Sunday, 29 December 2013

What is the status of non-denominational/ unaffiliated Christians?


Although I have a church I support to a significant extent and attend sometimes but not regularly; I would not be able to say I was a member of any specific church nor would I regard myself as a member of any specific denomination.

I am thus essentially an unaffiliated Christian. 


I have been a baptised and confirmed member of the Church of England, or an Anglican - but have come to regard the CoE as gone over to the Dark Side so far and so fully that it would be counterproductive to maintain my erstwhile loyalty to the institution.

In a sense I remain loyal to the best of the CoE and to the historical church - but that best is now so small and feeble a thing - compared with the size and dominance of the evil element - that in practice it means little. And the Anglican affiliation beyond the specifically English church, is mostly a matter of church order, important but not really my business.

Other people I know very well continue to find some people and parts of the actually-existing CoE - and its exceptionally rich textual, liturgical and historical resources - to be a basis for their own spiritual progress. But for me, personally, as a matter of subjective fact; these wonders and delights are in practice overwhelmed by the intensely-dismaying and despair-inducing modern daily realities of CoE policy and practice. 


What is a specific church or denomination for, in the scheme of things? I am sure that no church holds the keys of salvation and never has - we are saved or damned by our own choice. So what then?

A church or a denomination might help or hinder this choice in any particular time, place and person; but does not determine it. Many self-identified 'Christian' churches nowadays - in my firm view - work zealously and effectively against the salvation of their members.

Probably, all churches do this to some extent, inadvertently, but the process now seems purposive and systematic in many or most situations.


So, good, useful, genuine churches and denominations are about theosis, sanctification, spiritual progress - they are about building-upon salvation.

I think we can only know whether or not this is actually happening by looking within ourselves, by prayer, by using love to develop a sensitivity to a growth - or shrinkage - of love in ourselves.

A good church will en-courage us (give us courage), and will work primarily by love - but maybe there are no good churches accessible, and maybe the accessible good churches are too exclusive for us personally in our current circumstance? Then we are unaffiliated.


To be unaffiliated is a seriously-sub-optimal state to be in - it is not something you would wish upon yourself or anybody else; and always there is the hope of finding a good church and a good church which we feel impelling to commit to.

But this ought not to be considered a matter of urgency, rather I believe the virtue of patience is necessary.

I think the unaffiliated need to be patient to hope for, work for, and await change in circumstances, and change in themselves. 


This hesitant state of the unaffiliated is frustrating, even annoying, for the sincere affiliated Christians, who have found a niche in a church or denomination, who are experiencing theosis, and who are naturally keen for the unaffiliated to commit and join the good and necessary work.

The unaffiliated should be candid to admit and repent that they are parasites on the actual churches and denominations (especially those of the past).

But while it is seriously suboptimal, it is not unreasonable for any specific person at any particular time to be an unaffiliated Christian - and although the unaffiliated cannot progress far or fast in theosis; I would hope that they may be as bold, and devout, and as mission-orientated, and as loving a Christian as all but the best of those within the (minority of) real Christian churches and denominations.  



Ugh said...

Interestingly enough I am/was in a similar situation. Baptized Roman Catholic in which I was immersed for years while raising children. The sex scandals and mismanagement drove us away in utter disgust (happening right in our parish). We drifted for years eventually finding ourselves in an unaffiliated mega church with an exceptional minister.

I do miss some of the traditions and Magisterium of the Church, but I am so impressed with deep dive into biblical education that is so lacking in the Catholic mass structure. It is a bit like going to a concert followed by a lecture, but I walk out every Sunday thinking and contemplating the Word instead of worrying that I missed the beginning of the football game. Catholic Mass was something I did once a week - now I re-listen to the sermons on the Internet and absorb what I learned so that I can work toward living a Kingdom life.

Oddly, this very large and far reaching church as an institution is also searching for an affiliation for the same reasons you touch on in this message.

Arakawa said...

I suppose the tagline for the right attitude to theosis when lacking a church would be, "before you try to become a god, first focus on being a proper human being".

Bruce Charlton said...

@A - Indeed. But theosis is often misrepresented (by Protestants). If said glibly it can sound either absurd or astonishingly evil to want to become a god - yet it is very clearly Biblically-enjoined.

So the only questions are things like what this means (i.e what it means to become a god), and how to set about doing it (following the Commandments, obvioously - but what else?); and it is not really legitimate for Christians utterly to ignore or dispute the necessity for theosis.

In practice, it is not likely that we moderns will get far along the path of theosis, (at least not in this life - and the possibilities of theosis after mortal life are disputed between denominations). We may manage only baby steps with backsliding.

Yet I think it is valuable to know and ponder and openly discuss such matters, as it helps to keep us pointed in the right direction.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ugh - In general I find evangelical/ Protestant church services almost entirely dull and spiritually uninspiring, and often mildly unpleasant (e.g. the incessant and time-wasting singing) - but some, indeed most, of the 'teaching' sermons have been superb - just as you describe.

davidstanley said...

I am in a similar situation with our evangelical Anglican church. The rector preaches excellent sermons but I can hardly stand the narcissistic wimpery of most of the music. But what would I replace it with? We attend the informal service because it seems more suitable for the children but if I go alone 8 am prayer book is my choice.
Having infected my mind with DE and orthosphere ideas I am struggling to fit in and find much in common with others in the congregation.

Bruce Charlton said...

Comment from asdf


My experience has been the complete and utter opposite of yours on every single point you made, so I wouldn't know where to begin.

I have a feeling that churches are very denomination specific, though I'd advise against looking for perfection in any one congregation or sect. The Screwtape letter on being a taster of churches comes to mind.


My experience with Protestant churches is that their sermons are very much like progressive TED talks. Which are stimulating compared to boring old Catholic homilies but ultimately false, and usually there is a lot of lies and liberalism smuggled into the ideas (which are almost always topical mass media approved sorts of things).



wrt Screwtape. Lewis was probably giving good advice for 60 years ago when he said to go to the nearest 'branch' of you birth denomination. In fact I followed his advice to the letter; and after a few months 'woke up' to realize I was in a subversive anti-church on the wrong side of all the important issues.

Adam G. said...

Unaffiliation is an evil, but life often presents us with a choice of evils.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

I am sure that no church holds the keys of salvation and never has
Christ said clearly that his Church holds the keys of salvation. If this was not the case, then there would be no point in founding a Church.

The unaffiliated should be candid to admit and repent that they are parasites on the actual churches and denominations.
There are many circumstances where a good Christian is more or less forced to remain unaffiliated. I would not be so severe as to call such a person a parasite on present or past churches. Rather, he is a distant, or unofficial, member and beneficiary of the One Church, like every good member of any church other than the true one.

Nicholas Darkwater said...

If you seek theosis, you may want to explore an Orthodox setting.

I was raised in Texas but now live in the US Pacific Northwest, considered by many to be the largest un-churched community in America. My choices have been the standard, traditional denominations (I was raised a Methodist) - but I find that they fall into the stagnance of your Anglican churches - and the evangelical or pentacostal churches ('evangelical' has a different meaning here than in Europe) - but I find them too emotive and the non-liturgical music is downright annoying.

As for a non-denominational church, I find that there is really no such thing - they all have their doctrinal absolutes, even if they are non-affiliated. It's much like the idea that every pastor is a fundamentalist: you just have to push the right button.

The search continues.