What do Presbyterians believe about the connectional church?
Our radically connectional church
By Michael Jinkins
Reprinted from the March 2007 issue of Presbyterians Today
At first glance a Presbyterian understanding of the “connectional church” promises to be about as exciting as a brown paper bag — like the one I put my peanut butter sandwich in this morning. Other distinctively Presbyterian beliefs — like the doctrine of total depravity — pack some sizzle. Predestination: now that’s a doctrine you can sink your teeth into. But connectionalism? Yawn.
In fact, however, the theological ideas underlying connectionalism are rich and wonderfully grounded in the Bible and in the life of the church stretching back over 20 centuries. Arguably more blood has been spilled and more hearts broken around this concept than any other in the church’s history. The words that fly when the church’s connectionalism is called into question — words like schism, heresy, orthodoxy, secession, dissenters, apostates — are among the most inflammatory in the lexicon of faith.
Far from being a yawnfest, the church’s understanding of connectionalism is a minefield. What is needed most here is light, not more heat.
A revolutionary message
The New Testament understands the church as a spiritually organic reality. The relationship between Jesus and his disciples is not just that between a charismatic leader and his followers or a gifted teacher and his students, but is (according to John’s Gospel) like that between a vine and its branches and (according to Paul) like that between a human body and its head.