Friday, September 21, 2007

those c-words

Maybe someone can help me with one of the great mysteries of church life in NZ for me.

Why is it that within the 'protestant' scene (particularly the Baptist one, for me) the word "Calvin" seems to be a dirtier 'C' word than the word "Catholic"? On which side of the Reformation did we actually end up?!

Now I am teaching spirituality and am finding some good stuff in the Catholic heritage. In my current role I have enjoyed fellowship with Catholic believers ... so that is not so much the issue. What befuddles me is how the Reformed (Calvinist) people are so marginal in the life of the NZ church. They are off in some eddy far from the mainstream which is unlike every other country of which I am aware. Time and time again I find this C-word to be one of the great conversation stoppers. Why is this? More importantly, what is missing in the overall church because they are confined to the margins?

In 1984, fresh from a mildly Reformed training overseas, I was travelling to my first NZ pastors' conference with a mentor. I asked him, "So how many Baptist churches/pastors would consider themselves to be 'reformed'?" I will never, ever forget his response: "None". While he wasn't quite right, he was well within the statistical margin of error!

The plot thickens even further when it is realised that the NZ Baptist scene was borne with an umbilical (and familial) connection to CH Spurgeon, the greatest Reformed/Calvinist Baptist of the 19th century. Something drastic has happened over the century. I just don't get it...

nice chatting

Paul