Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Pentecostal Papacy

Benedict is speaking in tongues and jumping to the jam of the great I AM. w00t!

Not really. It's not that the Bishop of Rome is getting ready to bounce at Planet Shakers, but that the Pentecostals are creating a sprawling denomination. Once upon a time, the Assemblies of God in Australia were a loose confederation of independent churches, banding together out of mutual theology and cooperation. More recently they've become the Australian Christian Churches and seem to be creating a hierarchy within the confederation. Brian and Bobbie now oversee churches in eight countries. They haven't quite cracked the Asian or South American markets yet. Paul and Jo oversee three campuses in Brisbane.[1] James and Samantha oversee churches in Townsville and the Sunshine Coast.

It would be easy (and perhaps cheap) to criticise this trend by asking whether these arrangements give enough time for them to conduct pastoral duties for the whole flock. I'm sure someone has already tried to make the point. But what's more interesting is the semblance of history repeating itself. With the growth of the movement, there is the implementation of bureaucracy and centralised doctrine. In a confederation, the interpretation of Scripture is more difficult because there are others to convince; whereas under a papacy the top voice is unchallenged. All teaching cascades from the holy father (senior pastor) out to the dioceses and parishes (campuses). And a bureaucracy is necessary to support the structure. Attendance counts, budgets, office managers, interns, etc, are all part of the hierarchy and the function of this church.

The Pentecostals, so long in contrast to the older denominations, are now moving down the same path. I wonder if they will implement Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith any time soon.[2] Either way, I can't help but hear the words of Kierkegaard echo down the years.
The established order, however, at that time insisted and always insists on being objective, higher than each and every individual, than subjectivity. The moment when an individual is unwilling to subordinate himself to this established order or indeed even questions its being true, yes, charges it with being untruth, whereas he declares that he himself is in the truth and of the truth, declares that the truth lies specifically in inwardness—then there is the collision. Practice in Christianity
The Danish State Church was the established order of his time, complete with sprawling hierarchy. It stands as a warning to all who are part of large church, whether pentecostal or catholic, that we cannot let the church become the established order, otherwise it has failed to be the church because it "always insists on being objective, higher than each and every individual." Rather, Christianity must be the result of the individual Christians who subordinate themselves to Christ and nothing else.

[1] Bless me father, for it has been many years since my last confession, but I confess to being a founding member of Metro. For my sins, I will spend several years in a Baptist congregation.
[2] Your laughter is just a sign that you won't expect it. No one expects the Inquisition.



I have been saying this for years Andrew. It's amazing how pentecostals hate you for it, and even more interesting is their disdain for the Roman Catholic Church when their system is even more papal than the papacy itself. There is at least a ceratin amount of healthy discension allowed in the Roman Church. I could not say that about Pope Brian or Paul. The worst thing about the new pentecostal Churches is not just their repeating of pre-reformation
oppression and enforced stupididty, it is that spirituality is directly linked to the amount of money you take, the number of congregants, the modernity of worship and how many Churches you can plant and grow. Far different to Jesus' claims that 'narrow is the path that leads to life and FEW find it'...
Rev John Gill

djfoobarmatt said...

Some good observations in this post. I get the impression that if there's a Kierkegaard fan page on Facebook, you're on it (as well as having purchased the merchandise: t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs...)

I'm studying an intro theology subject called 'Being the Church' this semester and I imagine I'll be thinking about these issues in the coming months.

Andrew Smith said...

Oh Kierkegaard! He's the carrot and the stick for my theology.