For the Bride: Introduction

Welcome to a new weekly theme that will appear each Friday. It’s a series of reflections related to my book, ‘For the Sake of the Bride: Restoring the Church to Her Intended Beauty’ (Abingdon Press, 2014).  In order to best understand the context for this series, I urge you to read the book. Here is the link to get the book:

For the Sake of the Bride’ is the outcome of a deeply moving experience I had during Lent 2014–a feeling that the Church is being shamed by sibling rivalry.  Her bridal gown is being shredded, leaving her life weakened and her witness diminished.  The Spirit said, “Enough is enough,” and I felt a call to write about what I was experiencing.

As an Elder in The United Methodist Church, I have a particular concern for our denomination’s methods of debate and the contentiousness that often accompanies it, and especially how that gets expressed in social media and reported by the news media. From my vantage point (others have different ones), I wrote the book as one motivated to preserve the unity of the United Methodist Church and avoid schism.

For this to happen, I believe we must combine three elements…

(1) the way of love as revealed in Scripture–a radical commitment to the two great commandments and the fruit of the Spirit.  I work with the Trinity and Paul to show this.

(2) the practice of non-judgment–a radical refusal by one individual to pass judgment on another.  I show how the early church enacted this.

(3) the process of the ’round table’–a radical use of holy conferencing used by the Church and illustrated in the Round Table process that E. Stanley Jones used to move beyond controversy.

Until these three pillars are in place, we have little hope of avoiding schism.  But with them, we can have hope that God can still do a work among us.

After some posts describing selected debilitating factors that threaten the Church’s unity, I will turn to the three pillars and expand on them beyond what I only began in the book.  I noted in the book that I view it as a work in progress.  This series of posts will illustrate the ongoing nature of my journey, most especially in my hope to be a voice for preserving unity in the Church.

If the unity of the Church is of particular concern to you, you may want to study my book in your congregation, using the book’s content and these weekly posts to help inform, inspire, and direct your interaction.

Because caustic comments can so quickly attach to writing on social media, I am not allowing comments for this series.  I am writing to encourage a  consideration of ideas, not to generate an agreement/disagreement atmosphere.

Underneath everything is my assumption that, despite our differences, we all love the Church and seek the best for her.  On the basis of that assumption, I believe God is using all our vantage points and perspectives to restore the Bride to her intended beauty.  I pray my writing will contribute to that for you personally, and for any in your congregation who may follow along with you.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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