Starbucks. Dasani. SilverCity. BMW. Suburban. Privilege. Nothing one traditionally associates with Mennonites. Yet The Meeting House, a Brethren in Christ church, is one of the quickest growing churches in North America. That, of course, has nothing to do with ecumenical work, but The Meeting House does bear two ecumenically-significant qualities: a commitment to biblical teaching and ecclesial flexibility.
Now, I’m envisioning biblical teaching in a different sense than, perhaps, my Reformed friends might. Bruxy Cavey doesn’t tend to pump out hour-long lectures drawing on heavy Greek and Hebrew exegesis—though I’m sure he has the ability. Instead, Bruxy pays firm attention to context and narrative. Bruxy is one of the increasing number of people recognizing that Jesus was, in fact, Jewish. Jesus taught people with a Jewish mindset, attended Jewish synagogue, read from the Jewish Scriptures, and discussed the Jewish religion with Jewish religious authorities. Knowing this affects how one interprets Jesus. Bruxy knows this.
Bruxy also has the delightful tendency of teaching on long narratives, rather than picking and choosing from Word-of-the-Day style fragments. This sort of teaching brings the understanding that the Scriptures are not primarily aphorisms or fortune cookie statements, but are narratives of the history of God’s business with humanity. The Bible is made up largely of histories. Rather than just teaching on the cushy part in the middle, Bruxy draws us into the whole story—a healthy alternative.
Along with this solid method of biblical teaching, The Meeting House is flexible. Its set-up isn’t set in stone, “the only valid structure” or “this is the way the apostles did it.” They are open to new possibilities, new forms and ways of “doing church.” They understand, perhaps intuitively, that the church is simply ekklesia, a gathering or assembly of the people. This openness and flexibility provides a helpful model for future attempts at faithfulness to God’s purposes.
Even though The Meeting House is sans horse and buggy as well as neat bonnets, it does bear the marks of that radical branch of the Reformation: a commitment to hearing God through Scripture and to the new community formed by God’s Spirit. These are qualities no truly ecumenical movement ought to be without.