By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you buy a picture of me and hang it in your living room.
An interesting news story came out today. A Christian church in North Carolina that sponsors (as a ministry of their church) a Cub Scout troop rejected the application of a couple who desired to be leaders and have their sons involved. The reason? The couple in question are mormons...
In shopping around for a Cub Scout program for their two sons, ages 6 and 8, Jeremy and Jodi Stokes decided on the one at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews.
The Stokes, also of Matthews, weren't members of the evangelical megachurch, but they had many friends who were. And unlike the Cub Scout pack at their own church, which doesn't have a program for 6-year-old Tiger Scouts, Christ Covenant's was big enough to accommodate both of their boys.
The couple even signed up to be Scout leaders - he would lead the Bears, she'd help with the Tigers - when they discovered the church needed more adult help. And when the Scouting officials at Christ Covenant found out Jeremy Stokes was an Eagle Scout, they were thrilled.
So why, in the end, did Christ Covenant reject the Stokes' application to be Scout leaders?
Because they're Mormons. And, therefore, not real Christians, church officials told the couple last month.
Au contraire! Of course the Stokes are Christians!
What upset the Stokes family most was the church questioning their Christianity.
"It was so offensive," said Jodi Stokes, who was raised Catholic, then became a Mormon. "I have a picture of Jesus in my living room."
And, she added, look at the formal name of their church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Jeremy Stokes, a Bank of America financial consultant whose family has been in the LDS (Latter-day Saints) church for generations, wrote this when asked on Christ Covenant's Scouting application to describe his relationship with Christ: "One of the most important things in my life is my faith and trust in Christ and in His Atonement. Without Christ's help and guidance, I know I wouldn't be the loving father or devoted husband or humble man I am today. His example is the one help I need and rely on every day and I am truly grateful for that."
Well shoot. If you have a picture of Jesus (or at least a picture of fairly Caucasian looking guy with long hair wearing robes that you think represents what Jesus looks like) in your living room and have the words "Jesus Christ" in the name of your organization, you must be Christians! Just ask their "Bishop"...
Bishop Steven Rowlan of the LDS ward, or parish, which the Stokes attend in Weddington, acknowledged that Mormon theology diverges from some beliefs shared by most Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians. But he insisted members of the LDS church are as Christian as the members of Christ Covenant.
"Yes, there are distinct differences," he said. "But not with respect to being a Christian. We definitely and truly are Christians in every sense of the word."
Sure there are differences, just minor quibbles. Like denying the deity and eternalness of Christ. Like teaching that Jesus and Satan are brothers. Like teaching that God was once a man and that good mormons can become gods too. Like completely redefining the Christian and Biblical doctrines of the atonement. Just minor stuff that we should gloss over and ignore when they send young men out to knock on doors to tell Christians that God declared their churches to be abominations and that they need to be baptized by 19 year old mormons to have a legitimate baptism.
Gosh this is so unfair. After all, I am sure that mormon Scout troops would welcome a Christian leader. Right?
Nationally, the Mormon church has a close relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. What is the Mormon church's rules about appointing Scout leaders?
Mormon Bishop Rowlan, who heads the Stokes' Weddington church, would not say whether he would be open to naming a non-Mormon as a Scouting leader.
"I'd have to take each one on an individual basis," he said, adding that that is the policy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Huh. I seem to recall that be Scout leaders for mormon troops were "callings", something that only a mormon could be called to. I can't imagine that a mormon church would "call" a Christian to be a Scout leader for one of their troops anymore than they would call a Baptist to be their "Bishop".
Good for Christ Covenant Church. In a day when too many Christians are completely undiscerning about theology, it is good to see someone taking an unpopular and politically incorrect stand for the truth instead of putting unbelievers in a leadership position in one of their ministries.
(I wonder. If the parents who wanted to be leaders were atheists or muslims and were denied a leadership position at a Christian church sponsored Scout troop, would anyone notice or care?)