Reviving orthodoxy: a study of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City
Bartholomew, Rudolph Tucker
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Redeemer Presbyterian Church is significant because the tensions and struggles between church and culture are more visible and exaggerated expressions of similar tensions and struggles, that in milder and more subtle forms, are felt in churches everywhere. Redeemer is an arena in which contest, negotiation, dialogue and resolution between the Church and culture can be viewed. In some sense, Redeemer's resolution to those tensions is a resolution for other churches in other contexts. No century has witnessed the kinds of cultural and social changes as the twentieth century. These changes leave the postmodern individual homeless. In the absence of certainties and of relational ties, Redeemer's leaders started a church oriented to those individual most affected by these changes. Their message brings the past to bear upon the particularities of the present cultural context. Further, messages are not products for individual consumption. They are meant to bind individuals not only to a set of doctrines, but to one another. Redeemer's growth and success is rooted in the interpersonal attachments that characterize many within the congregation. Within these face to face relationships attendants and members hear and discuss the traditional message of the gospel and are urged to live lives of commitment. Reviving Orthodoxy shows that religious orthodoxy persists in much the same way it always has – through its message, worship and community. Reviving Orthodoxy shows us that churches and communities may become more or less orthodox. Resolution to secularization is possible, but limited in scope. Further, though the creeds of orthodoxy may be appealing, they do not always lead to commitment and community. Ironically, in the absence of challenge, their use as commodities may actually strengthen secular world views.