| ON THE NEED FOR RECONCILIATION BY THE CHURCH
By: Jerry S. Maneker
“…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the
message of reconciliation to us.” (2Corinthians 5:19)
When we think of “reconciliation,” we usually think of it in terms of individuals and their relationships with each other.
Indeed, we are admonished to reconcile ourselves with each other before we dare approach God. (Matthew 5:23-24)
Clearly, I’m not negating the need for personal reconciliation whenever possible. However, I want to focus on what I, and
most other “progressive” Christians, consider to be of paramount importance in these troubled times: the need for much
of the organized Church to reconcile itself both with the human beings of which it is comprised, as well as with non-
Christians who may well look upon us with dismay, if not distaste, and with its mandate from God Himself.
A major definition of “reconciliation” is: “the process of making consistent or compatible.” (Random House Webster’s
College Dictionary) In these times, when much of the organized Church has either aligned itself with, or capitulated to,
the radical right wing in the United States, we have to assess where we are and where we are headed as an instrument
of God. When much of the Church affirms or is silent when we invade another country without provocation, killing at
least one hundred thousand innocent men, women, and children; when it initiates and/or condones hateful rhetoric
against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people; when it remains silent in the face of corporate sins that cry out
to God for redress while exclusively hammering individual sins for which Christ died, it is high time that we called for its
reconciliation to people and to its return to the will of God as revealed in Scripture and in the hearts of His people.
G.K. Chesterton once said that, “The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of
being a child of his age.” There is a lot to be said for treasuring tradition! We can and do learn a lot from those who
preceded us, negating our need to reinvent the wheels of mistakes that can be avoided by listening to their wisdom.
However, “truths” of a different age and place are not necessarily compatible with the current age in which we live; to
consign the Church to living in “tradition,” prevents its prophetic voice from being heard as an instrument of God for
which it was originally developed. To continue with the pious platitudes, largely emanating from “tradition” and
prejudice, which ignore the need for justice and equal civil and religious rights of people, helps consign the Church to an
increasingly irrelevant place in contemporary, industrialized society. By so doing, the Church has broken faith with its
people, with non-Christians, and with God Himself!
Hence, many people are not only leaving the Church, but are not even taking it seriously in their assessment of
alternatives as to how to navigate their way through life. More to the point, while there seems to be increasing
secularization in society, fundamentalist churches for the past couple of decades have had noticeable increases in their
membership, and this phenomenon is not all to the good.
Much of fundamentalism encourages and requires a one dimensional view of life and of God, and broaches no
deviation, lest the “deviant” be shunned and ostracized by those whom he or she has come to respect and even love.
The unstated but palpable message of fundamentalism of any stripe is, “My way or the highway.” Fundamentalism has
frighteningly come to overtake much of the organized Church and we are just beginning to see some of its bitter fruit in
both the political and social arenas.
Fundamentalism feeds itself on the politics of exclusion, whereby “morality” is seen to be on a scale the epitome of which
justifies membership in “the Church.” Although the mantra, “We are all sinners saved by grace,” is routinely recited,
most professing Christians in fundamentalist and many other churches don’t really believe it. Most believe that one’s
degree of “morality” defines whether or not one is a Christian!
This belief contradicts Scripture, as the most “moral” person in the world can’t approach God’s “righteousness.” We are
all sinners who fall short of the mark of God’s righteousness, whether we be Charles Manson or Mother Theresa! The
false gospel of legalism and perfectionism, measuring “Christianity” on the basis of one’s theological beliefs and
behavior that conforms to the culturally approved and expected behaviors viewed by most people as “Christian,” is
diametrically opposed to the Gospel message of grace, faith, love, reconciliation, and inclusiveness.
The Church, to be worthy of its name and purpose, must speak out and reclaim its mandate from those who have
infiltrated it and usurped its authority, twisting its message, twisting the Gospel, to be in accord with their own prejudices,
frequently borne of tradition, but also frequently borne of their own one dimensional, sometimes perverse, natures.
Bureaucracy, patriarchy, and hierarchy have come to define much of the Church, and for that we are all in a world of
hurt! I recall after the “trial” of Beth Stroud, a minister in the United Methodist Church, a spokesman justified the “guilty”
verdict affirming that a lesbian could not be in a committed relationship and still retain her ministerial credentials. His
manner was so unctuous and bureaucratic it made me sick! The United Methodist Church’s justifications for that “trial”
and “guilty” verdict dealt with “Church law,” and “tradition”; I never once heard God mentioned in the equation in all of
the Church’s pronouncements regarding this matter.
Are these phenomena representative of the Church? Does God want us to be bound by tradition, bureaucracy, and the
politics of exclusion? Has the Church been designed and consigned to be comprised of people who think one
dimensionally, seeing only black and white when reality shows us that most of life is comprised of varying shades of
grey? Has the Church been designed to attract increasing numbers of such limited human beings and exclude or “turn
off” many intelligent and sensitive people? Is this what we have become and is this our destiny?
Clearly not! But to understand our reason for hope lies in our faith in what, actually, is the Church. Simply put, the
Church on this earth is comprised of local congregations who belong to the Lord; in the heavenly realm, the Church is
comprised of all those who belong to the Lord. A building does not define a Church. A Church is defined by, and
comprised of, those inside or outside of a building who seek God’s will because they have been chosen by Him to be His
voice, His agent, in seeking to bring love, justice, and reconciliation to this fallen world. (2Corinthians 5:20)
Indeed, a Christian is defined by such fruit. As Jesus says, “…the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33) To the
degree the Church is comprised of Christians, it is to that degree that it will show love, mercy, and compassion for
others; fight for justice for the oppressed, the poor, the marginalized, the pariahs of society. It will not let corporate sins
go unaddressed! Its people will not practice in any way the politics of exclusion and compound that felony by doing so
while invoking God’s name! We will show the world that we are Jesus’ ambassadors on this earth, called to reflect His
grace and demands for justice and righteousness in this world (Amos 5:24), so that we can show ourselves worthy of His
having called us to this high and noble purpose.
Despite our frailties and sin-natures, God has called each of His children to do such work on His behalf! By standing up
to injustice; by speaking truth to power; by publicly leaving perverted repressive and oppressive “churches” and
denominations that seek to exclude the oppressed from their fellowship, and which use their undeserved credibility to
engage in, and create a climate for, such exclusion and oppression in society, the Church can finally take some steps in
reconciling itself with people and with God’s mandate to us to be vehicles of grace and compassion in this sin-cursed
We have come to the point where the Church must reclaim its mandate from God and thereby reconcile itself with those
who have looked, or would like to have looked, to it as a beacon of light that leads the way to God. And by so doing, the
Church will make the steps necessary for it to be finally reconciled to the purposes and Person of God Himself.