The relationship that is to prevail between the organized Church and the informal groups which arise from time to time, seeking to bring about deeper spiritual experience, is an important subject. The voice of the organized Church has often warned that such groups do not constitute themselves a church, that they check their plans and work with leaders in the church, that they remind their people how important it is to join a church, and in general treat the church as the final authority. Undoubtedly there is wisdom in all this. But I think it is high time that someone remind the Church how important it is that she treat these groups with understanding and welcome, and remember how the organized Church stands in continuous need of awakening, and realize that the small group may be both a judgment and an answer from God.

Exception must be made, of course, in the case of groups that become deliberately inimical to the historic Church, or patently disloyal to her basic ethos. But that is something quite different from being dissatisfied with the ways and customs of some one local parish or minister that may be falling down in giving people what they need spiritually. It is right for the Church to “try the spirits whether they be of God.” Now and then a group arises that is not basically in line with historic Christianity; or it may begin so, but veer in unhealthy directions. Its leaders can become too much impressed with their own inspiration and importance, and the movement tends to become “the Church.” The awakening group may evince more power at some given time than the historic, accepted Church; but it has no more right to “unchurch” the organized Church than the organized Church has a right to “unchurch” the informal group. ...

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