The Order of Corpus Christi describes itself as a "religious order" which draws its members from the UCC laity and clergy, as well as those of the UCC's partner churches in COCU and other full communion agreements. The website provides background, a few pictures and the very simple foundational documents; you can read the whole thing in ten minutes, and we encourage you to do so.
It all seems unlikely. After all, the UCC is the left edge of mainline Protestantism, both politically and theologically. It was once chided by no less than Barbara Lundblad for threatening to become "the United Church of Causes." (And when Barbara chides, smart people pay attention.) UCC congregations are not infrequently dually aligned with the American Baptist Convention. Unlike most Reformed churches, it treats its historic confessions as "testimonies, not tests of faith" much as the (D&FMS of the) PECUSA now treats the Thirty-Nine Articles. One obstacle to full communion with the ELCA was our fear that the UCC lacked either the theological or organizational coherence to make a binding agreement.
And yet, let it never be forgotten that the UCC is the successor to the old German Reformed Church, in which two brilliant young theologians -- John Williamson Nevin and Philip Schaff -- pioneered a return to the sources of Reformed Christianity which practically demanded traditional liturgy, an emphasis on the reality and power of the sacraments, and so forth. Their "Mercersburg Theology" was an enormous influence on Charles Porterfield Krauth, and through him upon the General Council and ultimately the ELCA. Lutheranism in America owes as much to these guys as it does to Wilhelm Loehe. Maybe more.
Of course, among the Reformed, they were treated as heretics. Literally. Which is why we have generally argued that the long-term impact of Mercersburg is felt in Lutheranism, not the Reformed churches. It is a delight to be proven wrong. And certainly, the existence of the OCC is less surprising than that of the Methodist Order of St. Luke.
So, apart from an attempt to remember Nevin and Schaff, what is the OCC? The blogger A Simple Country Pastor describes the presence of some fellow-members at his installation last year:
One of the members of our church asked, “who werethose people all dressed alike?” The Order ‘dresses’ in similar albs and instead of a stole, wears the ‘scapular’ of the order. A friend’s wife asked, “who are those ‘monk’ people?”... What is not immediately apparent is that participation in the Order is participation in a community of prayer. The community aspect became abundantly clear yesterday when those ‘monk’ people nearly outnumbered the local clergy who attended. They came from as far away as West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia.
That's sort of sweet.
The OCC will instantly remind Lutherans of another triliteral club, the Society of the Holy Trinity. We have many friends in the STS, and have attended a couple of its functions. But we have also said some sharp things about it on this blog in the past, which we will defend if challenged. It is one of those things we love in theory, but can't get comfortable with in practice. The OCC and the STS do indeed seem parallel, making suitable allowance for the conditions of their respective mother churches. But since those conditions are markedly different, we wonder just what the "feel" of an OCC meeting is. We wonder, for example, whether the Anglo-Catholic Socialism website linked on the sidebar would get more hits from the OCC than the STS.
Anyway, it seems to us that this poses a challenge for at least one of our ecumenical partners. Look, we've got the STS; Congregationalists have the OCC; Methodists have the OSL; Episcopalians have freaking Nashotah House just for starters, and Presbyterians are a lost cause. But, okay, Moravian Church, it's time to pony up. Show us your scapulars!