Whose Order?

Presbyterians are squirrely folk who lean heavily into the understanding that Order is important.  Some of us have even had bumper stickers on our cars that read “Decently and in Order!”.

Only me?  Okay, then.

There is something about order (logos!) being called out of chaos that appeals to my sensibilities.  I see it in the church even when we are even at our most disorderly – at Session meetings when emotions are high and in the way we debate the best use of resources.  Order occurs not because we insist on one way, but because we allow for discourse and discernment. We as a denomination have chosen to allow for lots of wiggle room even as we set parameters.  

Those parameters are our Confessions.

If you’re only familiar with the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, you need to dive into the others.  Three have been added to our Constitution in my lifetime: the Confession of ’67, the Brief Statement of Faith (roughly around the time of reunion) and Belhar Confession.  Like the previous additions, each Confessional statement speaks to the context in which it was written.  Each Confession seeks to birth order out of chaos.

Take the Barmen Declaration.  This Confession was written in the late 1930’s as a response to the efforts of the Nazi state to force churches to adopt “the Führer Principle” for organizing church government.  This principle focused on the unity of one leader and the people on one goal as the only means of creating order.[1] Many churches adopted this principle and supported Hitler as a German “prophet” and actively worked to support his ideals.  The idea of order was persuasive for many Christians because all the right props were in place, even as it marched boldly toward fascism.

It is a bit tempting, isn’t it?  Just give in to having an autonomous leader, and the problems and conflicts cease? This is the promise of fascism.

The Barmen Declaration was born out of the movement that protested the alignment of the church and the state.  It didn’t overtly speak to the acts of the Nazi state, but instead reminded the church that Jesus is the decisive Word (logos!) of God.   

In other words, if you are seeking order (logos!) and peace… do not look to the state.  Only Christ, church.  Only Christ.  There will always be those who promise order and lawfulness, but God alone is the One who brings order out of chaos.  

[1] Why, yes… Heidegger was a fan.

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