Rick Warren took a lot of heat for his efforts at battling AIDS in Africa, not as much for the battle as for his associations in the battle. For asking Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Bono (among others) to be part of his summit on the issue, he was criticized. Did he step over the line in cooperating with people who are not of “like faith,” and exactly how far should we cooperate with others as we do our work in this world?
Our local ministerial alliance is a loose nit group of 10 churches who primarily take care of transients who are passing through town. We do, however, sponsor two annual worship services. We have a community Thanksgiving service that rotates among the churches and a baccalaureate service at the high school each year. Our regular members are from SBC, United Methodist, Nazarene, Church Of God, United Pentecostal, and Nondenominational Charismatic churches. There’s always some tension in the air because of our beliefs, but nothing compared to “the Mormon affair.”
Whoever has a kid graduating gets to preach the baccalaureate service. In the ten years I’ve been involved we’ve had only two problems with that rotation. The first was a donnybrook between the Pentecostal and Nazarene pastors when they both had kids graduating. The next was when the Mormon preacher wanted to speak. It was so serious that we had a special called meeting; the kind of meeting Baptists have when the preacher is about to be handed his hat. In the end we decided that the Mormons could not speak, because they aren’t orthodox Christians. There was a limit to our cooperative efforts, and that was it.
Well, I couldn’t leave well-enough alone, so I asked the rest of them, “Just exactly what do we all believe? Do we really agree on Christ? Why don’t we talk about it like big boys and deal with our differences so we can decide how we can agree?” I listened as pins dropped. No one wanted to go there. We just wanted to make sure Joseph Smith wasn’t invited to Baccalaureate. So, I’ve adopted some rules for cooperation:
1st – I’ll do manual labor with anyone. I don’t call it non-spiritual, because everything I do is spiritual. Maybe I should call it non-proclamatory labor. For example, it didn’t matter which group showed up to mop our fellowship hall floor when we had 80 Katrina evacuees living in our gym.
2nd – I only worship with those who are orthodox Christians. That means I won’t be part of a worship service led by or participating with Mormons. It also means I am very iffy about the same with Roman Catholics, Oneness Pentecostals, etc., and I would probably walk out on Kenneth Copeland.
3rd – I only support orthodox ministries who have like-minded ministry goals. What that means, I don’t know. It used to be good enough to be Baptist. Not any more. Now I have to define myself as reformed or not, emergent or not, cessationist or not, drinking or non-drinking, etc.
As I read and talk with those inside our convention, it seems we have found many more ways not to cooperate than we have to cooperate. I wonder how right we are? So what about you? How far is too far? What rules do you live by when it comes to cooperation?