One of the enduring decisions that continues to divide Christian denominations is polity – how the church is to be governed. Episcopal, congregational, presbyterian… each of these systems of authority and submission draws from elements of Scriptural truth, and believers have been unable to completely reconcile the various strands across denominations.
One sign of encouragement, however, seems to be recent, small trends towards agreement. Many denominations that are independent/congregational have been putting a greater emphasis on partnering together, and connectional/presbyterian denominations have displayed a willingness to think about the importance of the local congregation.
Examples of this abound in confessional, orthodox American Christianity. Denominations that were created out of the fight against modernism and biblical faithlessness – e.g., the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the Presbyterian Church in America, the United Reformed Churches of North America – have all by in large been careful to regulate centralized power and emphasize local, congregational authority (no doubt partly in reaction to abuses they had witnessed prior). On the other end of the polity spectrum, independent churches are showing an increased interest in working together. Networks such as Acts 29, the Gospel Coalition, Redeemer Network, and Reformed Congregational all act as evidence for this trend. Perhaps there is an increasing desire to find strengths on both ends of the spectrum, and God willing, careful students of Scripture will find ways to biblically and confessionally articulate these truths that lead to greater unity.
But enough pontificating, and on to the actual resources! Continue reading