Sunday, March 20, 2005

Teaching the Presbyterian Controversy

It's hard to imagine a task more daunting than trying to describe the complicated series of disputes in the UPCUSA during the 1920's and 1930's collectively known as "The Presbyterian Controversy"--and having to do that in less than 45 minutes! The regular teacher of one of our adult Sunday School classes was out of town today and I was subbing in for him. This class has been studying the history of the Christian Church and this was the topic for the day.

The class was interested in the topic and the outline I presented, which of course was highly selective. That surprised me as it seems to me that most folks would find it rather a dry subject. However since some of the controversy revolved around disputes concerning what candidates for ordination to ministry must believe in order to be ordained in the church, the class was clearly making the connection with the modern controversy over the eligibility for ordination of practicing homosexuals.

We did not get on that topic however, but stuck to trying to analyze the underlying themes such as different views of the authority and interpretation of the Bible and the attempt to find a balance between toleration of diverse beliefs in the church and adherence or enforcement of the "basic tenets" of belief.Once again my legal background comes in handy as many of the events we were reviewing involved ecclesiastical litigation in the church courts.

No conclusions were reached, but I am again subbing in on Easter Sunday when we will conclude the study with a look at the development of current controversies in the church since the 1970's. Not my favorite topic for Easter Sunday!

It is really a blessing when you find people taking a serious interest in these important issues for the church, as this group does. They keep me on my toes....

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