Sunday, September 24, 2006

Give Me That Rodeo Religion

In the last few days, I had opportunity to travel around a bit in this weird state of mind called Texas. Obstensibly, I was to attend a one-day continuing education seminar west of San Antonio, but you might say I took the long way there. A freakish accident, resulting in a broken ankle, scotched my seminar attendance and sent me limping home a day early (but that is another story).

I enjoy driving the backroads, savoring the small towns and the occasional cafe where the waitress might still call you "Hon." In these places, you catch glimpses of the unique, the off-beat, and sometimes, the downright bizarre.

Somewhat in that context, I always pay special attention to the churches I pass along the way: their archetecture (or lack thereof), their sloganeering, and especially their names. The Jesus Christ is the Answer, Inc. Church, painted in large red letters on the church roof is hard to miss, or forget. Somehow I suspect someone didn't really think this one through...."Hi, I'm with the Jesus Christ is the Answer, Inc. Church and I'd like to tell you that Jesus Christ is the Answer"....it just doesn't flow. I found the Little Zion Jerusalem Baptist Church, an odd juxtaposition, but then I found the Mother Zion Missionary Baptist Church completely baffling. I am familiar, of course, with the biblical usage of the word "Zion," but what is meant by "Mother Zion?" I don't get it.

But outside of these colorful varieties and the traditional Baptist/Methodist/ Church of Christ matrix, most everything else was of the "new" variety. By this I mean some variation of the phrase "New Life," "New Beginnings," "New Covenant," etc. or something or the other. In fact, 90% of these churches are some jumble of the following phrases:

New Life
New Beginning
New Covenant
Faith
Family
Fellowship
Praise
Community
Outreach Center


Just mix and match to come up with a jazzy name, find a metal building, and you are in business. Interestingly, many tend to avoid the word "church," thinking, I suppose, that if you don't call it a church, then people will come. So you end up with things like New Life Outreach Center, or New Beginnings Family Fellowship, or New Covenant Fellowship Center. A variation in a nearby county is Driven Life Outreach Center. Driven life? Excuse me. I don't mean to put too fine a point on it, but Muslims are driven. Christians are led. Bottom line: more often than not, new is not better.

I take all this in stride, but for some reason, I am baffled and a little disturbed by the phenomenon of the "cowboy churches." Those of you who don't live in the South or West may be puzzled by what I mean. These are churches specifically designed for "cowboys," where they can wear their boots and jeans and whatever else (hats?) and be comfortable and not feel out of place. Invariably, they meet in a large metal building that perhaps once was, or could still double as, a barn. Usually there is a roping arena out back, where the congregation can "rope," I suppose, after church.


What got me to thinking about this was the particular cowboy church I passed down in Central Texas--the All Around Cowboy Church. Now I understand that this is a rodeo term, but it just struck me as funny. If you are a part-time cowboy, or what we used to call a drug-store cowboy, then podner, you'd better jest mosey on down the trail, for this church is for "all around" cowboys.

And therein lies the heart of what bothers me about all this, and why it is just another example, par excellence, of the dissipation of Protestantism. The cowboy church philosophy, I gather, is to create a worship environment that is inviting to the "cowboy." I am speaking only for my part of the state, but real cowboys are pretty scare around here. There are folks who may have a few cows and who may occasionally ride a horse, but by and large it is merely an affectation, a stance, in many cases a mere fashion statement--a preference for wranglers and Tony Lama boots. (Now some truth in advertising here: I am not one, have never been one and have never aspired to be one. But my dad was--a real, old-time cowboy. He did other things, for sure, but at heart he was a cowboy, from cowboy country. So I do know the genuine article when I see it.) So, in effect, what we have here is a denomination created in large part for people who want to dress a certain way. I suppose it is no different than having Surfer Dude Churches in California and Hawaii, where you can carry your surfboard to worship. The raison d'etre of the cowboy churches is their particular hobby, or fashion preference. In my mind, this has trivialized Christianity down to the point where it cannot go much further.

Two final points and I'll stop "beating this dead horse." American religious groups of all stripes have long adopted casual dress in worship. (I have no problem with this, up to a point, because what bothers me more than casualness is pretense.) I never heard of anyone being turned away from any Protestant church around here for showing up in boots and jeans. It just wasn't an issue. So there was no real need for any separate churches. And I wonder what my reception would be at the All Around Cowboy Church if I showed up in khakis and loafers? It's just the same old thing. Finally, the image of the cowboy in American culture is one of lonely, rugged, individualistic, self-reliance. While these traits may serve you well in taming the frontier, I don't see a single one that should be a characteristic of Life in Christ.

