Thursday, February 10, 2005

Withdrawing From Society


FOUNDED 1955 -- Standards: Original Confession of Faith of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (1906). Stated Clerk: Mrs. Vera Allen

Publication: 'The Bulletin' -- Mrs. Jaunita Healy, Editor -- 1680 Welcome Rd., Cullman, AL 35058


BROOKLYN -- Holly Pond, AL
HICKORY HILL -- Petersburg, TN
MT. PISGAH -- Cullman, AL
PLEASANT GROVE -- Whitleyville, TN
PLEASANT HILL -- Centerville, AL
PLEASANT SHADE -- Pleasant Shade, TN
POSTON'S CHAPEL -- Cookeville, TN
RUSSELL HILL -- Pleasant Shade, TN
SHELBYVILLE -- Shelbyville, TN
SUMNER COUNTY -- Nashville, TN
WALNUT PARK -- Gadsen, AL"

As I understand it, this denomination has about 300 members. That is a denomination smaller than some congregations. Given the list above, the congregations average about 25 members per.

I was very surprised to find this webpage about a part of the Christian church that I did not know about. I grew up in the Cumberland Presbyterian church and still have an affection for the people and institutions. While the Cumberland Presbyterian church will always fill a fond spot in my heart, I have found my denominational home in the Presbyterian Church in America. One of the reasons for my switch from denominations is really not all that spiritual. I have been serving in the military and I hopped denominations about every time we moved. That is about every three years. So my denomination play list looks like this:
  • Cumberland Presbyterian
  • independent Fundamental Baptists
  • Cumberland Presbyterian
  • Dabbling in various Pentecostal churches, especially the Assembly Of God
  • Cumberland Presbyterian
  • Calvary Chapel
  • Bible Church
  • Southern Baptist
  • Cumberland Presbyterian
  • Non-denominational Charismatic Church
  • Evangelical Free
  • Military Chapel
  • independent Fundamental Baptist
  • Presbyterian Church In America (I have been in the PCA since 1996)

From my little history of 40 years of church hopping, the Cumberlands figure big in my personal history. Two of my college years were spent at Bethel, the Cumberland Presbyterian College. I attended a lot of the governing bodies; Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly. I read extensively about church history, especially as it relates to the Cumberland denomination. Why had I never heard of the Upper Cumberland Presbyterian Church? The denomination apparently came about as Cumberland Presbyterians found the issue joining the National Counsel of Churches an issue from which they had to break fellowship. Here is a quote from a time line on the Cumberland Presbyterian history----

"1953 Ten presbyteries memorialized for GA about affiliation with NCC; it was requested of GA that they disapprove of the RSV and affiliation of CP Boards with Boards of the NCC; Fellowship of Cumberland Presbyterian Conservatives, a group of CP's reacting against the modernist movement, formed a conference and planned a second one in Memphis. General Assembly declared these actions unconstitutional and some left the denomination and formed the Upper Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Gallitan (near Carthage, TN)."

Did these churches make strategic errors by leaving the denomination?

I see several problems with leaving the mother denomination. For instance, their ministers will have to be trained somewhere. They may choose to have them train at seminaries in other denominations or not require seminary. If they choose to not require seminary there is the risk of eventually not having any distinction from other denominations around them and then why not let the congregations unit with a like minded denomination. I doubt that the issues mentioned for their seperation as remaining relevant to present church life.

I would suggest that this was the only option they felt was faithful to the cause of Christ. Usually people who withdraw do so as a means of protection from attack and in an attempt to purify the group. In fact, our nation was founded by the pilgrim's who were trying to withdraw from mainstream English religion in order to practice their faith in purity. The Jollyblogger mentioned not too long ago that someone told him that if he became a hermit that he would still take sin into his hermit withdrawal.

I discussed "The Village" in another post, in the movie the people withdraw and still there is evil in their midst.

I would say not all withdrawal is wrong but how much is enough.
Often withdrawal is used to simplify a problem but often it can create simply a new problem.
Withdrawal is often about power change but the new leaders may not be truly changed by Christ.
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