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Brethren History – Conservative to Liberal

by on August 21, 2013

 

When Brethren congregations move from conservative to liberal there are stages or phases they go through.

 

1. Lack of thorough teaching

2. Practice divorced from policy

3. Matthew 18 replaces church discipline

4. Passive marginalization of conservatives

5. Active opposition of real conservatives

6. Members’ meetings that are strained and ungracious

7. Flurry of activity

8. Expressions of “love” for everyone

9. Eloquent arguments for modernization

10. Token, cooperative, conservatives lauded

11. Messages on the old paths, etc.

12. Insincere concessions to conservatives

13. Liberals (who look conservative) typically encourage the process

 

Real prophets are rejected all through this process

 

So many times the teaching neglects major areas of doctrine and does not include specific applications. The people are not fed Spiritually. They have to seek their Spiritual direction elsewhere.

Policies and beliefs and polity are typically in place but not practiced or required. After long disuse of the principles, the practice trumps the policy and the assumption is that the new policy is the accepted practice no matter how far it is from the original belief and practice.

Matthew 18 is to settle personal issues and disagreements. It is not for dealing with major deviations from the teaching of Scripture. However, if there is a concern about practices that are not Biblical, the person with the concern is told to apply Matthew 18. This complete absolves the congregation and the leaders from responsibility of dealing with the sin.

Slowly the more conservative members are overlooked for position and more progressive members are placed in position and noticed and announced and appreciated for their contributions.

As time goes on the real conservatives are intentionally eliminated from positions and are not involved in committees and decision making. Their presence is kept in the minority and can be voted out or down as needed. If any real conservatives get in positions of authority, they are not placed in positions of importance and their convictions are not honored.

Meetings of members are strained and things are said and done that are unkind and unloving and ungracious. Powerful people say things that are designed to make their position look good and the others look bad. Ministers meetings and council meetings are polarized and political. Many people do not know what is happening. They just want peace.

About this time there is typically a flurry of activity. People get involved in impressive programs and activities. These are noticed, announced, prayed for and held up as leaders. This phase is typically short-lived.

Leaders and important people in the congregation then put on a full-court-press being nice and loving to everyone to impress the congregation that the direction is of God and is truly a movement of love. Most people are susceptible to that kind of care and can not realize that it is not genuine and is calculated to bring everyone into the new liberal orbit.

Eloquent arguments are given for why the new ways are better and why we need to jettison former practices that separated us from the world so we can better evangelize and win the world and be current in our applications.

Conservatives will be uncomfortable with all this activity. However, some conservatives are brought into the orbit and cooperate with the modernization. These “conservatives” are lauded for their faithfulness and told how much they are needed and appreciated. They are given positions that make them feel useful and important.

Messages and lessons on the “old paths” and honoring our heritage are typical at this point in the process. References to faithful old members of times past and missionaries and memories are included to make people feel like they are still living the Biblical ways.

Concessions are made to conservatives. These are not sincere. They are told that they are right and that they are needed but that times are changing and we cannot win the world with the old ways. They are told not to try to make new believers fit into the old molds of days gone by.

There are always men and women who look conservative but are really liberal/progressive. These people talk both ways – to the conservatives and to the progressives. They make everyone feel OK with the direction. They are persuasive and impressive. They are the people primarily responsible for the liberal direction of the congregation.

 

 

Actually I observed this happen to Brethren in Christ congregations in the 1960s.

It continues to happen to Brethren and Mennonite congregations across the country.

The process is so gradual that it is almost imperceptible. Only Spiritual discernment can avert the progressive process that takes people away from God and His Word.

Unfortunately, the real conservatives are eliminated. They are the ones who would be the nucleus of a strong congregation into the future. The “flurry of excitement” people who get the attention are not long-term loyal. They will go with the next flurry of excitement move where ever it happens.

Another result is that the youth leave. They are encouraged initially because they are given room and less direction but they eventually want more than they are given and they leave. They also remember the difficult member’s meetings and things that are said and they distance themselves from that unchristian behavior. Eventually, they just leave. They marry outside of the group and go the easiest place to fellowship.

Real prophets who bring Scripture and history and logic and facts are rejected. They are too straight forward and truthful.

This is a sad but true accounting of our history. It is a history in the making. It does not stop. One would think that maybe we would learn but, we do not. Of course, many people are quite comfortable with the more worldly approach of the modern way. So, there is no hint that it will stop anytime soon.

May the Good Lord grant us wisdom and discernment to obey His word and listen to His prophets. May He give us Spiritual guidance beyond our ability and lead us in paths of obedience and joy. May we be faithful to Him and His Holy Spirit now and always. Amen

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