Roman Catholicism: Two More Reasons Not To Go Back

This week, Kendall Harmon featured two pieces on the Roman Catholic Church that caught my attention: one which made more formal some of the language used in the Mass, and another which forbids the use of “Yahweh” as the divine name.

A few notes for the uninitiated: all Catholic liturgies are composed in Latin as their “master” and translated into the various vernacular languages for use.  Thus, the Mass changes don’t represent a liturgical change, although English speakers will certainly feel like they do.  The latter change is, IMHO, a little disingenuous, since the use of “Yahweh” as the divine name was popularised by the Jerusalem Bible, one of the first approved Catholic translations directly from the original languages after the 1943 papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu which permitted such translations.  (No, I don’t want to hear Petra fans claim that “Yahweh Love” is what did it.)

But back to the post.  In the midst of all these pronouncements, at our General Assembly I met Wojciech Wloch, overseer of the Church of God in Poland, who came with Jonathan Augustine, Regional Superintendent and a frequent commenter on MissionalCOG.  Wojciech and I have a good deal in common, and that’s based on the fact that both of us are exiles/refugees from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.  The confluence of all this has got me thinking again about the Roman Catholic Church, where it’s been and where it might be going.

One thing that’s hard for Protestants to understand is the bond that develops between Catholics and their church, even when the church isn’t very relational.  That’s why I thought long and hard before posting this. It did get a pot shot from one “Hey Doc,” but he got his just desserts here.  In any case, after posting that I have noticed more people openly proclaim their love for the Church of God.  Had we not had people who loved God, each other and their church, the result we obtained at the General Assembly would not have happened.  Love is powerful.  But I digress again…

That bond, however, can be hard to break.  That’s why I advise people, when they minister to Roman Catholics, to focus on the three questions I ask here. You may well find that you get a lot of “help” from the Catholic Church in the way they end up answering the last one.  That’s because Roman Catholicism more often than not discourages its faithful to be sold out directly to God: it gets in the way of the institutionalism that is central to its idea of itself.

That’s ultimately what happened to Wojciech and myself.  And that was accelerated by the pontificate of Wojciech’s fellow Pole, John Paul II.  It was his accession in 1978 that was the beginning of the end of the free-flowing, ecumenical Catholic Charismatic Renewal.  Both of us found a “litmus test” presented to us in the form of devotions to Mary, which weren’t in the playbook before that. So now we find ourselves in the Church of God’s “book,” doing what God has called us to do.

Now we have another Pope who has his own agenda.  He is exploring things his predecessor did not, such as open baptisms of Muslim converts, his dialogues with Anglo-Catholics and, with the two moves noted above, he is trying very hard to upgrade the sense of reverence that the sacred mysteries evoke.  In doing so, he is setting the Catholic Church on a course that may be hard for Protestants to understand.

There are two sides to this.

His moves regarding the liturgy, in Protestant terms, evoke a question every church deals with: is it possible to change the form of worship without changing its substance?  Benedict is basically answering this in the negative.  Exhibit #1 in his favour is, of course, the Anglican Communion, which has seen liturgical accretions such as the 1979 BCP, with its “Contract on the Episcopalians” and other uninspiring innovations.  The saying for this is “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi” (the law of praying is the law of believing) and, although this applies more to liturgical churches, it’s something that our worship and prayer leaders need to think about before changing how we worship or pray.

On the other hand, I’ve always felt that Roman Catholicism’s greater flexibility–and general informality–in the way it celebrated the Mass was a sign of strength.  As I noted some time ago:

Having been Episcopalian (pre-1979 prayer book) and Catholic at various times in my life, I always frame this issue (the difference between an “Anglo-Catholic” church and a Roman Catholic one) in a simple way: the difference between my last service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and my first Mass at St. Edward’s Catholic Church, both in Palm BeachI’ve dealt with this issue before but perhaps an illustration would make things clearer.

