Just one week remains until this year’s meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Chicago. I’ll be on the ground in force, wandering the book aisles and presenting a paper at the gathering of the Reformed Theology and History Group.
The group this year is conducting a session on unity and schism in the Reformed churches, which I think sheds a great deal of light on present disputes and will make for an interesting conversation. My own contribution to the session (Sunday morning, 9 a.m.,McCormick Place West-194A) examines the theology, history, and polity structures of American Presbyterianism as fundamentally predisposing this tradition toward ecclesial unity.
Here is the abstract:
On the Merits of Scrupling: Unity and Uniformity
in American Presbyterianism
This paper registers an historical and theological critique of the current separation movement in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Three specific elements will be considered: the theological nature of the church’s confessions; the allowance of scrupling for ordinands during similar periods of discord in the history of American Presbyterianism; and denominational polity, particularly with respect to ordination. Together, these three suggest that the unity of Presbyterianism is best served by a certain degree of confessional and practical diversity. When Presbyterians have enforced strict subscription to confessional standards among its ministers, innate differences have led inevitably to division; but when a measure of nonconformity is allowed, the result is a stronger ecclesial unity. I will argue that the Reformed view of confessional authority and the nature of presbyterian polity, in fact, are designed to innately support the unity of the church even — and especially — in light of serious disagreement.