By the way, the first picture is our cowboy of American myth. The second picture is the real thing, my g-g-uncle Henry who went up the Chisholm Trail in the late 1870s.

16 comments:

Luke said...

John,
I love the blog as always, but much like you, I consider it my job to play devil's advocate. I agree that fast food religion lacks the substance that the Catholic or Orthodox Church provides. However, there is something to be said about getting people in the door. Like yourself, I was raised in this crazy state of Texas that I am proud to call home. My first exposure to religion was as a small child going to a local Church of Christ on Wednesday night with my favorite Uncle. From there I attended Baptist, Methodist, Church of God, Non-Denominational, etc., and was finally baptized at the age of 28 in the Episcapal Church. My current forcus is on the teachings of the Orthodox Church, a group I believe you are familar with and approve of. My journey is like many others, it started someplace else, but it has lead me to where I am.
I agree that the idea of riding a horse to Sunday service seems ridiculous (and I own horses). But if one dime store cowboy, who only feels comfortable at the lonesome dove Cowboy Church, gets exposure to our Lord and receives salvation as a result, then who are we to judge.
I propose a that we dawn a pair of slacks and dress shoes and mossey on down to the Cowpoke Gathering on Sunday. We might be surprised at the message. Probably not, but it would make for a great blog posting.

Caldonia Sun said...

John,

It's sad to me that this behavior just further fragments the church. Jesus came to break down the partition between God & man, but goes on to say there is no distinction between Greeks, Jews, etc. A church is a "family," complete with moms & dads, grammas & grampas, uncles (some crazy), aunts, cousins, teens, babies, all thrown in together. Why must the American Protestant Church segregate?

BTW, I've been reading and enjoying your blog for some time now and added you to my blogroll. Check it out if you get a chance.

Caldonia Sun

The Scrivener said...

Yeehaw!

I'm with you, John.

Somewhat in response to Luke's devil's advocacy, I wonder if catering to the silly things that people use to tag and define their identity isn't self-defeating. You may get them in the door, but at the same time you run the risk of reinforcing something that is less than peripheral to their true identity, which can only be found in Christ. On top of that, you mangle the church and reinforce that erroneous view of the nature of the church.

But while we may judge the phenomenon as a phenomenon, I think we can save our judgment when it comes to the individuals involved. I think we can still recognize that some people are perhaps aided through misbegotten endeavors like this. But how much more effective it would be if we were able to live Christ ourselves, fully identify with him, in the Church, as the Church, casting aside all the other false trapping of marketed identity. We only truly draw people to Christ by becoming Christ to them.

John said...

Luke, Caldonia and Scriv:

I appreciate your thoughtful responses, and I am anxious to reply to each of you.

Unfortunately, I had surgery on my broken ankle today, am now confined to bed with elevated foot and am on a pain med. regimin. Doesn't look like it is going to happen today! Tomorrow, maybe.

Caldonia Sun said...

Oohh! May the Lord grant you rest and a quick healing.

Anne

John said...

Luke:
You raise a good point, and make a distinction I should have noted in my post. My criticism is directed at the phenomenon as a whole, and certainly not at any individual believer. Even in my pre-Orthodox days, I often visualized the Christian life to a journey towards God. As much as I might disparage the format, theology and influence of these churches, the simple fact of the matter is, that for some of these folks, they might never even contemplate the journey, save for their contact with these churches. Granted, but one would hope that they would move on up to something more substantial. It is just that this is so deadly serious stuff, and this approach places it squarely in the realm of the trivial and silly.


Caldonia Sun:
Welcome! Thanks for the tip about your blog. I have checked it out and like what I see. I will be adding yours to my blogroll as well. I like your analogy about the church as a family. As you note, Jesus Christ, through His Incarnation, broke down the partition between God and man, and then through the Church he broke down the walls between mankind. But what we see in this country is an ongoing micro-denominalization within Protestantism (and the so-called non-denominational or community churches are no different; they are just no-name denominations); all the while fracturing what should be whole, and leaving what should be precious and inviolable as bargaining chips on the table of personal preference.

