There are traditions with a regional emphasis such as the Roman Catholics, the Moravian Brethren, and the Nebraska Amish; and similarly inclined, those with a directional emphasis such as the Eastern Orthodox, and the Southern Baptists. There are those who pride themselves in numbers: First United Methodist or Tenth Presbyterian; but also those whose numbers have so dwindled that they extinct or nearly extinct: the Huguenots and the Waldensians. There are those with a specific theological emphasis: Missionary Baptists, Evangelical Lutherans, Full Gospel churches, and Holiness churches; while others think of themselves as movements: the Jesus Movement, the Restoration Movement, the Grace Movement. There are even blended denominations: the African Methodist Episcopalians, the Anglican Catholics. I came across what may be the most surprising blend of all in the story of the origins of a hymn that Christian hipsters like to sing. It is Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing and it was written by Robert Robinson in 1758.
a rough beginning in life due to his father's death while Robert was
still young and his mother's sending him away to London where he lived
the life of a gangster for a short time, he was converted while
listening to a convicting George Whitfield sermon. Well, Robert sobered up and soon found himself in ministry serving at, wait for it... the Calvinist Methodist Chapel in Norfolk, England. That doesn't even roll off the tongue right. It has a halting sound to it.
But it was there at the age of 23 that Robinson wrote his now famous hymn.
I imagine that if he had proposed his hymn today in either a Calvinist
or Methodist chapel, but not a blend of both, he would not receive such a
warm reception as he has posthumously. Where he writes that he is
prone to leave God and says, "Here's my heart Lord, take and seal it,"
the doctrinaire Calvinist might say, "Robert, asking God to seal us
against our wanderings implies that we are not already sealed before the
foundation of the world." Where he writes, "Tune my heart" and "By Thy
Help I Come," the rigid Methodist might sense a thought-crime: "This
gives our parishioners a false sense that they don't have a
responsibility to make a decision for Christ." Both might say, "It's good, evocative even, but let's not have it in our official hymn book."
Interestingly, the 1832 Confession of Faith of the Calvinistic Methodists
(also known as the Presbyterians of Wales) states the following under
article 36: "It is the
duty of those who profess godliness to maintain fellowship and communion
with each other in the public worship of God, to love each other as
and to do good especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
Calvinists and Methodists do good to each other? Sure, we can do
that. Love each other? Yes, of course. But to maintain fellowship and
communion with each other in the public worship of God? In the words
of another hymn-writer, "Oh the bliss of this glorious thought!"