What some groups call renewal is really mutiny.

The ship is a classic symbol of the church. From ancient etchings, to Rembrandt canvases, to the letterhead of First Presbyterian, the people of God have often been pictured as a vessel cutting through storm-tossed waves, kept on course by the Captain at the helm. It is a venerable image, and a helpful one—provided the proper craft is pictured. You do not have to live in Seattle or Boston to know there is a variety of ways to get across the water: rafts and canoes, sloops and yawls, tugs and barges, cruisers and liners. What sort of ship is the church?

It can only be a schooner. I say this not out of aesthetic preference, though I don’t deny considerable affection for this great and graceful craft, but because it most accurately depicts the communal life of Christians. The church must be a sailing vessel, for it moves only by the power of wind, the ruach of God. And it must be large enough to carry the whole covenant family through the roughest seas; only a two-masted schooner has the spaciousness and the steadiness necessary.

Now, some may counter: Isn’t the church more like an armada of different vessels? So it seems, certainly, if we absolutize the differences between Saint Peter Catholic and Wesley Methodist and Calvary Chapel. But the church has always confessed its essential unity: “we believe,” in the words of the Nicene Creed, “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” It is more accurate, therefore, to view the divisions as inevitable arguments of sinful sailors on board a single ship.

Slow sailing

For the schooner to get out of the harbor demands a division of labor. The officers, serving under the Captain, provide leadership for many tasks. Gazing dreamily upon the horizon ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.