INTERDENOMINATIONAL & Partnering Across Denominationsby #EdStetzer. Understanding the differences between essential, convictional and preferential theological issues.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Ed is what I call an organic intellectual (Inside the Organic Church, Abingdon Press). That is someone who can take a complex concept and make it easy to understand. An important concept is the differences between first order, second order and third order beliefs. Ed calls these essential (theological) issues, convictional (theo.) issues and preferential (theo.) issues. Church leaders today must grasp the important differences and Ed provides us an important wordage framework.

Partnering Across Denominations

Ed Stetzer in Mission Group Blog, 03/08/2021

…I am an evangelical ecumenist, as I’ve described in an earlier article. If we have a common understanding of the gospel, there are some things we can do together, but there are also some things we cannot do together.

… I can’t partner with someone who has differing first-order beliefs in the same way I can partner with someone like Tim, who has differing second-order beliefs than I do but the same first-order beliefs.

Where’s the line?

First-order beliefs are non-negotiable beliefs. I’ve called them essential issues.

They’re issues such as the nature of the gospel, the divinity of Jesus, or the authority of Scripture.

Second-order beliefs are beliefs that would generally place you in different churches. They might be Arminianism, Calvinism, beliefs about gender roles, or baptism, to name a few.

I’ve called them convictional issues.

Third-order beliefs are things that are not a big deal, such as worship style or other preferential issues.

I’ve called them preferential issues.

People who have differing first-order issues are of a different faith. Second-order issues are different denominations. They will limit some partnerships, such as trying to plant a church, but we can still be partners of the same faith. Third-order issues are only a different preference, and we can most easily partner and engage in different ways.

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