Autonomous congregations re-emerge

Phyllis Tickle said the Great Emergence will be as earth-shaking as the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, impacting social, political and religious institutions. This far-reaching, multi-faceted change has various overlapping crosscurrents, including a new spirit of congregational autonomy.

Some congregations that vote to disaffiliate with the United Methodist Church will join the Global Methodist Church. It’s not a binary choice. Disaffiliating churches will have other options. Frazer Church in Montgomery plans to affiliate with the Free Methodist Church, which was founded in 1860.

Yesterday’s post cited a large local church whose leaders have unanimously recommended disaffiliation from the UMC to “join a network of like-minded Wesleyan large churches.” It’s a move toward homogeneity and congregational autonomy within an easy-to-exit network.

As a way of solidifying his rule and unifying his subjects, Emperor Constantine gathered autonomous Christian leaders to agree on basic beliefs and practices for a religious hierarchy within a “Christian” empire. Monastic movements brought alternative structures, as did the Protestant Reformation.

This is a new chapter in the long search for religious freedom within a unity of meaningful identity. It’s difficult for political parties, Christian communities, and amusement park operators. As people “choose sides,” an increasing number of people are choosing “none of the above.”

From “The Rise of the ‘Umns’,” by Mike Moore, Christianity Today, March 29, 2022

2 thoughts on “Autonomous congregations re-emerge”

  1. I had not realized that having a uniform version of Christianity was man-made, and that this splintering is returning Christians to how they began.


  2. The word “bishop” means “presider.” In the early days, the leader of a local Christian community usually was the oldest and wisest soul in the community. The network of presiders or local church leaders was dynamic and informal. The leaders of Antioch (in Syria) and Alexandria (in Egypt) became important voices because of he size of those Christian communities. Emperor Constantine, for better or for worse, was instrumental in formalizing those relationships. The bishops of Constantinople (now Istanbul) and Rome became the two most influential bishops. It’s a long and fascinating story.

    Liked by 1 person

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