Thesis 6: The Church exists in a divided state, not just denominationally, but also in terms of race, gender, sexuality, economics, etc, rendering all readings implicitly incomplete.
Christ has given the Spirit as the bridge between the past and present to assist the missionary Church in being made “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” However, the Church exists, and has always existed, in a state of division. While division finds its primary manifestation in the proliferation of denominations, dramatically impairing the Church’s ability to hear the Word of God in Scripture and deafening her pneumatologically, she is also racked by divisions in terms of race, gender, sexuality, politics, economics, and geography. Tensions within Scripture are augmented by the ways the sinful church perverts or neglects the Church’s diversity in the present.
As Joel Green notes, individual persons and individual communities’ proclivity towards self-deception necessitates that the Church’s readings of Scripture be accountable not only to ecumenical differences and dialogues, but must also be undertaken within multigenerational and multicultural settings, paying special heed to the voices of the marginalized, oppressed, and ignored.(15) Such a setting is not only required for accurate reading, but is also mandated by Christ’s own identification with “the least of these” in Matt. 25.31f and throughout the Gospels. Such humble and reconciliatory readings are thus themselves part of the witness of the Church of its faithfulness to the Gospel of new creation, without which, the Church can neither read well, nor fully proclaim Christ. Readings in such conditions are thus never exhaustive, but always constitute risks, which must either be upheld or discontinued in continuing relationship and ongoing hermeneutical negotiation. We cannot know fully until we can know together, and such communal knowing can only follow communal confession and mutual humility.
(Caveat: This is not to say that all voices are necessarily correct in their readings. See previous theses. However, the North American churches can no longer refuse to read the Bible with the rest of the world. Straight and gay Christians cannot afford to remain separate in their textual reasonings. White Christians cannot hope to find salvation without listening to the voices of those they have and continue to oppress. Protestants, Catholics, Pentecostals and Evangelicals must acknowledge their dependence on one another. This points towards ecumenism, both denominationally, and also in terms of the other categories mentioned above. See, for example, the New Delhi Statement of the WCC. It is our faithfulness to the Lord Christ that is at stake in our willingness to listen, to be taught, and to teach one another.)
15 Joel Green, “The (Re-)Turn to Narrative” in Narrative Reading, Narrative Preaching (ed. Joel Green. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 23.