At some point early on you have to discuss theology. We can be theologically similar and have differing visions and the project will fall at the start. However if we have the same vision but differing theology the likely prospect is division but later on - vision (or necessity) will carry things for a while but sooner or later the theological fault lines will emerge.
You can't rush this process, you can't bypass it and you mustn't ignore it. If you do the pain will be great later on. So we hit it in the third week and we're still at it...we're in no hurry.The danger of rushing the process is that without rigorous and honest discussion, if differences develop later on, one party will feel not listened to, wounded, neglected or walked over. Hardly Christ-honouring.
So far we've had some pretty frank and helpful discussions - we agree on all the headline issues. We agree on the authority of Scripture, the humanity and divinity of Jesus, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. We agree on believers baptism, the importance of preaching, the urgency of mission, the need for compassion and mercy, the call to love one another. There's lots of agreement.
We also agree in some areas where we don't believe we need complete agreement. In some areas we're willing to agree to disagree. We don't need to think the same about the details of the second coming (only that there will be one), in a similar way we don't need to think the same about the beginning (only that God began the beginning), we can even live with differences within the reformed movement. Not all of us sign up to all of TULIP for example.
Having said all that there are some differences that we're working through - the place, role and appointment of deacons and elders, the role of Ephesians 4 ministries, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the place of the gifts of the Spirit today and healing for example...no doubt there will be some more issues to work through as well.
So far the discussions have been productive, fruitful, generous, open, passionate yet lacking in the kind of heat that so often keeps Christians apart. Please pray that our discussions will continue to be Christ-like, and that we receive wisdom to work things through biblically. I'll keep you informed.
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