Thursday, October 23, 2008

When Christian groups reunite, watch out for the next split

From the Economist. An article about how "splitting" gets into a church's DNA.

Some of the issues at stake are familiar from other Christian battlegrounds, such as the Anglican Communion, where the question of gay rights has split southern-hemisphere conservatives from northern liberals. The Dutch traditionalists reject female pastors and same-sex unions. But the Dutch old-timers’ deeper objection is to sloppy mixing of two traditions: their own Calvinism, stressing the “depravity” of mankind, and the Lutheran view, which is a bit gentler. “We pledged to follow the original Reformist path, and it is a biblical calling that you must continue to do what you promised,” says Willem van Vlastuin, a “restored” church pastor who serves 1,300 souls in the coastal town of Katwijk.

Before 2004, conservatives in the Netherlands’ reformed churches (there were two with similar names) could rub along with the liberal camp because they still belonged to bodies that claimed, at least, to be Calvinist. Once the waters were muddied by throwing in a new, Lutheran set of beliefs, the conservatives marched out. Just as happened with the Russian reunion, some clerics hovered between the amalgamated body and the dissidents, in a few cases switching sides more than once.

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