Yesterday I was asked by a friend of mine to comment on why I go to church where I do. Those who know me personally, or who read this blog, will properly understand that my religious beliefs and practices are a matter of considerable importance to me, and a notable amount of blog entries have been devoted to organizational politics. That said, while I have written rather sarcastic commentary about some other organizations (and their defenders) and while I have given encouragement and support to my own particular organization, I have never actually given a lengthy examination of why I attend the United Church of God, despite my own longtime and loyal membership to that organization. Therefore, since yesterday I have pondered the subject, wondering how personal I ought to make my explanation, given that religion, politics, personality, and personal background are closely connected in my life and behavior.
However, as it happened, today at the Feast of Tabernacles the festival video on being fitted snugly together within the body of Christ was shown, and it just so happened (not by my plan) that Mr. Luker (in his 1995 statements at the Indianapolis conference) as well as the members of the United Church of God in New England, gave in their own words the same reasons that have led me to remain a loyal and active member of the United Church of God. So, while I am still not sure as to how personal I ought to make this message, I was gratified to see and hear that even if my own personal background and experience is distinctive, that the precise reasons for my own organizational loyalty appear to be much more widespread. And that is something that I find gratifying.
There is a core set of reasons why I belong to the United Church of God and not one of the hundreds of other Church of God organizations and congregations that have split off of the Worldwide Church of God that largely share the same doctrinal beliefs. For one, I have a strong hostility both to authoritarian rule as well as anarchy. I have zero interest in following any kind of one-man top-down rulership model that pretends to be godly government. However, I also have zero interest in being part of a local congregation that is purely focused on local matters and has no evangelistic work focused on the general public. That combination of an interest in an evangelistic work and a disinterest in authoritarian politics drastically reduces the ground within the spectrum of the Church of God culture where I belong and feel comfortable.
And there are other reasons why I attended the United Church of God and support it so loyally and passionately (as most readers of my blog can well attest, whether they support or bemoan that advocacy), which coincidentally (or not) are shared by others. For one, I am a passionate believer that leadership positions are opportunities for service to others rather than opportunities to lord it over others as some kind of aristocrats and elites. On principle I tend to loathe elite hierarchies. I am passionate in my interests of service to others, both in the local congregation as well as in other areas (as well as other countries). I tend to be disinterested in turf battles and willing to serve wherever I have a talent or ability, without needing to be asked. Being with people of like mind is greatly gratifying to me, and that appears to be the case here and now.
A greatly underestimated reason why I attend United is my disinclination in exclusivism. A combination of organizational loyalty with a refusal to countenance my organization being the only part of the body of Christ (and an open and honest recognition that God can work with many people and organizations) is a distinctive sort of combination that is fairly unusual within the larger Church of God culture. Like the combination between servant leadership and hostility to authoritarian hierarchies and an externally focused work that includes serving the brethren and the wider world, a vital aspect of my support of the United Church of God is a commitment to cooperation with others, with balance, with moderation, with an avoidance of extremes as well as an active desire to be part of a cooperative and loving church family that is united with a focused and broad evangelistic mission that includes an appreciation of the active role of ordinary members. And that longing for a house united is why I am a part of the United Church of God, as well as why I do not believe that support requires me to badmouth others who are of like mind and spirit in other organizations who I consider to be brethren and fellow members of the Body of Christ.