At the upcoming business session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Denmark in May, delegates will vote on whether to grant the Café Church in Copenhagen full church status, thus upgrading it from its current “company” status.
The move will doubtless be controversial to some people, since this congregation has had more than its fair share of criticism and gossip since its inception 10-15 years ago. On the other hand, it will be crucial to the future of Adventism in Denmark, not because of this individual church, but because of the vision it represents.
The Café Church is a new way of doing church which downplays certain typical traits (or oddities) and focuses on bringing the gospel to people with as few restrains as possible. Just as Paul became Greek for the Greeks, etc., it strives to become postmodern Copenhagen-ish for postmodern Copenhageners.
And of course there have been hiccups along the way. One of most talked about is the struggle with Adventist identity. But this is hardly unique to the Café Church. We all struggle somewhat with the issue of identity, and that’s not going to go away anytime soon. Here, at least, some people are honest in expressing their concerns about how the connection should be to the wider church body, or whether it should exist at all. But now the Café Church actually wants to be a part of the Danish Union. It is not necessarily an enthusiastic move (which is understandable, given the bumpy history), but it is sincere in wanting to embrace a wider fellowship, while maintaining its unique position.
The CC has been a pioneer, not only in Denmark (inspiring, among others, Aarhus Café Church, a big part of my life for many years), but also internationally, showing the world church community that fresh expressions of church are in fact possible, and essential to kingdom growth.
The decision on whether to include the Café Church into the Danish Union will be a final litmus test of the church’s willingness to embrace change and diversity. A rejection would signal, and result in, segmentation and streamlining. While this might enhance efficiency, since there would be only one right way of doing things, in the end the church would suffer immensely. The remaining church would be narrow in thought and expression, and its relevance to society would have to be reconsidered.
On the other hand, an affirmation would send a clear signal that there is hope for the future. It would express a belief that there are, in fact, ways to make the gospel relevant to a new era. This is not the only way – but it underlines the idea that there is not one way of doing things, but many.
I believe that the majority of church members in Denmark are actually in favour of fresh expressions and new ways of doing church. They may not all cherish a certain style, but they will embrace diversity and acknowledge that we are working in different ways toward the same goal.
Recently, I moved my own membership to the Café Church. And so the fate of my own new church body is at stake. But more than that, this is an opportunity to move forward, putting old grievances behind us and uniting in diversity for the sake of the gospel.