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A church divided

Christianity Today reports on divisions inside Park Street Church:

A years-long fight over leadership styles and decision-making processes at historic Park Street Church in Boston has boiled over into accusations of abusing spiritual authority and authoritarianism.



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May want to consult with the Swedenborgians.

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It's always difficult and disorienting for the flock when the shepherds start fighting about which direction to move in. A religion seems a lot more solid and confident when everyone appears to be on the same page, but once that facade drops, it's hard to imagine a deity picking either side, which makes it hard to imagine a deity picking your side. That's scary.

And when you're arguing about religion, it's very easy for both sides to remain unconvinced. Faith has a lack of proof baked into it, so no one is going to be winning those arguments with facts. The people either stay unified, or they fight each other over who gets to keep using the church building, or one side leaves and starts their own slightly different church down the street. So it goes.

This quote stood out to me:

“That’s what we asked for. That’s what we prayed for,” a church member told CT. “I think perhaps because of Mark’s Anglican background, he’s more authoritarian and more used to top-down decisions. It’s a bad fit for us, but we didn’t screen it out.”

You asked for it, and you prayed for it, but it didn't happen, because you didn't do it yourself. You're holding all the clues, anonymous church member. Solve the puzzle!

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and not doing it yourself is kind of built into the system.

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This exact same thing happened at Christ Church Cambridge.

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which is governed quite differently from a Congregational church.

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Except that what they note is that the minister comes from the Anglican (more conservative Episcopalian) tradition where the denomination directs from above down through the minister. Opposite of congregational.

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Nominally, the rector, or chief priest, at an Episcopal church is appointed by, and reports to, the Bishop of Massachusetts. But what usually happens is that the vestry, which is elected by the congregation, forms a search committee to look for a rector. When it finds one, the vestry submits the candidate to the Bishop, who appoints him or her (we have women priests and women bishops in the Episcopal church). The rector, music director, and any other employees are paid out of a budget voted on by the vestry.

ACNA, the people who ordained Booker, are a group that split from the Episcopal Church over its acceptance of women clergy and tolerance of non-heterosexuals. And it doesn't sound like Park Street Church is a very tolerant place, either. Those looking for something better might want to try the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, right across the street. It's the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, where the Bishop resides.

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They're just living the Boston tradition

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Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879? Or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?

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Antipope! Antipope!

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There are a few tells of what is happening. The quote, “I would ask that you please trust the work of the Nominating Committee" is themes obvious. It means that the congregation should just be a rubber stamp to the nominating committee's decision.

Perhaps it also is reflective of modern Evangelicalism. The modern Evangelical movement is far closer to Catholicism where a few people with power are telling everyone what to believe. With the commensurate abuse of power in doing things such as supporting a man who if fundamentally immoral in the hope that he would give them political power.

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The Catholics have a strict hierarchy, in which all appointments are made from above and all matters of doctrine decreed from the top. The Catholic church is an elective monarchy in which the Pope is Christ's vicar on earth.

Protestants, whether evangelical or otherwise, universally reject all that. Anglicans, including Episcopalians, maintain the hierarchy, but with no pope; Episcopalians hold a general convention every few years to choose a Presiding Bishop. But the convention, not the Presiding Bishop, decides matters of doctrine.

Presbyterian, Congregational, and Episcopal describe different forms of church governance. The first two reject bishops entirely, empowering either representative assemblies of elders (presbyteries) or individual congregations. This last was the practice of the Puritans who settled New England. They came here because they rejected the Church of England's Episcopal hierarchy, which was headed by the King as "Defender of the Faith" and "Supreme Governor of the Church of England", and also because of differences in doctrine.

Puritans believed that God predestines each of us to be saved or damned, and we have no choice in the matter. Those predestined for salvation they called "God's elect". A perversion of this belief was that since God loves those He has chosen, they will be wealthier and more prosperous than everyone else, and, therefore, there's no point in helping the poor, since God has damned them all.

[Disclaimer: I'm no fan of the Puritans, even if some of them were my ancestors.]

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