Church and Sect

The Scripture lessons for Sunday worship in the Revised Common Lectionary during this time after the Epiphany come from the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Matthew, particularly focused on the Sermon on the Mount.

Reading through a commentary yesterday, I came across this description of the difference between a “Church” and a “Sect.”  Here are a couple paragraphs:

“In spite of the need for many corrections in his details, my [Ulrich Luz, the author of this commentary] most helpful conversation partner has been Ernst Troeltsch.  He makes a sociological distinction between church and sect.  They are characterized by certain types of piety and theology.  While the ‘church’ as an institution of salvation and grace is characterized by s piety of redemption and a religion of grace, the ‘sect’ is a ‘voluntary society, composed of strict and definite Christian believers,’ who emphasize ‘the law instead of grace, and in varying degrees within their own circle set up the Christian order based on love.’  In the sect Christ is ‘the Lord, the example and lawgiver of Divine authority and dignity,’ rather than primarily the redeemer.  Realizing holiness is central for the sect; ‘the real work of redemption’ takes place only in the future through  judgement, ‘when He will establish the kingdom of God.’ Very often the piety of the sect is Jesus piety, while Paul is decisive for the church type.”

– Ulrick Luz; Matthew 1-7, Hermeneia Series; Editor, Helmut Koester, James E. Crouch, Translator; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, p. 178.

I suspect that using these definitions by Troeltsch, one might make the argument that the new “Anglican Church in North America,”  the break-away group from the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada made up primarily of American style Evangelicals (as opposed to Anglican-Evangelicals) and Charismatics (with lessening numbers of more strict Anglo-Catholic types), is a “sect” and no longer a “church.”  Their reason for being is to become more “pure,” according to their own definitions, and a piety that is far more strict.   Sociologically speaking, this Troeltsch fits, I think.