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Obadiah on the Church – Past, Present and Future

by ervte

Obadiah’s mind wanders into the church. But not off-topic. We learned how to be the church in my church. Obadiah’s mind has wandered to a small prefabricated building nestled against St. Peter’s Basilica in Adelaide, like a tugboat pushing against a mighty ship.

It’s the Adelaide Quaker meeting house, where my twin sister was married. (He’s now a “canon” of the cathedral next door, but that’s another story, although it fits into Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles novels – Obadiah Slope, the “terrible evangelical,” is a character in the books.)Obadiah on the Church - Past, Present and Future

My wandering mind was triggered by 1 Corinthians 14:26 “What shall we say then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.”

I’ve seen some of this at the Quaker meeting house—no tongues, however, which can be found elsewhere.

I mused (and I think correctly) that no one is completely ecclesiastical as described in the New Testament. It is a rare Sunday gathering open to anyone “with a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a language, or an interpretation.”

Prayer book services can be wonderful. They include more scripture reading than most modern services.

Praise music services also work for Obadiah – every great move of God is marked by music.

And the half-house service Obadiah gets on Sunday at his Anglican gathering in Sydney nourishes him.

But the idea of 1 Corinthians 14:26 is hard to find in a Sunday service.

Quakers do well, but another element of the Church—education—is missing if Mr. Slope can be equally critical. But sitting and waiting for the Spirit to inspire and accepting the discipline to respect all who speak can be refreshing.

On the other hand: “I was not a member of a Christian congregation because I had not found anyone who had heard or obeyed the commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Name to blame: Readers with far too much knowledge of church history for their good may have realized that Obadiah’s real surname – Sandeman – is the name of a church founded in Scotland that held a full meal each week between mornings, a called love feast, and afternoon services. The Sandemanians believed that amassing wealth was sinful and practiced foot washing.

But this promiscuous column that has roamed through many denominations would be considered sinful by the Sandemanians because they would only have intercourse with each other.

Nonpolitical: The Sandemanians rejected the political Presbyterianism of 18th-century Scotland, which sought an established church, believing the church to be spiritual and not to use the organs of the state. Maybe that’s a Sandemanian thought that might make sense today.

No Sunday Coffees: Seen on a local coffee “hours of business” message painted on their door. “Sunday Exodus 31:15”

Evangelicals are the problem: read this quote, and I’ll tell you where it comes from.

“Apart from the scandal of pedophile Roman Catholic priests, bishops, and a few cardinals, no other group has done more damage to evangelism and the gospel’s spread in America than evangelicals.

The political alliance of millions of evangelicals on the side of Donald Trump fueled the rise of Christian nationalism, racism, xenophobia, fear-mongering, hatred, and the blending of the gospel with American civil religion. This has ruined the proclamation of the Good News to secular America. Trump used evangelicals as useful idiots for his base to run MAGA America, even though he despised them. In private, Trump spoke of believers with cynicism and contempt. †

Is it from the left? Or maybe a trendy evangelical one? It is a quote from David Virtue, a very conservative and often irascible commentator on American churches, especially Anglicans.

Across the pond, John Hayward, a British mathematician who has researched the decline of the church, agrees that politics will not save churches. He contends that most churches in the UK, except some newer evangelical churches, have not converted enough people to survive.

“No, it’s not all doom and gloom, but if people want to go back to a time when Christianity was central to the nation and the church was central to its influence, they are looking at the wrong model. We see this in the US, where they are on the cusp of facing a rapid decline of the church, even among stalwarts like the Southern Baptists.

“Christians in the US have tried to keep the culture Christian through political campaigns. But culture becomes Christian because we spread the faith among people who are not Christians. We cannot artificially keep a culture Christian; we need to focus on making converts. Our job is to grow the Church and change people. Culture changes because people change.”

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