a larger loyalty—and, I say, they enrich others and are enriched.
Paradoxically, even independent churches show some loyalty; their beliefs and internal workings identify within a stream of thought. Agencies such as the Northern Canada Evangelical Mission and Village Missions Canada often seem to function as denominations.
Should the EMC be concerned about loyalty? Certainly, we are to be loyal to Christ and his Church. That said, loyalty to the EMC is better earned than expected. How can the EMC improve at this?
The EMC certainly has purposes worthy of any part of the wider Church: “The purpose of the Conference is to glorify God by building his Kingdom” through sharing the gospel at home and abroad, planting churches, building community, coordinating resources, and forming wider affiliations (Constitution, 20). We have a rich theology. We can, indeed, accomplish more together than each church can alone.
While church loyalty isn’t as local as it used to be, to worship and work together makes sense and honours Christ.