Sometimes it is hard to remember just how I'm connected to some of my relatives. Beyond first cousins, it can be tricky to explain (or remember) what the relationship is. One of my cousins even calls himself my "imaginary cousin." (My father's parents fostered his mother. I don't know what that makes me to him. Yet we feel related.)
My father must have had a similar difficulty remembering family connections. After his death, I found a scroll (how positively biblical!) made of 10 sheets from a yellow legal pad. On the scroll, he diagrammed the descendants of my paternal great-grandmother's nine siblings. One of those nine had a daughter who married a prominent anti-alcohol crusader. He headed up the American Temperance Society and befriended Muslim leaders who appreciated Christians who didn't drink. I knew him as Uncle Billy, but I sure don't know how to label that relationship.
Like families, the church has a genealogy. And just as my family has regional concentrations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, so the early church had regional concentrations in Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. Eventually, Jerusalem and Constantinople joined the list. Each center had a family history that helped the churches in their sphere know who they were and tell true believers from wayward ones.
Protestantism was, in part, an argument with Rome over the right version of the Western church's family history. The true heirs of the apostles who planted the church in Rome were those who treasured and taught true biblical faith, the Reformers taught, not necessarily those who occupied a place in a succession of officeholders.
This Western family dispute dominated, of course, because ...1
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