Scrivener:
Exactly so. As I noted in my comment to Luke, getting someone "in the door" so to speak, is better that that person never darkening the door and remaining with his back turned to God. So yes, that is all very well and good as far as it goes, BUT, BUT, BUT, it usually doesn’t’ go very far. This dumbing-down, trivialization, marketing, etc. of faith invariably destroys, cheapens, obscures and/or confuses much that should be jealously guarded. Then the next sub sect starts at this point, and continues the process ever further downward. Again, looking at the phenomenon as a whole, and not at any individual believer, the process is patently self-defeating, an inherent “design flaw” if you will, in the very nature of Protestantism and Sola Scriptura. Flannery O'Connor once noted that Protestantism carried within it the seeds of its own demise, being open at either end: to unbelief on one end and a return to the Faith on the other.

The Scrivener said...

John,

I'm sorry to hear about your ankle. I hope the surgery went well. Sounds like you won't be marching up the Chisolm Trail anytime too soon, podner.

I adore Ms O'Connor, by the way. I'm especially fond of her stories The River and Parker's Back. And Wise Blood is a given, of course. And... And... Okay, I pretty much love them all. Her letters are wonderful, too.

s-p said...

Most excellent post, dude...er, uh,
damn fine writin', TJ. Interestingly my sister and her husband in Montana (who are NOT cowboys but Todd wears boots), have very recently become Christians at age 48 and landed in a Cowboy Church in Kalispell after visiting several Churches. I love your take on naming Churches. Before I was Orthodox I saw this scenario: A Greek Church bought a house on a main street and turned it into a Church. A couple years later next door to it sprung up "The Jesus Church". A couple years later two houses down a sign went up "The TRUE Jesus Church"... a schism from the "Jesus Church". I thought St. Katherine's should have put out a sign that said "The Original, Really True, One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Jesus Church". Great stuff all!

John said...

Scrivener:

Yep, the surgery went fine. I now have 7 screws and a plate in my ankle. I am recuperating nicely, thanks to the best care-giver in the world.

O'Connor is simply the best. In 2004, the wife and I, along with 3 cousins, made a quick pilgrimage to her home, Andalusia. I have been a contributor to the foundation which supports the site ever since. Like you, it is hard for me to pick a favorite story, they are all so good. "The Displaced Person" would have to be my current pick, though.

O'Connor's stories are all about grace--not the warm, cuddly and fuzzy kind according to popular perception; but the real, gritty, break-your-ankle kind that gets your attention.

s-p:
Your "Jesus Church" story is just too much! I think we need to have a Cowboy Church naming contest. I think I could do better than the one nearby--the "Looking for the Brand Cowboy Church." How about "Get Along, Little Dogies Cowboy Church" or "Happy Trails to You Cowboy Church?" Seriously though, tell me what these folks believe and what is distinctive about their worship. With your sister attending there, I figure you have more insight than I do.

John said...

Caldonia Sun:

I have linked your blog. I was going to post a comment there and congratulate you on your upcoming Chrismation, but I see that comments are restricted to team members. How does one become one, exactly?

David Bryan said...

Saw a "Cowboy New Testament" in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in the Ft. Worth Stockyards today and thought of this post.

Interests and hobbies are fine--I'm into Civil War history, particularly that of the Southern troops--but you don't see me clamoring for a "Southron Heritage Study Bible" or other such nonsense. Nor do I ask for tequila bars or cigar smoking rooms to be installed in places of worship as have those who have coffee shops in their centers.

Amazing...

John said...

David Bryan,

Yes, I have heard of these bibles after writing this post! Un-be-liev-able! Apparently they have study aides comparing bible stories to rodeo stuff. I kid you not. I may mosey on over to our local Bibles-R-Us store and sneak a peak.

Gary Morgan said...