Bethesda wasn’t quite an Anglo-Catholic church then, but the undertow was there: very formal liturgy (and trained acolytes to help with it,) paid youth and adult choirs to make sure they got it right, and very long (~1 hr 30 min) Holy Communions with all of Cranmer’s antique prose topped off by the 1928 Prayer Book’s prayer for the dead.  And everyone dressed up for the occasion.

St. Edward’s was a whole different story: modern liturgy (the Novus Ordo Missae had only been official for two years,) no music at many Masses, no intonations of “Gawd” from the altar like the Episcopalians did.  Without music and with the right celebrant, thirty-five minutes and the sacred mysteries were done, at which point all of the men stampeded out in their golf shirts, presumably having made a tee time at the Everglades Club or the Breakers.  (Catholics’ way of dressing down for Mass was way ahead of its time.)

Anglo-Catholicism always liked a “frillier” form of Christianity, presumably because it looked and felt good and because it helped to drive home the sacredness of what they were doing.  Roman Catholicism can certainly do the ceremonial when the occasion calls for it, but the efficacy of the sacraments is driven by the nature of the church, not because of how elaborately the sacred mysteries are celebrated.

What Benedict is doing is taking a kind of “Anglo-Catholic” approach to reformalise the liturgy.  In doing so, is he admitting that the general view of the church is not strong?  I’m inclined to think this is the case.

Beyond that, as we all know part of the purpose of our worship is to communicate the things of God to people.  Central to communication is imparting things in a form that people understand.  The more “traditional” we are, the greater the risk we run in being incomprehensible.  Adjustments such as the ones at the top of this post will gladden the hearts of Catholic traditionalists (who are very vocal these days) but may not be helpful to those they’d like to reach.

And that includes those of us they’ve run off.  We continue onward, knowing that with each passing day the Vatican shuts the door ever more tightly.  Now there are two more reasons not to turn back and to “…press on to the goal, to gain the prize of that heavenward Call which God gave me through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

The Revolution of the Gospel

From John McKenzie’s The Power and the Wisdom:

Yet the gospel is in some ways revolutionary, and no other word seems to do it justice.  Efforts to conventionalise the gospel and to curb its dynamism take away much of its effect…The world, we said, both of men at large and the individual person, is irreparably altered by the Christian event.  This suggests revolution. The old man of sin dies, and his world dies; this also suggets revolution…The Christian event occurs when the situation has become intolerable, with the difference that the situation has never been tolerable.

But the Christian event is not itself violent; and its effects are not felt through vulgar power.  Jesus himself spoke of its power in the parables of the leaven and the mustard.  It arouses no hot passions, and it does not divide except when rejected; Jesus said he came to bring not peace but a sword.  Man’s resistance to the inbreak of God creates a situation compared to which most revolutions are playful.  Man resists it because he cannot grasp the direction of the Christian revolution.  It moves to give man something, not to take anything away; and man is so incredulous in the presence of such a paradoxical event that he resists it with all of his strength.  Man is not yet ready for love.  He never has been.

The essential note of the Christian revolution is that it is perpetually new.  It is no less a challenge to the old world of sin and death now than it was at the beginning of the Christian era.  Its demands are no less, and the total commitment which the Christian must make has not been diminished.  The reflective reader of the New Testament comes to sense that what he reads is thoroughly contemporary, and that the tension between history and eschatology is resolved in him.  And when it is resolved in him, he knows that it is resolved in the Church.  Jesus lives–yesterday, today, and the same forever.  History has not changed him at all, nor has it changed his meaning for human existence.  By union with him the Christian is released from the prison of history; and this is eschatology by definition.  We end where we began, with an event which is more than historical.  It is the one enduring reality in the created world, and in it man achieves enduring reality and value.

The TAC and Rome: Millimetring Towards Union?

This story has intrigued me for a long time and actually seems to have some forward movement, according to Ruth Gledhill:

Rome is taking seriously the prospect of ‘corporate unity’ with traditional Anglicans but the message is: ‘Not yet.’ So says Cardinal Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in this letter. The Traditional Anglican Communion’s Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, is rumoured to be heading to Lambeth this week. Read Hepworth’s response to his flock here.

