"Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church," by D. G. Hart and John Muether (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 217 pp.; $11.95, paper); "For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians," by Allen C. Guelzo (Pennsylvania State University Press, 404 pp.; $14.95, paper). Reviewed by Robert W. Patterson, a minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and writer in Cincinnati.
In the late 1980s, just when the last conservative evangelical in town had heeded Richard Niebuhr's call for Christians to suppress denominational peculiarities in order to participate responsibly in the transformation of culture, two United Methodist gadflies, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, had the nerve to publish Resident Aliens, a critique of the Constantinian assumptions of Niebuhr's 1951 classic, "Christ and Culture." Rather than encouraging believers to be good corporate citizens, the Duke University professors argued that Christians are called to be radically "sectarian," to think less in terms of a public church burdened with a sense of responsibility for America and more in terms of a tribal community of aliens responsible only to its King.
While the two Methodists failed to cite a concrete example of just what an island colony of Christians in a sea of unbelief might look like, they could have chosen two "sectarian" denominations par excellence, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and the Reformed Episcopal Church.
By almost any standard, these churches are everything that sophisticated evangelicals bent on redeeming the culture for Christ would consider tacky: tiny, peculiar, marginal, schismatic, doctrinally or ...1
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