Today we’re going to talk about the Brethren in Christ.
The Brethren in Christ is not a big deal here in the US. Unless you are one of them, know someone who is, or are a complete and total theological wonk who stays up on such things because you have WAY too much spare time on your hands, you probably never heard of them before in your life until I mentioned them just now.
The Brethren in Christ (BIC) is a small Anabaptist/Mennonite-ish sect that originated in eastern Pennsylvania in the late 1700s, when they broke away from other Anabaptist and Mennonite sects over various and sundry fine points of pietistic practice. They were happy to stay small and in their own little fishtank until the mid 1900s, at which point they became more outward-focused and ditched all the pietistic stuff and came into line with mainstream American evangelicalism, for the most part. Yet they remained small and failed to register even a blip on the radar screen of mainstream American evangelicalism. When evangelical leaders came together to craft the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, they weren’t even invited to the table. For this reason, inerrancy and other such issues of concern to today’s evangelicals aren’t even on the BIC radar.
But in Canada, they are kind of a big deal. Bruxy Cavey is a rockstar megachurch pastor who presides over The Meeting House, which started in 1996 as a small church plant but now has morphed into a multisite church network with 14 campuses and a combined Sunday attendance north of 5,000.
Of course you can’t have that kind of growth without people sitting up and taking notice. Some people got concerned; Cavey and the BIC are at variance with the traditional evangelical way of looking at things on a number of issues. As already noted, inerrancy and many other such issues of concern to today’s evangelicals aren’t even on the BIC’s radar.
One of the parties taking notice and expressing concern was…yep, our good friends over at The Gospel Coalition.
In an exercise suggestive of the first-century Pharisees questioning Jesus on his teachings or the medieval Catholic church sending Johannes Eck to debate Martin Luther on his 95 Theses, TGC had one of their writers up in Canada investigate Cavey; the results can be found here, here, here, and here. I would recommend that you read the series; you will find it illuminating as to what Cavey and the BIC actually believe on several issues of interest to those in the Reformed world.
I could easily have seen John MacArthur or Tim Challies seizing upon some quote from Cavey’s teaching and using it to denounce him as a universalist or whatever other epithet strikes your fancy. To his credit, the TGC representative eschews that tack. Instead he gives Cavey ample space to explain his teachings and make a compelling case that they lie fully within the pale of Christian orthodoxy.
But even so, the whole thing feels less like a conversation and more like an exercise in “Brace yourself Bruxy Cavey, we will question you and you will answer us. You don’t get to question us on, say, whether our treatment of women presents a barrier to the Gospel or why some of us are so viscerally anti-gay. That’s not how this works.” It has TGC showing up suddenly at Cavey’s door claiming to be the gatekeepers of Christian orthodoxy. You pass muster, they say. You’re good.
Does anyone else out there find the whole thing just a little pretentious?
This is precisely why TGC is on my shit list.