This is a pretty extensive commentary on the Cowboy Church movement from a guy who just happened to drive by a building and see a sign. Frankly, anyone who believes that the Cowboy Church movement is about boots, hats, and jeans is missing the point entirely. To assume that thousands of people are flocking to these churches every Sunday because they are worried about their footwear is the height of elitist arrogance. Let’s talk about some of your assumptions and their theological implications.
You said, “So, in effect, what we have here is a denomination created in large part for people who want to dress a certain way...” You also stated, “I never heard of anyone being turned away from any Protestant church around here for showing up in boots and jeans. It just wasn't an issue. So there was no real need for any separate churches...”
Perhaps you have never heard of it, but most assuredly it happens. And, it happens in any number of ways. Many years ago, I accidently wandered into Neiman Marcus in my boots and jeans. It was like being dropped in a foreign country. Although everyone was courteous and no one asked me to leave, I nevertheless had the strong feeling I didn’t belong there, and if the truth be known, the clerks and customers of that fine establishment had the same feeling. As the church in America has become increasingly polished, professional, and white collar, there is a growing uneasiness among people who dig ditches, repair sewers, or clean stalls that they just don’t belong. It’s not that the church is overtly trying to exclude them, its just that the environment is becoming more and more alien to them. The truth is, almost everyone used to work with their hands and bring their horse to church. If everyone with a computer, cell phone, and blackberry had to attend church in that environment, I wonder how many of them would go? Would they slide right into the surrounding conversations about “pulling calves” or “farriers” or “breeding hogs?” Or, would they feel so out of place that they would just stay away? That is essentially where the church has left the blue collar crowd today. Are there exceptions to this? Absolutely. Are they becoming more rare? Absolutely. Twenty-five years ago, I heard a church growth expert warn that unless the church found a way to reach poor and blue collar people in contemporary society, that they would perish without Christ. This is exactly what the Cowboy Church Movement is doing, and it is one of the reasons for its explosive growth.
But, there’s even more to it than that. Suppose, for example, a young woman (who does not know Christ) comes into the typical church wearing spaghetti straps with nothing underneath. While this might be tolerated for a Sunday or two, in many churches some well meaning soul would soon send the pastor or a deacon to talk to her about her dress. The conversation would go something like this: “We love you and are glad you are here. However, your dress is inappropriate in this environment. Perhaps next week you could wear something less revealing.” Now, what has the church just asked that young woman to do? Not to leave, (although that’s exactly what she will do), but to change. To begin to dress like a Christian, talk like a Christian, and behave like a Christian before she is in fact a Christian.
To understand what this means, a little theology is in order. Three great tenets of Protestant faith are justification, sanctification, and glorification. Justification refers to the forgiveness of sins received through the substitutionary atonement of Christ. Sanctification refers to the work of the Holy Spirit in purging us from the sins of the flesh and molding us increasingly into the image of Christ. Glorification refers to our final transformation when we will be perfected before God. Now, all of this must happen in a particular order. First we must be justified, because without justification we cannot receive the Holy Spirit, and without the Holy Spirit, we cannot be sanctified. So, when a church asks a person to dress like a Christian, act like a Christian, and talk like a Christian before they are justified–they are actually asking the impossible. How can a person become Christlike without having Christ? They are also committing a grave theological error because they are insisting that the person become “sanctified” before they are “justified.” This is the common practice of many churches in our day. They will expect people to conform first and get saved later. This is the cause of much of the pretense that plagues the modern church. Don’t worry about the inside–dress up the outside. Its not so important that you actually have the joy of the Lord, just remember to look like you do. This is explicitly what Cowboy Churches do NOT do.
We have a saying in the Cowboy Church. We catch the fish and trust Jesus to clean them. We do not pass judgement on a person’s outward appearance whether they are in cowboy clothes, dress pants, or are tattooed from head to toe. (And yes, we have all the above and then some in our church.) We believe that if we will just love them and accept them as they are, they will stay and hear the gospel. And, if they hear the gospel, they may just get justified (saved). And, if they get justified, they will ultimately get sanctified. And, if they get sanctified, they will also be glorified. That, fellow travelers is good theology, but it is theology that has almost been lost by the contemporary church. The Cowboy Church movement is on the verge of recovering it and that more than anything else explains its attraction.
Make no mistake about it, people do want to feel comfortable and Cowboy Churches take pains to make them feel that way. (Which by the way is Biblical. The Apostle Paul was finely attuned to the cultural environment that he was in and tried to present himself and the gospel in such a way that Christ would get a hearing. Why would we want to do anything less? If anything is unbiblical, it is saying to blue collar folks, “This isn’t Burger King, you can have it our way or you won’t get the S.O.B.”) But comfort is not what is driving these churches. Theology is. The reason for the remarkable growth of these churches is that we are nearer the truth and nearer to the heart of God than 90% of the churches out there. What you are seeing is not an accommodation to a culture. What you are seeing is a reformation.
Gary Morgan
Cowboy Church of Ellis County

John said...

