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Pastor Sam walked the short distance from his car to meet on-location at the center of town to with the small group of coordinators who, for the past nine months, had been faithfully planning the details of the Gateway Faith Festival. With only one week before the event, this would be their last chance to gather together to address the details and any last minute concerns. They had met just one week before to address two issues: 1) Minor concern from the city regarding potential damage to grass and flowers during set-up and take-down, and 2) Replacement of the MC who needed to cancel due to severe illness. But everything had fallen into place, and other than a drastic change in the weather forecast, everything was good to go.
Local churches were expecting to have a wonderful time together on the following Saturday. Thirty very diverse congregations were providing music, food, or contributing to the festival in some way. There were a number of brief, but powerful testimonies interspersed during the program. Forty people from different churches had been trained to pray with those who might respond during the celebration, and to be among the crowd and give out Bibles and talk with anyone interested. They were hoping for many opportunities, though they felt that just having this group of churches working together for this purpose was very exciting.
Pastor Sam, the Event Coordinator, greeted the already gathered group. They continued chatting for a bit, and then turned toward the details of the festival. It was confirmed that all previous issues had been taken care of, and there was nothing new to address. They shared their hopes for the coming event, excited at how much fun it was going to be. After spending some time in prayer, they committed to continue praying daily for the festival and each other, and then started on their separate ways.
“Call me if you need anything”, Pastor Sam said as he turned to leave, “otherwise, see you Saturday”. Just then Pastor John stopped him. “Could you hold on a minute Sam? Peter and I have something we’d like to talk with you about”.
Pastors John and Peter were leading the Evangelism Team for the festival. They hadn’t wanted to bring the issue up before the whole group, but now wanted to express their concern about the latest sponsor of the festival. One month prior, the Catholic Renewal Association (CRA) had joined the list of sponsors. But Pastors John and Peter did not believe that a Catholic organization should sponsor the event.
It had been clear form the initial planning that all participants and sponsors would be Christian. However, there was now a difference of opinion in what each considered to be Christian. “We’re sorry for breaking this news to you so close to the festival, but we’ve been thinking this over, and decided to pull our team out of the festival if the CRA is allowed to sponsor the event”. According to Pastor John, this decision constituted the opinion of thirty-five of the forty members of the Evangelism Team.
Pastor Sam thought for a couple of moments before answering. He told them that they were the only ones that had expressed any concern about the CRA sponsorship. In fact, he had only heard positive feedback about their joining the event. “I don’t see how I could possibly retract their sponsorship at this point. All the printed materials have their name on it. Nor would I want to,” Pastor Sam concluded. “I guess I’ll understand if you feel you need to pull the Evangelism Team now, but I guess that’s the way it will have to be.”
They spent some time discussing the reasons why each felt the way they did. In the end, it was decided that the five members of the Evangelism Team who felt differently from the rest would do the best they could, but that they would constitute the Evangelism Team. Pastor Sam left it open that if those who declined to participate changed their mind, they would be would be welcome to give him a call to discuss rejoining, as long as they felt able to work side-by-side in heart with the participating Catholic Brothers and Sisters. They spent a brief time in prayer, and parted.
What is your initial reaction to the situation related to the Gateway Faith Festival in relation to the unity of the Body of Christ, and churches working together?