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The recent events in Arkansas force me to comment further on the apparent non-existence of a functional ecclesiology in today’s evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Generally, that is. There are exceptions, one that I will identify.

I don’t know that “local church” amounts to an adequate ecclesiology to deal with the human condition and relationships in the body of Christ. Too much of this modern, liberal sense of independence leaves leaders unaccountable. A few, though, will make their pastors accountable to the board. But even then the pastor may have sway over the constituency of those to whom he is accountable.

Those groups who are more loosely associated often call themselves fellowships.  They depend upon peer pressure and we all know how well that works with hidden sin.

Some denominations have the facility for discipline.  On the weaker side of discipline we saw the failure of the AG discipline of Jimmy Swaggart.  They let him run footloose for the celebrity but were unable to rein him in when the need was finally unavoidable.  On the positive side I observed the Mennonite Brethren leadership step in and deal firmly with a serious pastoral issue.  All the details were pretty hush, but the actions were effective.

Anyone who has observed pastoral misconduct has also seen the abuse of authority.   Strong and unquestionable authority provides a cover for affairs, for pornography, for fiscal abuses, and any other sin (or crime) of convenience.  Let’s not forget Rome’s propensity to hide its abusers.

So I think there is good reason to question the existence of ecclesiology.  Sure, there is an universal church, the body, but is there really much of a functional church?  All said, the inadequacy of our practical ecclesiology out to be self-evident.  It barely exists.  If we are to avoid problems like this, perhaps we ought to take our ecclesiology to where it ought to be.  Or are we willing to let Arkansas repeat itself in our churches?

More on: The Church, Theology

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