Hall: Church should carry out mandate regardless of denomination
Room must be made for everyone who believes in Christ, but has a different way of expressing their belief, according to New Covenant Baptist Church Pastor Emeritus Bishop Simeon Hall. When that is done, he said the spirit of ecumenism which Christ predicted would begin to be embraced by all communities.
“The highest point in Christian worship takes place when partakers of the bread and the cup – in a cathedral, a chapel, a home or in a dungeon – when we eat and drink, we remember what Christ did for us all,” said Hall.
“The Eucharist … Holy Communion is the highest symbol of Christ atoning death for us. It shows our unbreakable, irrevocable union with Christ. When we eat and drink, we remember the finished work of Christ and in doing so we evidence our spiritual connection and relationship with millions who also claim him as Lord, but their style and clothes and worship all differ from ours.”
During the Easter season, Hall called for the Christian church to carry out its mandate regardless of its denominational expression, to present Christ, the risen Lord to the world in a fashion that enables all people to better themselves socially, economically, morally, spirituality and environmentally.
“When we read the history of the churches of the Apostolic era, it is abundantly clear that Christian unity was a major priority that they pursued with much determination,” he said. “The church in our Bahamas, should ask itself, how can a divided church help to redeem a divided broken society?”
According to Hall, ecumenism, is the predisposition of churches to engage in dialogue with, and provide ways to engage in social actions with other churches. He is of the belief that the average adult who attends any church was not born into that church.
Referencing himself, Hall said his mother was Baptist, his father Pentecostal, and as an infant, he was Christened/dedicated in an Anglican church. The first school he attended was Catholic. He made a confession in a Brethren church and started preaching in a Baptist church. As a result, he said ecumenism for him has always been the theological prism through which he experienced God.
“Personally, I am a Christian by my faith in the risen, living Christ. I am a Baptist by tradition, but I also embrace conversation and fellowship of other Christians, especially their leaders,” he said.
“The God of the Bible is a global God so his church must be global,” said the retired Hall.
He said the preacher of a church who believes they are singularly God’s only gift to The Bahamas will soon see that God will not share his glory with anyone.
Hall said he has seen items in the Liturgy of non-Baptist chronicles that he found inspiring and informative.
“Theologian H. Reinhold Niebuhr in his book, ‘The Social Sources or Denominationalism’ makes the telling commentary that most Christian denominations have their genesis in social, political and racial issues, rather than theological ones.”
Speaking to a mega church in the United States which suffered an irreparable split because they could not agree where to place the new restroom, Hall asked, “Where is the spirit of love and reconciliation in that kind of Ecclesiastical debacle? Ecumenism means that churches may sheath their swords by which self-inflicted wounds are placed on each other and work together.”
Hall said historical traditions might be different, and methods of worship may be varied, but he said until people accept that the omnipotent God must not be reduced and circumscribed into the smallness of denominational insularity, that there will continue to be a divided church. And he said the division is so pronounced that it impedes the Christian witness about peace, reconciliation and brotherhood.
“It is time for the leaders of the Christian churches in The Bahamas to begin an interdenominational conversation on ways we can be more effective and ecumenical in our approach to national development,” he said. “On a subliminal level, the latent religious animosity, disdain and suspicion we hold towards each other is clearly unchristian and clearly not the spirit of Christ.”
Referencing the Protestant Reformation which he said was a critical, perhaps even necessary juncture in church history, Hall said Ecumenists are questioning if it went too far to the right and that all extremes are also dangerous.
“As a church, we are challenged always to strive to never become like the wrong we protested and was successful in replacing. Martin Luther, Soren Kierkegaard, John Calvin, St. Augustine, Rudolph Bultmann, C.S. Lewis were all firm in what they believed – but in other writings they made room for verbal intellectual intercourse with others.”
Hall said that generally speaking, the denominational divide is more social than doctrinal or theological. And he said that is sad.
“I have had much success with the class “The Call and Science of Preaching.” Hundreds of persons from various Christian churches have attended this 10-week course in Homiletics. I usually challenge students to know as much as possible about their individual denominations. I also like to prompt their thinking and cause them to engage in passionate discussions when I ask questions such as: Are you a Christian because you were born in a country where Christianity is the dominant expression of faith? When you take Holy Communion, the Eucharist – the Lord’s Supper, is it the actual body and blood of Christ or just a symbol? What is going to happen to those Christians who know Christ but not like you do? When you get to Heaven how many Gods will you see, and which one?”
Hall said most participants addressed his “provocative” questions based on their church’s teaching.
He said the divisions in the church are historical, but in search of Biblical relevance people should lead the way with examples of how incidences of difference need not stop them from together helping a wounded human being on the side of the road.