The Church in Council, Working Through its Disagreements

Less than 20 years after the Church began in Jerusalem on Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the still-new church, having spread outside of Jewish lands into major Roman cities, faced a crisis of conflict that threatened its existence. In the previous Blog, I mentioned this conflict, recorded in Acts 15, and I elaborated that Holy Spirit led the Church to resolve this conflict. Can the Church today rediscover the value of councils as a means of encouraging and strengthening oneness? One of my professors, Dr. Dan Rogers of Grace Communion Seminary, once commented: “Also instructive is the process Luke lays out in Acts 15 for resolving the greatest divisive controversy in the history of the Church. It may be viewed as a paradigm for the Church striving for oneness. And that paradigm can be incredibly useful in dealing with disagreements/divisions in a local congregation (or in a denomination): 1) disagreement 2) open discussion 3) discerning God’s will 4) responding to God’s will 5) participating with God in his will through action steps resulting in unity/consensus.”

Although leadership in a local congregation or denomination can do much to facilitate a council, I believe the process Dr. Rogers listed can work at all levels in the Church if the combatants are willing to humbly accept the Spirit’s lead. Councils were effective in early Church history. Why couldn’t American Church leaders who hold different viewpoints on matters such as abortion, contraception, marriage, guns, and any other issue that divides not only the nation but also Christians, meet together and humbly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit toward unified Church positions? Such an open forum may include an examination of core beliefs that hinder unity as the Church leaders did in the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15.

Definitely, it would not be easy, but is anything impossible to those who will trust in Jesus and try to do things His way? What might happen if leaders start to pray for, instead of against, each other? How about talking to, instead about or against, each other? Politicians may be selfishly motivated, but Christians have a far better and shared motivation in Jesus Christ to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).