GEM Is Inter-Denominational: What Does That Look Like?
“Tell me about the Christian culture in Czech Republic?” I asked a friend serving with GEM in one of the most atheistic countries in the world.
“In my local context, we are connected with Wesleyans, Brethren, Catholics, Pentecostals, Baptists, Anglicans and some other Protestants,” she told me.
And do you…get along? I thought.
She chimed in before my question had even formed. “We believe it is important to focus on what unites us as we reach our city for Christ. Especially in a place where there are so few Christians, we feel we don’t have the luxury of dividing over non-essentials when it comes to working together to share the gospel with unbelievers.”
The spiritual climate of Europe is diverse. And we believe the best way to reach the diversity of European cultures is with the breadth of the body of Christ.
I like to think of GEM, not as non-denominational, but as inter-denominational.
Greater Europe Mission is an organization committed to the essentials of the Christian faith and, with that, comes the freedom of believers to disagree in love over non-essentials. For that reason, you will find charismatics and Calvinists, baptized babies and baptized adults, house-church enthusiasts and high-church traditionalists.
In the mid-1600s, during the Thirty Years War, Europe was in a politically charged and spiritually turbulent time, not unlike the US today. Amidst the intensity, 17th century German theologian Rupertus Meldenius wrote a phrase calling for Christian unity.
“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”
In many ways, this encapsulates GEM’s approach to theology and church life. We seek to hold firm the doctrines to which the Church has held for 2,000 years. And we want to recognize the freedom we have in Christ to disagree peaceably over gray areas in scripture and Christian life. But above all, in both agreement and divergence, we seek to do it in a spirit of Christlike charity.
For some people, the diversity of GEM may be a turn off. Those people practice those spiritual gifts? Some people don’t think God wants women to be pastors? Or any other number of questions may arise. The discomfort of difference may drive some away.
For those interested in asking questions and continuing conversations, I think most will find a theological rigor and depth to the mission, vision, and praxis of Greater Europe Mission that is compelling.
We may not all see eye-to-eye on every issue, and this works as a benefit. Because at the end of the day, we all only see God as though in a mirror dimly (1 Cor. 13:12). And while some may see clearer – through greater study or divine insight – no one sees the full picture of who God is. This is why we need each other.
So, whether you’re Reformed or Arminian, complementarian or egalitarian, or hold any other number of orthodox views, there is space for you within GEM. In fact, we need you.
We need the wide-ranging richness of the body of Christ to reach the wide-ranging cultures of Europe.
May we be a mission united by the fact that we have been transformed by the love of God and are compelled to share Jesus with the vast people of Europe, not by the fact we cross every “t” and dot every “i” the same way. For we know that no single group, denomination, or approach can do it alone.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” —John 17:20-23
About the author and photographer: Grant Klinefelter is a storyteller with Greater Europe Mission and serves in Birmingham, England. Visit grantandnaomi.com to learn more.