There are several aspects of this to be considered.

The first is that the Vatican’s own bureaucracies aren’t of one mind on this issues.  Those which deal with ecumenical relationships obviously worry that such a move would alienate the rest of the Anglican Communion.

But that leads to the second problem: the AC is unravelling in a number of ways, it’s hard to know whom to alienate and what it means.  I think the Vatican was hoping for some clarity with Lambeth but “clarity” and “Lambeth” is almost an oxymoron.

Most of the action in the “Tiber swimming” competition has been in the US up to now, but with the approval of women bishops in the UK the centre of attention will probably move across the pond.  The UK’s more liberal RCC doesn’t look at the influx of Anglo-Catholics with unalloyed satisfaction; the Vatican will have to find a way to work around that.  (The American RCC is so much larger than its TEC counterpart that American Catholics have a hard time noticing the change.)

So this drama continues.  It’s hard to know where it’s going, but it’s gone further than I would have thought.

Reply to Alan Munday on “The Traditional Anglican Communion considering swimming the Tiber”

I recently received a message from +Alan Munday regarding both the recent decision by the Church of England to ordain women bishops, the Traditional Anglican Communion’s ongoing discussions with the Vatican, and my article Think Before You Convert.  I’ll reproduce this in its entirety (it was broadcast in a couple of newsgroups) along with some comments:

Following the events where the General Synod of the Church of England has voted to allow for Women’s consecration to the Episcopate, I have learnt that the Traditional Anglican Communion, which is a Continuing Anglican body, has petitioned Rome for corporate union.  I am not sure to what extent the events within the Anglican (Lambeth) Communion have prompted this, but it is interesting to know.

There have been some inaccurate reports on the matter, but the TAC have made a statement clarifying the situation at http://www.acahome.org/petition_facts.htm.  For easy reading I have given the non-frames page, but if you want to see more information about them, the main (framed) url is http://www.acahome.org.

Some of that inaccurate information may be embodied in my article on the subject.  My attitude until recently about this has been "it’s a nice idea, but…" because I didn’t see the RCC taking anything other than unconditional surrender (and they’ve gotten just that out of a number of TEC bishops.)  They’ve also gotten it out of a good number of lay people also, some of whom were influenced by my own article.  However, the situation may have changed with the current Pontiff and the CoE’s recent decision.

I’m not a big fan of TAC, but in this case they may have been both prescient and proactive, seeing the trends on both sides of the Atlantic and also noting that the African provinces–who are leading the charge with things like GAFCON–tend to be Protestant in emphasis.  (It’s interesting to note that the Province of the West Indies, a very Anglo-Catholic province while at the same time conservative, did not support this effort as the Africans did.)

They seem to be seeking union with Rome on the basis of the Special Pastoral Provisions (see
http://www.pastoralprovision.org/  also The Anglican Use Society’s page http://www.anglicanuse.org.  I do not know if they will necessarily want to adopt the Book of Divine Worship or propose use of the 1662 or 1928 Books of Common Prayer alone, presumably adapted to some Roman requirements, but no doubt time will tell.  The Book of Divine Worship is basically an adapted version of the Book of Common Prayer 1979, but it looks to me as if the Anglican Use Roman Catholic Churches already particularly favour the traditionally worded Rite One as opposed to the modern worded Rite Two, so perhaps the TAC will be happy to follow suite.

Just in case you want to see the BDW text Rite One can be seen at http://www.atonementonline.com/orderofmass/Rite1.html.  You can also download a copy, free of charge from http://stores.lulu.com/cdburt .  That same page also has other related service books available for purchase, either as downloads or hard copies.  The complete BDW itself (ISBN: 0970402260) seems to be out of print at the moment.  I don’t know if they are going to produce pew versions, but the book as it is weighs a ton, even for liturgical use, and is expensive so if you already have BCP79 you might want to save your money and just adapt bits that may need it.  Hopefully a more civilised lighter, smaller, less expensive copies will be produced at time goes on and the extracts published by Lulu are a step in the right direction.