Gary,

Thanks for your reponse. I did not mean to give offense--my comments on the CC movement were not meant to be taken out of context of the larger picture of American evangelicalism. You cover a lot of ground in your post, so I will try and answer point by point.

"This is a pretty extensive commentary on the Cowboy Church movement from a guy who just happened to drive by a building and see a sign...height of elitist arrogance."

Although I haven't made a detailed study of the CC, I am hardly just a guy who drive by and sees a sign. We have CCs in my area, I read their local announcements and publications and know people who attned. But to have an appreciation of irony and to be aware of over-arching trends in our culture does not make one an elitist. That is a cheap shot.

"You said...what we have here is a denomination created in large part for people who want to dress a certain way...[and] I never heard of anyone being turned away from any Protestant church around here for showing up in boots and jeans."
Perhaps you have never heard of it, but ... it happens....I accidently wandered into Neiman Marcus in my boots and jeans.... had the strong feeling I didn’t belong there..."

Of course, narrow-minded Christians have always judged on the outward appearance. I've seen it happen, too. But notice I said "turned away." And the NM example proves nothing. If you weren't self-conscious in NM, then it wouldn't be NM. I don't have any business in there, either! But none of this is justification for starting your own denomination, though in the Protestant world-view, it is just hunky-dory, which is my point.

As the church in America has become increasingly polished, professional, and white collar, there is a growing uneasiness among people who dig ditches, repair sewers, or clean stalls that they just don’t belong

Well, perhaps. But this seems much more of a big church vs. small church thing, not a them vs. CC thing. And frankly, the people I know who attend CC are not ditch-diggers. They are wealthy people who like the cowboy culture, and want their church in that context.

"The truth is, almost everyone used to work with their hands and bring their horse to church."

Exactly so, but because they had no other transportation. My grandparents went to church in their wagon and team. That is, until 1923. Thereafter, they went in their Model A. To carry your horse to church these days is just an affectation.

"If everyone with a computer, cell phone, and blackberry had to attend church in that environment, I wonder how many of them would go? Would they slide right into the surrounding conversations about “pulling calves” or “farriers” or “breeding hogs?” Or, would they feel so out of place that they would just stay away?"

To reduce church to be that which we talk about afterwards--whether it be blackberries or breeding hogs--just shows how far the entire concept of "Church" has devolved in the last 500 years.

"Suppose, for example, a young woman ... comes into the typical church wearing spaghetti straps with nothing underneath."

Frankly, your example is unconvincing. In my experience, she would be indistinquishable from the teenage girls in the typical Protestant congregation. And again, hardly a reason to found a new denomination.

"To understand what this means, a little theology is in order. Three great tenets of Protestant faith are justification, sanctification, and glorification."

Well, I don't want to indulge in any more "elitist arrogance," but I was a long-time deacon and elder in a Protestant church. Beleive me, I do understand these concepts.

"This is the cause of much of the pretense that plagues the modern church. Don’t worry about the inside–dress up the outside."

Notice that I said that pretense bothered me much more than casualness. In all my years as a Protestant, I never wore a suit--an occasional sports coat, at best (often worn with boots and jeans).

"We do not pass judgement on a person’s outward appearance...We believe that if we will just love them and accept them as they are, they will stay and hear the gospel."

As it should be--and already is in many, many churches. To say that there are churches where this is not the case begs the issue and really just sets up a straw man. Yes, there are bigoted, nosey people everywhere--even, I suspect in the down-home CC. But that is what church should do--heal us,a and God grant that it does. Still, no justification for yet another variation in the unending rainbow of diversty that is American Protestantism.


"That, fellow travelers is good theology, but it is theology that has almost been lost by the contemporary church. The Cowboy Church movement is on the verge of recovering it..."

That is just good old-fashioned Restorationist thought. I lived it for 25 years, and it just doesn't hold up.


"Make no mistake about it, people do want to feel comfortable and Cowboy Churches take pains to make them feel that way."

Excuse me, but Christianity is not about "feeling comfortable." Our besetting sin as a society is that we are all too comfortable--even fashioning our church life to be the same way. Of all the words that come to mind in describing a life of faith--sacrifice, struggle, persecution, overcoming, humility, patience, self-denial, etc.--the phrase "feeling comfortable" doesn't near make the list.

