Thursday, May 22, 2008

Congregationalism

This is no final word by any means, since I am not that much of an authority....just been around for a pretty good while..............I sat down today and tried to list some conclusions about Congregationalism that I have from some recent reading and thinking. I've not seen any further word from Lloyd Moritz's Chogblog so will jot down my two cents worth and maybe that will spark some further response and/or comments from any readers.
We began within the context of congregationalism as a church polity. D. S. Warner's experience in the Winebrenner Eldership was a congregational polity. Warner's experience as a young pastor-evangelist-editor was cool to say the least toward any other form of church polity. We began in an informal manner, with an anti-organization bias based on their belief in Charismatic government and equity among the brothers and sisters.
By the time Warner had been defrocked by the Eldership for accepting the doctrine of holiness (sanctification), there was not much room left for a hierarchical polity of administration from the top down. Warner and his cohorts were a cohesive and collegial group that depended upon concensus and the senior leadership.
In beginning, Warner was that place where the buck stopped. From there it went to E. E. Byrum and the editor of the Gospel Trumpet. Only after the launching of the General Ministerial Assembly did the Movement slowly move toward more "democratic" grass roots control, and that not without its problems enumerated by various writers.
So, from our beginning we were generally congregational in both our practice and in all of our biblical interpretations, always espousing equality from the grass roots up (never from the top down). Congregationalism comes out of our heritage, our over-all biblical interpretations, and our theology of God's Church.
In the early days that church theology became a strongly come-out of denominationalism theology, but we saw the church as composed of God's called out (via new birth/salvation) with everyone on equal ground at the foot of the cross, under the mentoring of Christ as the head of the church.
Under the Editorship of C.E. Brown we adapted a more sound historical approach to interpreting the Church. We are still trying to define our relationship with "denominational Christians" but that has little to do with polity and congregationalism.
What has prompted these discussions for the past almost thirty years is the growing sense of independence and autonomy. Without being technical or theological, I see our heritage (tradition, ow whatever you want to call it) as affirming mutual accountability and rejecting total autonomy. We reject the independent church polity. We have always been MORE than a collection of voluntary associates, although we value our voluntary association.
In the beginning, the Gospel Trumpet Company was our one institutional body. Today, we are avoluntary body under the leadership of the General Assembly. We are still working out issues of accountability such as credentialling. At this point, I believe we have done well to maintain our grass roots orientation and balance that between the federalism of the constitution and states rights. States rights worked okay for thirteen colonies (the Confederation), but there had to be a final level of federalism for us to have the abolition of slavery, voting rights for women, the civil rights act etc..
By the states working together with "Anderson" we can maintain that democratic balance at the level closest to the grass roots. We can live together as a people as long as we have mutual accountability between pastor and people, between the local church and the state assembly, and between state-local and Anderson.
The grass roots is the church--never just the Pope and his Cardinals. Our Administrative Leaders are elected by us and work for us, but always within the framework of our mutual accountability to each other and to God, who is head over us all. This did not come out as the simple list of five items I envisioned, but I invite comments and conversation.
Moreover, I remind anyone reading this that it is both in our best tradition and in our best interest for us to thoroughly discuss the Duncan Document that Ron has prepared and the Chog Blog by Lloyd Moritz. We all have an investment in this issue.
Wayne

2 comments:

Steve B. said...

Wayne,

You bring a very valuable perspective to this conversation. I appreciate your voice on this issue. As a younger guy trying to make sense of this whole conversation, I say "thank you." I'm excited about the possibilities for this to be a very positive time in our movement.

Wayne said...

Thanks Steve. Is that Steve Burrows? I believe this is a high moment for positive input into healing our world, that will be aided as we in the church come to better understand our relationship with one another. wayne