Friday, March 31, 2006

PC(USA) News: Still outnumbered but surviving

PC(USA) News: Still outnumbered but surviving:
"NEW YORK CITY — Probably no modern denomination knows more about being a religious minority than the Waldensian Church.

The Waldensians, rooted in a 12th-century Protestant movement in defense of the poor and oppressed of France and Italy, have always taken a side seat to the religious giants of the world — especially the Roman Catholic Church...."

For those interested in Church history, the Presbyterian News Service published this article yesterday.

The Waldensians were founded by an Italian merchant named Peter Waldo in the late 12th century. They were dedicated to living in poverty and preaching the Gospel. The preaching caused then to run afoul of the Roman Catholic Church for operating outside the control of the clergy, and they were brutally suppressed.

St. Francis of Assisi began his ministry in the early 13th century. Both Peter Waldo and Francis of Assisi were well-off people who abandoned their wealth and privilege to serve and preach among the people, but Francis (who had difficulties with his family) was able to secure the permission of Pope Innocent III to create the religious order that today bears his name.

I was particularly interested to see in the PC(USA) article, that the modern day Waldensians have kept up their ministries to the poor, passing through an era of fairly expensive and money-losing operations, but are now concentrating on "light deaconship." Gianni Genre, senior pastor of the Waldensian Church of Milan is quoted in the article:

"...The future of the church, he said, is in 'light deaconship' — work that can help the poor and disadvantaged without requiring huge financial investments.

'This is the new frontier of our commitment to the gospel,' he said, and we want to pursue it with a renovated and stronger, yet wiser and somewhat humbler, effort.' "

I know a person who refers to the sending of money to organizations (instead of actually getting involved) "contact avoidance". It sounds like the Waldensians are reclaiming their history of direct service to and among the poor.

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