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The Primacy of the Local

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by JonC, Feb 7, 2016.

  1. JonC

    JonC Lifelong Disciple

    Aug 28, 2001
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    Each week I try to read a couple new, or revisit an old, article. In 1980 John Yoder wrote an article for the Journal of Ecumenical Studies addressing several issues regarding the Baptist perspective and ecumenism. I found his statements regarding the primacy of the local interesting for several reasons, not the least being that it was written in 1980 (I found it interesting considering the rise of "non-denominational," emerging, and non-traditional church structures that gained momentum a couple of decades later).

    The Primacy of the Local

    “The time is ripe for a restored insistence on the primacy of the local gathering as defining the reality of the church, and therefore also as locating the primary ecumenical agenda. For a long time mainstream denominations have dominated the discussions of church unity with varying models of how to bring together the agencies of church government at the top. That thrust is now losing steam, not because a counter-witness of Baptists or Disciples has been heard, but because of its own inherent top-heaviness. United churches around the globe, the fruit of great pains of negotiators and mediators, while not breaking up, have not brought the degree of payoff in either witness credibility or ministering effectiveness that was hoped for, and negotiations toward merger are slowing. Those mergers work the best which bring together those who are already closest together. This is no surprise, but it decreases the usability of that union model for the really important divisions. In the United States the Consultation on Church Union is moving away from the federative vision which brought it to birth in favor of a pattern that will celebrate unity as it already exists and move initiative from the "brass" to the "grass." Now certainly the response to the challenge of this time is not to say that a Baptist convention or a Mennonite general conference or assembly (for which our own stated ecclesiologies have no clear explanation) are more valid forms for church unity than are the structures of other denominations. The need would be to find ways—and they must be new ways—to formulate our forebears' claim that all over-arching or connectional structures are provisional and derivative (not, with the Landmarkers and Churches of Christ, that they are non-existent—a stance impossible to make credible), so that the separateness of Christians which is a scandal to the world is not first the separateness of those agencies. Let Congregationalism again be an affirmation instead of a demurrer, and a whole new universe of ecumenical agenda would open up, in which precisely the "free churches" should be most at their ease.”

    Yoder, John Howard. “Another ‘free church’ perspective on Baptist ecumenism.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 17, no. 2 (1980): 149-159.
    #1 JonC, Feb 7, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2016