Every 500 years or so in the history of the Christian church, a significant restructuring seems to take place.
Around the year 500, a church council at Chalcedon published what most of Christendom calls the clearest explanation of orthodox Christology: Christ is one person with two natures. However, large swaths of Christians—the Oriental Orthodox (such as the Coptic, Syrian, and Ethiopian churches) and the Church of the East—found the Chalcedon Definition lacking. And so the first major division in Christianity occurred.
About 500 years later, a hot-headed Bishop of Rome (or at least his hot-headed legates) and an angry Bishop of Constantinople mutually excommunicated each other,1 leading to nearly 1000 years of division between the western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
Some 500 years after that, a tempermental Augustinian monk in Germany posted some theses for academic disputation that started a firestorm of theological controversy, reformation, and church divisions—resulting in the proliferation of thousands of Protestant denominations.2
Now, the historian in me is obligated to note that using a clean, round number (500 years) to delineate these dates is somewhat artificial. There’s nothing inherently special about the passage of 500 years that leads Christians to say to one another, “I don’t like how you do church anymore.” But humans enjoy describing the past in easy-to-remember terms that serve as useful baselines for historical knowledge, whether or not they encompass the totality of historical truth (476, 1492, or July 4th, anyone?). Even so, given Christianity’s track record so far, you might expect another monumental moment to occur any year now, since it’s been about 500 years since the last major shakeup in Christendom.
The argument I wish to make in this article, is that we’ve already begun to see the next great restructuring of Christianity: the rise of non-denominational Christianity. Continue reading
Last Friday, Conciliar Post hosted a Round Table discussion on Martin Luther. I would encourage you go click on over there and peruse the reflections on how Christians from a variety of denominations view the “first” Reformer. My response to this Round Table is as follows:
My perception of Luther arises from many experiences with the Luther’s legacy and his writings. I grew up in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod—attending both church and school until middle school—and learned much about Luther the Great Reformer there. Every fall we would talk about the Reformation, how Luther valorously stood up to the heresies of the Catholic Church. We would read stories about his life (mostly his post-Diet of Worms “capture” by Frederick the Wise), wait in eager anticipation for Thrivent Financial’s production of Luther, and talk about the central tenets of the Augsburg Confession. The picture of Luther painted at this stage of my life accorded with the idealizing of other great Christians, albeit with that special fervor which accompanied talking about Luther as a “Lutheran.” Continue reading
I have been meaning to write this post for some time now, at least since early December of last year and certainly since mid-January of this year. As many readers know, my wife (Hayley) and I have been undergoing a Church Search for nearly two years now. This post is intended to a) provide anyone interested in some of the background of this search greater context into what this process looks like for us, and b) to give a general update on the search itself. Continue reading
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”–Stephen R. Covey
I have forgotten where I first saw that quote, but I do remember that I was immediately impressed with its accurate assessment of contemporary culture and discourse. How often do we listen, discuss, or read with the intention of learning? How much worse do those skills become once we’ve opened our web browser and entered the world of 140 character Twitter interaction, sound-bite news, rhetoric-oriented politics, #hashtagactivism, internet forums, Facebook statuses, and polarizing worldviews? In my assessment, Covey is right–today, people don’t seriously, thoughtfully, and civilly dialogue, we have it out in the comments section, we engage so that we may “show” people where they are wrong. Does it really have to be this way? Continue reading
How Do We Do This Church Search Thing?
The question we have been asked the most up until this point is how exactly we are going to undertake our Church Search. This is a very good question. As previously noted, since we are beginning our search with very broad parameters, we are expect to attend a variety of churches that will not really be in the running for where we end up. To help us seriously think about where we best fit, we have devised a three-step method for visiting and understanding these churches.
Phase One: First Exposure
Basic research during the week: This will involve visiting the church website, compiling as much information as possible on our topics for consideration, making contact with a local pastor, and perhaps investigating the denominational website for additional information. Continue reading
Denominations We Are Visiting
Obviously the candidates that we are considering for this Church Search will go a long way in determining where we eventually end up. While we are fairly certain of the general area that we will end up, in attempt to learn about and experience the great diversity of the People of God in the American context, we are planning to research and visit a variety of denominations and churches. As you can see from the list below, we have purposefully tried to be as broad as possible. Mid-way through the first stage of this search, we decided to amend the number of denominations that we would visit. The reasons for this are twofold. First, we want to expedite a process which, given the number of different Christian denominations in America, could take a very long time. Second and as noted before, we are fairly certain of the general area that we will end up eventually. We still hope to use this search as an opportunity to learn about and experience the great diversity of the People of God in the American context. *Denominations listed alphabetically by category* Continue reading