We have examined the Confession of the Church of Christ Uniting and have found it vague and inadequate at best. It is a sad example of the trend toward doctrinal imprecision and latitudinarianism, written in such a way that one can read into it what he wants to find there. Similarly, the ecclesiology of the new church is laid out in a way designed to impress each member body that it has lost nothing and that the new form is a blend of all the good points of the uniting churches. The effort is less than convincing, although it may have been thought essential to COCU’s success.

The nine churches now engaged in the merger proceedings are undergirded by three general ecclesiological traditions: congregationalism, presbyterianism, and the episcopacy. The majority of the participating churches and by far the largest numerical bloc in the proceedings fall within the tradition of episcopacy. (Only one of them, however, claims a share in the historical episcopacy of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.)

In congregationalism, the local church is fully autonomous, and each congregation is fully and truly not simply a congregation but a church, with all the marks and attributes of a church. All decisions are made by the congregation in democratic fashion. The local church has the right to call a minister, elect and dismiss its officers, ordain men to the gospel ministry, and exercise discipline. No one stands above the local church; its decisions are final and not subject to appeal to any person, synod, assembly, or other body.

In presbyterian polity, the church, which may number many congregations, is governed by representatives who legislate for the membership. The church has a general assembly, synods, and presbyteries. The presbytery ...

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