I cannot resist a plug for my own LuLu store, http://stores.lulu.com/vulcanhammer.  I deal with many of the issues in conflict in the AC in my fiction.

I seem to remember that the Charismatic Episcopal Church, which I was with for a while, had plans to produce their own version of the BCP79 which they presently use with adaptations.  I don’t know if that is still proposed or if they may have opted to use the BDW.  If anyone knows the present situation I would be interested to know.

I would have some reservations about returning to the RCC myself, even though I quietly attend their services sometimes.    I notice that someone else has similar ideas at http://www.vulcanhammer.org/anglican/convert.php , (although I do not agree with some of his historical points where he seems not to be aware that the Anglican Rite is based on the Sarum Rite, which of course used to be the main RC rite used in England at one time before Rome suppressed it.  That was the rite used by the RC Martyrs of our Isle and for which they partly died for).  I owe a lot to my pilgrimage as a lay member of the RCC, but his warning strongly echoes in my heart, "Think before you convert".

When I wrote this, I certainly wasn’t aware that the Anglican Rite was based on the Sarum Rite.  If fact, I may not have been aware that the Anglican Rite existed!  The process in which I wrote the article has been an ongoing education for me.

Nevertheless, one thing that I have learned is that the whole concept of Anglican breadth has been broken by the two issues of women’s ordination and homosexuality.  In a world where choices are myriad in so many ways, those who want a Biblically sound church with the Apostolic succession but without some of the "baggage" that tripped up medieval Christianity are, at this point, in a decidedly disadvantageous position.  They have three choices: a) abandon the Christianity of the apostolic succession altogether, b) work things through in relatively small, isolated organisations (which doesn’t speak well to the unity issues) or c) give up and swim either the Tiber or the Moscow Rivers.  Option (b) may be ameliorated over time by the Africans, but it’s going to take a while, and meantime we have to do the work that Jesus called us to do and raise our families as He would want us to.

I believe that in a certain way the RCC and Orthodox Churches can give other Orthodox Catholic Christians a kind of inferiority complex, including re aspects of Apostolic legitimacy.  I think that this may lead some to join them for mistaken reasons.  As much as the RCC and Orthodox Churches are worthy of our profoundest respect and honour, the fact remains that since 1054 and following, in their divisions, including divisions between the Orthodox Churches themselves, they are dysfunctional and disobedient to Christ’s call to unity and the world suffers as a result.  While some lifeboats, including those of the Protestant Reformation have lost some of their equipment, others of us, as Orthodox Catholics, can do no other than seek to remain true to our vision of how the Church should be.  We owe it to the Great Churches to witness according to the way the Holy Spirit seems to lead us.  Of course we are not perfect ourselves, (no way), but for those in the Great Churches who are seeking God’s will, hopefully as time goes on, we will be seen not as usurpers, but as victims of their own mistakes that they need to learn from and put right.  We must ever pray for Christ’s healing touch to bring us all together in the ways that He wills.  Some to join the Great Churches and pray from within them, while others to  continue to witness outside.  The nub of the situation has to be our personal closeness to God and seeking of His will as well as His deep personal love for each one of us, even though we might stray sometimes.  While we do need to be sensitive to God’s voice speaking through others, even churches, where they are truly being used by God, our main point of reference should be His validation of us as His servants.  Only when we are rooted and founded in Him and responsive to His power and love in the Holy Spirit and in imitation of Our Lord Jesus Christ will we have our rudders set in the right direction towards His Unity.

I find a lot in this statement to agree with.  I’m not the only one who has  been on the receiving end of high-handed attitudes on this subjectI should note that this is my attitude on what’s really important in a church.

I have digressed slightly in my comments, but let us pray for the TAC as they follow their leadings.  I certainly wish them well.

Pax Caritas

Choices regarding churches are not easy, even when they’re obvious.  Like people, to leave is to die a little.

