What is Christian Literacy?

refers to the ability to use a language - to know what words means, to be able to use grammar, sentence structure, to be able to converse in that language is to be literate.

Religious literacy
means having the ability to understand and speak about our faith intelligently. It’s the ability to communicate the basic tenets of our religion.

I'm very grateful to B.U. Professor Stephen Prothero for his excellent book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." This book, along with my desire to teach the faith, served as the inspiration for this effort.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


What can I tell you about Congregationalism that you don't already know? 

Well, here goes.

Congregation was first a movement within the Church of England. In fact one of the first proponents of Congregationalism was an Anglican priest, Robert Browne(1550 - 1633). Browne believed that Christ was the head of the church, not the king or the queen or anyone else. He also believed that each congregation should elect its own pastor and leaders. For these radical (?) beliefs Browne was imprisoned 32 times and fled to the Netherlands.

Robert Browne
 The earliest Congregationalists believed that the Protestant Reformation had not gone far enough and that the Church of England with its liturgies and ceremonies was still too "Roman" (Catholic) for their tastes. Thus they sought to "purify" the church of all Roman influences. Hence the name, Puritan.

It might surprise you to learn that the earliest Congregationalists did not believe that each congregation was to be independent of all others. Browne believed that each autonomous church owed "communal helpfulness" to every other church. In 1706 Massachusetts adopted Cotton Mather's plan that ministers be in associations with one another and be given the authority to examine and license candidates for ministry. 300 years later this structure still stands within our denomination, as the local associations of Congregational (U.C.C.) churches, now with clergy and lay representatives, have the authority to ordain. Mather's plan called for a voluntary fellowship of churches to provide mutual aid and outside assistance in handling disputes. These ministries as well are carried on today by our local association (the Andover Association of the U.C.C.) as well as by the Massachusetts Conference of the U.C.C.

Jonathan Edwards
One other interesting thing about Congregationalism was its influence upon American democracy. The New England town meeting grew out of the Congregational church meeting. In fact, in the earliest town meetings only church members in full standing could vote. One also can't help but think that the colonists rebellion against the Church of England also played a role in their eventual rebellion against the King of England. Furthermore, in their writings and their preaching, Congregational ministers Thomas Hooker (1586 - 1647), often called the "father of democracy" in American, and Jonathan Edwards (1703-1760), laid the groundwork for democracy, constitutional free government and even the separation of church and state.

Here's a thought: Congregationalism was more a church polity (governing) movement than a theological one; yet the earliest Congregationalists were known for their biblical theology; so much so that they were called, "People of the Book."

Question: How important is it to understand our roots, where we've come from?

Prayer: Thank You, God, for our spiritual forebears, who have "run the race" before us and have been found faithful, leaving us a great heritage of faith and discipleship. Amen.

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