Convergence: An Overview
What kind of Christian are you? To what kind of church do you belong? These are common questions, and yet, also a rather strange ones historically. For much of the early part of Church history, while Christians were certainly distinguished by geography, emphasis, and even some beliefs, the Church held on to an idea that there was ONE church, and that she was holy (unique, set apart), catholic (universal), and apostolic (on mission).
Over time, the Church found itself breaking apart, with some traditions emphasizing some things and other traditions emphasizing other things. The first split was in 1054 (called The Great Schism) dividing the Eastern Church and the Western Church. This breaking apart continued in a significant way for the Western Church after the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s and 1600s.
While the Reformation brought about many significant and necessary changes to the Church, it brought with it a ton of baggage. The general move towards individualism (while a necessary pushback) also led the church to divide itself…again…and again….and again. Within the span of 500 years, the Church has splintered into thousands of different groups.
This is deeply sad. And yet, in the midst of our fractures, our in-fighting, our jealousy and corruption, the Holy Spirit was and is at work in the Church and in the world. We see a beautiful tapestry of the Holy Spirit’s work across denominations, cultures, and ethnicities.
At Sacrament, our desire is to celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church. Sacrament values the movement towards unity in the Church and embraces the Convergence Movement, an intentional blending of the essential elements in the Christian faith represented historically in the major traditions of Christian faith and confessed in The Apostles and Nicene Creeds.
One way to describe these traditions is by thinking of the Church (particularly as expressed in the United States) as three major rivers or streams:
Throughout history, much of the Church could be described as “Liturgical” or “Sacramental.” These traditions have emphasized the importance of orthodoxy and orthopraxy —right belief and right practice as known in the scriptures, the creeds, and The Great Tradition; as well as universality (the idea that the church should be intentionally connected throughout the world and throughout history). Liturgical/Sacramental worship tends to focus on formation, and these churches understand that they are playing the “long game” of allowing God to nurture and cultivate souls for generations to come. Liturgical/Sacramental churches emphasize the Incarnation and because of this, Liturgical/Sacramental worship gatherings engage all of the senses, with visual, tangible, and audible elements present throughout worship.
At Sacrament, we are Liturgical and Sacramental in that we embrace an Incarnational understanding of the church and give special prominence to the Sacraments. We also believe in the importance of recognizing that we are part of God’s great Story and Family, that we are connected with all Christians throughout the world and throughout the ages.
In the United States, the Liturgical/Sacramental stream may be most commonly identified (though not exclusively or universally) in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, or other Mainline Protestant Traditions.
Evangelical (or Scripture-Centered Or Missional)
The Evangelical Stream places particular emphasis on the important role of scripture in the life of faith. While this stream has been emphasized throughout church history, those who typically call themselves “evangelicals” have their roots in the Protestant Reformation, the Great Awakenings in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in modern evangelical revivals. Evangelical worship tends to focus on Biblical preaching, personal conversion, and empowerment for evangelism.
At Sacrament, we are evangelical in the sense that we believe that the scripture has primary authority in our lives. It carries a specific authority that is unlike anything else. We believe in the necessity of faith in response to the proclamation of Christ’s good news; and that the story of Jesus really is “good news,” which means that it ought to be shared through our words and in our lives. The gospel is always outward and invitational.
In the United States, the Evangelical stream may be most most commonly identified (though not exclusively or universally) in Baptist and other Evangelical Traditions.
Charismatic (or Spirit-Empowered)
The Charismatic Stream places particular emphasis on the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the world, the Power of the Holy Spirit, miracles, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in and through the Church. While this stream has been present throughout church history, those who call themselves “charismatic” often trace their roots back to the Azusa Street revival (1906-1915), and more recently to the renewal movements in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Charismatic worship tends to focus on encountering God, spontaneity, ecstatic expression, and openness to the miraculous.
At Sacrament, we are charismatic in that we believe that the Holy Spirit is actively at work in the world and that we are invited to participate. We believe that God is constantly overthrowing our pre-conditions, upending our formulas, and breaking our boxes wide open. We affirm the presence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and seek to hear the voice of God’s voice in our midst.
In the United States, the Charismatic stream may be most commonly identified (though not exclusively or universally) in Pentecostal, Church of God in Christ, Assemblies of God, and many Non-Denominational Churches.
Not the Whole Picture
Human beings make meaning through words, but we are ever-aware that our words are insufficient. We know that the Convergence picture as described above is incomplete for the following reasons (and more):
- It does not adequately describe the whole church in the United States. There are other tributaries which run throughout the streams and are not as neatly categorized: emphasis on social justice, virtuous living, and contemplation (to name a few).
- It is particularly American in a context that is becoming increasingly globalized. As our world changes, the church must become more aware of how Convergence is described by a variety of cultures.
- Words carry baggage, which comes from experience. For example, “Evangelical” has taken on a cultural/political connotation that does not consistently reflect the way that we desire to express it. In the same way, words like “Charismatic” or “Liturgical” are limited. At Sacrament, we are in an ever-changing conversation about words that need to be re-thought, re-claimed, or even jettisoned.
God is, and will continue, to speak to the Church. But, when we say God is still speaking we firmly mean that we are tethered and submitted to the testimony of the church throughout the ages, while being thrust into the future by the voice of God.
It is our hope that Sacrament serves as a signpost of God’s activity in bringing the church together. We long to reflect and live into the prayer of Jesus “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
Sacrament is non-denominational, but we are affiliated with a few groups. Our belief in the three-streams are reflected in the groups with whom we affiliate:
- We are voluntarily affiliated with Converge Mid-America, a church-planting organization which has been instrumental in planting our church.
- Our pastor, Preston Sharpe, is currently in Holy Orders on his way to priesthood. He is connected with the Diocese of Saint Anthony in the CEEC.