The question stems from something my bishop, Michael Rinehart, said at the end of a lengthy Facebook post:
Some days I feel the church has abdicated its role as a clear moral voice ik (sic) society, and as a community of reconciliation.
My question: Why should anyone listen to the church in the first place?
Let's consider an important assumption to begin with: the church has a clear moral voice in society. Does it?
Well, first, we must define "The Church." I am a Christian of the Lutheran persuasion, and I have come to see the wisdom of the Augsburg Confession's definition of the Church:
1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.
2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.
In my estimation, this definition of The Church allows a very big tent. Most Lutherans accept a liberal view that our brothers and sisters in Christ include those of the vast majority of Christians found throughout other denominations. I personally do as well. I believe Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, et.al. all constitute "The Church."
Yet, there is quite a problem with this definition--this Church is hardly unified in beliefs, practices, understandings, and implementation of doctrine. We are NOT of one accord. We do NOT speak with one voice.
In fact, there are many voices presenting many views and interpretations of what it means to be Christian in one's private and in one's public life. There are many voices presenting many views about what it means to be a moral person and one of upright character. There are many voices presenting many views about what constitutes a sin and which parts of the Scriptures should and should not be followed.
In short, the American Church has no clear, moral voice. It is more like a giant cacophony of voices all crying and decrying together. In the smorgasbord that is American Christianity, one may choose a denomination or congregation based upon what that particular denomination or congregation teaches as it's particular flavor of Christianity. If the flavor isn't suitable to that person's taste, he or she may leave and seek out another.
This leads me to say, "How can the church abdicate a clear moral voice when it does not have one and hasn't had one for some time?"
This is quite problematic for the Church. For it leads to a very substantial question: Why should anyone listen to the Church anymore? Why grant it any authority, moral or otherwise in this day and age?
Unfortunately, I am going to leave it right there for the time being. The question is actually pretty new and raw for me just coming into focus yesterday afternoon. It is one thing to defend the Truth of the Christian message. It is another thing to argue why anyone should listen to it when the Church itself cannot speak with one accord on important moral issues. This is something I must ponder.