 

That’s One Way to Undo the English Reformation

Evidently things are coming to a head in the centre of the Anglican Communion with secret talks between bishops in the Church of England and the Vatican over a "Plan B" in a church facing the ordination of women bishops and expanding the role of open homosexuals.

Senior Church of England bishops have held secret talks with Vatican officials to discuss the crisis in the Anglican communion over gays and women bishops. 

They met senior advisers of the Pope in an attempt to build closer ties with the Roman Catholic Church, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was not told of the talks and the disclosure will be a fresh blow to his efforts to prevent a major split in the Church of England.

In highly confidential discussions, a group of conservative bishops expressed their dismay at the liberal direction of the Church of England and their fear for its future.

I have two comments on this issue.

  1. The Vatican is being more "proactive" than I thought they would be when I wrote Think Before You Convert back in 2004.  Then again, I was focused more on the situation on this side of the Atlantic, where people’s affiliation is more fluid.  From the Vatican’s standpoint, this is a situation that’s too good to pass up, although their own church already "on the ground" in the U.K. is too liberal to take full advantage of it.
  2. I still think that Anglicanism is compromised from the start in opposing women bishops owing to the headship of the monarch, the "Lady and Governor" of the church.

But the weight of the possiblities cannot be underestimated.  It could lead to the practical undoing of the English Reformation, which would be Roman Catholicism’s greatest victory in Europe in a very long time.

The Endless Personal Conflict Between Anglican and Catholic

I get on a regular basis contacts from people who find themselves "betwixt and between" on their "Christian tradition."  The reason for that is that they see that I’m "betwixt and between" myself!  The most recent one comes from a woman who I’ll answer while reproducing her email message:

As an Anglican who is also in Intern in Jesuit ( Ignatian ) Spiritual Direction; married to a somewhat lapsed, RC and deeply conflicted over the current direction of the Episcopal Church; I am confused as to your views.  Do you regret having converted to  RC from the Anglican Communion?

Absolutely not!  I’ve described my years as a Roman Catholic the spiritual experience of a lifetime, and I have no intention of backing down from that.  Becoming Roman Catholic did the following:

  • It got me out of the trap of being in a "rich kid" church, an experience everyone raised in the upper reaches of this society needs to have somewhere along the way.  (That. BTW, is what irks me more than anything else about Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s response to GAFCON: it’s easy to say you want to "serve the hungry and needy in their communities," but when they come back on a global scale and want to run the church, you can’t bring yourself to let go.)
  • It was the first church I was an adult in.  When you grow up in a church, you’re always "someone’s kid."  In the Roman Catholic Church I was my own person, buttressed by the way they threw me into parish ministry.
  • It solidified my intellectual formation as a Christian, something no Protestant church has matched before or since.
  • It drew me into the Charismatic Renewal, which is largely why I’m at where I’m at today.

I absolutely second your idea that Anglicanism was/is a great "lost opportunity"; to my mind, it "should have" worked better than it has!

That’s a great tragedy.  It’s easy to think that modern day revisionists are entirely responsible for the sad shape Anglicanism finds itself in today, but the seeds for this date back to the disaster that was Oliver Cromwell, a traumatic experience that soured Anglicanism on any kind of "enthusiastic" Christianity.  Ever since groups such as the Methodists, Tractarians and Charismatics have tried to shove Anglicanism off of its "dead centre," but unfortunately too much of Anglicanism doesn’t distinguish between a living via media between Catholicism and Reformed Christianity and a bland religion that’s offensive to no one.  On this side of the Atlantic, I show how that played out in Taming the Rowdies.

One of the great things about the Africans is that Islam has deprived them of the luxury of waffling, something which I would like to think that secularism would do here.

