Saturday, June 28, 2014

Congregational Lecture Notes

-from Peggy Bendroth

Begin by imaging we're in a time machine...
- June 1865: 1/2 million people dead; thousands freed from slavery, but what will happen to them? Tensions between North and South are still very high. THIS is when our Congregational ancestors decided to call a national meeting.

A group philosophically opposed to large gatherings were trying to gather together...

Meeting in the Old South Meeting House in Boston, Mass. It's hot, smelly, and lots of visitors were interrupting. There are NO copies available, so the reports had to be READ OUT LOUD. It took DAYS.

500 delegates gathered to hear the report... the challenge to expand their particular gospel to the West.

2 Goals - a declaration of faith, and a document of Congregational polity

Background: not everyone had a good understanding of what Congregationalism meant -
Majority of Congregationalists didn't really understand how their own polity worked!
by the early 1800's, when Congregationalists spread out West, things got complicated...

The "elevator speech" - "what's a Congregationalist?" was needed!

What do LIVING men now believe and teach? was the cry
For example - the Declaration of Faith was too short; 8 seminarians were added to the committee, and 2 days later their document set off a firestorm!
 - it was defensive
 - it said Calvinism was the core doctrine of Congregationalism everywhere
    = problem; we don't want a declaration that is based on ancient beliefs, but beliefs from 1865
    = Calvinism was the standard of "a respectable man"

The document of Congregational Polity was VERY long
 - author was Leonard Bacon, not known for time management skills (read it ALL OUT LOUD)
 - based on the Cambridge Platform
 - referred to a committee, where it languished for 7 years; was then published... and ignored.

How do we remain faithful to our tradition?
- It's HARD to be a Congregationalist. It's difficult, it's messy, it's counter-cultural, and it's even more necessary today because it is an authentic method of interaction in today's society.

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