"But comfort is not what is driving these churches. Theology is."

Well, I'm glad you say that. And I take you at face value. But the examples you give--despite the detour into Justification, Sanctification and Glorification-- are all about feeling "uncomfortable," perhaps even resentful, of those uppity congregations.

"The reason for the remarkable growth of these churches is that we are nearer the truth and nearer to the heart of God than 90% of the churches out there."

Well, that's a powerful statement, there. Glad you all have it all figured out.

"What you are seeing is not an accommodation to a culture."

I think my point still stands.

"What you are seeing is a reformation."

Lord, help us! The world is still trying to recover from the one 500 years ago!

God bless,

John

Gary Morgan said...

John,
Just so you'll know, we are not starting a "new denomination." Many, if not most, Cowboy Churches are affiliated with a larger body of believers. In Texas, the majority of Cowboy Churches are currently tied to the Baptist General Convention of Texas or the Assemblies of God. There are a number of other denominations and organizations involved in the planting of Cowboy Churches including some loose "non-denominational" fellowships that exist to provide mutual support and accountability. And, although you may think of Cowboy Churches as "small," in fact relative to the average church in the United States, they are quite large. My church currently averages 1200-1400 in worship and there are many, many of these churches with more than 250 members. So, things are not always what they seem.
I also did not mean to offend. I have great respect for what traditional churches of all stripes have contributed and continue to contribute to our world. I am very familiar with the Orthodox Church and have always been impressed with how well they have preserved the essential doctrines of the faith over hundreds of years. Frankly, on the central issues of the faith--the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ--most churches are in essential agreement. It is largely in how they express that faith that they differ. (Although scholars rightly point out that the more any denomination focuses on its "distinctives," the further they move from essential orthodoxy).
The thing that discourages me is the volume of negative commentary Cowboy Churches receive in the blogosphere from those who have not taken the time to even understand who and what we are. As a seminary trained veteran pastor, I can assure you that when it comes to theology and the central doctrines of the faith, we are as "orthodox" in our beliefs as anyone.

John said...

Gary,

Good to hear from you again.

“Just so you'll know, we are not starting a "new denomination."... In Texas, the majority of Cowboy Churches are currently ...Baptist...or the Assemblies of God...[or] "non-denominational" fellowships....”

Gary, thanks for enlightening me about the CC affiliation with existing denominations. But this still doesn’t affect the point I was making, for this is a distinction without a difference. I would think members would identify themselves with the congregation they attend—which for all the world is a Cowboy Church. Whether they are associated with an existing denomination or not is immaterial to my point. For they are presented as another variation or choice in the seemingly endless mutations of American Protestantism--just like a new flavor at Baskin Robins. And my beef is not with the new flavor—or any flavor, for that matter—but with Baskin Robins.

“And, although you may think of Cowboy Churches as "small,"...they are quite large. My church currently averages 1200-1400... So, things are not always what they seem.”

That is good, and I did not mean to imply that CC were small—far from it, as you note, and as the parking lots around any CC on Sunday will testify. I was addressing your comment about people who “just don’t belong.” In my experience, that unease is more common in large, impersonal churches, rather than in the homier, smaller congregations where relationships are often more personal and friendly. That is all I was saying.

“Frankly, on the central issues of the faith--the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ--most churches are in essential agreement.”

By and large on those subjects, I would agree.

“It is largely in how they express that faith that they differ. (Although scholars rightly point out that the more any denomination focuses on its "distinctives," the further they move from essential orthodoxy). “

Yes and no. What some see as “distinctives” in others are the very efforts to cling to essential orthodoxy, as opposed to the least-common-denominator approach among some ecumenicists—the dumbing down, if you will—of faith in this country.

“The thing that discourages me is the volume of negative commentary Cowboy Churches receive in the blogosphere from those who have not taken the time to even understand who and what we are.”

Again, my criticism is not directed at the CC—for y’all do what you do very well. My criticism is directed as the milieu in which you operate--the evolving world of American Protestantism.

“As a seminary trained veteran pastor, I can assure you that when it comes to theology and the central doctrines of the faith, we are as "orthodox" in our beliefs as anyone.”

Within your context—American Protestantism—that is certainly true. The CC is swimming in the mainstream of Protestant orthodoxy. Whether that is Orthodox or not, I will leave to the theologians!

God bless.