I was raised Presbyterian ( father ) and my mother was Roman Catholic so, at 19, when I was drawn to a wonderful, urgan Episcopal Church…I felt I had found the "Middle Ground" to balance the scales of my upbringing ( I saw it , oddly, as serving the needs of my "inner Catholic" as I had long been drawn to the Catholic Liturgy which, in 1977, the Episcopal Church still maintained in a very beautiful way ) and I was, ultimately, confirmed by our Bishop at the age of 26.

Now comes the tricky part.

Most people who move about between Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches do so because the liturgy and other outward trappings are familiar and make transitions simpler.  That certainly influenced me.  However, the central objective of the church is to facilitate the eternal destiny of its members and those around it, as I describe here.  That, unfortunately, is where TEC has bombed it completely.  The Archbishop of Canterbury can say that "I believe that it is wrong to assume we are now so far apart that all those outside the GAFCON network are simply proclaiming another gospel" all he wants to, but the fact is that TEC’s own Presiding Bishop has put eternity on the back burner and GC 2006 voted down proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

How that works out in the life of each and every believer is something that we must deal with one at a time with our God.  It’s too bad that our churches spend so much time on secular goals, or trying to get the square pegs that darken their doors into the round holes they have created.  But hard choices seem to be the rage these days, and this is just one more of them.  I think that’s part of what Paul was referring to when he exhorted us to  "…work out your own Salvation with anxious care," (Philippians 2:12) but the stakes are too high to view it otherwise.

After Pentecost and Trinity, Ordinary Time is the Best

I know it’s a little late, but it’s good to stop and think about the time of year we’re in (well, those of us who follow a liturgical calendar…)  The multiplication of same creates a little confusion, but from the beginning of Advent until at least Pentecost we have a busy agenda: Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension and all of the rest.

But now were in a kind of limbo for many.  It’s called by different names: many churches count the Sundays after Pentecost, the traditional Anglicans start with Trinity Sunday, and the Roman Catholics technically refer to this (along with some of the space between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday) as Ordinary Time.  But some thought different.  It was probably the objection of the senior members of the committee charged with sorting things like this out: when you get up in years, you become aware that all the time you have is a gift from God, thus there is no real “Ordinary Time.”  So now Catholics refer to a “Sunday of the Year.”

But it’s still considered the “low time” of the liturgical year.  For me, that was never the case.  I always thought (and still do) that this time is the best time of the year.

To start with, most of it transpired when school was out.  For many in Palm Beach, this was the time when many fled north to cooler climes, but we were year-round residents.  Moreover, although we were certainly capable of summer travel (with near-disastrous results sometimes,) we generally stayed in town.  The distractions of the school year (with frequently concomitant social problems) were absent during this time.

Second–and this is really the point of all this–the Sundays after Trinity generally presented the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus in the Scripture readings.  That was challenging.  For example, it’s easy to apply the story of the rich young ruler to a situation where there were nothing but around you.  Looking at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus head on in Palm Beach can be a jolt.  After that, it’s hard to accept Christianity as either mainstream or respectable, which explains my underlying dissatisfaction with our society in general and many of our churches in particular.

The problem with the liturgical year is that the major events are too loaded on the beginning and end of Our Lord’s life and work on this earth.  Those are important, but Jesus’ central challenge to our comfort zone took place between these major events.  That challenge has stuck with me ever since, and that’s why I still think that “Ordinary Time” is the best time of the year.

Open the Door

This week’s podcast is Open the Door by the group Emmanuel, which lead worship for many years at the youth and leaders conferences put on by the Franciscan (and Charismatic) University of Steubenville.  It’s a nice "invitational" kind of song if you want something different from the ones that always get used.

This post also announces the complete reorganisation of our Emmanuel offerings, with four albums that can be downloaded song-by-song or in one shot.  You can see all of these albums (and some history behind them) here.

The Church: Going Back to What?

Jonathan Stone explores the issue of "Primal Church:"

When I speak of primal church I am not speaking of some sort of neanderthal church, but rather those primitive elements that still serve as the basic building blocks of the church. For example, geometrically speaking, we can think of the primitive shapes such as cones, spheres, pyramids, cubes, etc., by which all other shapes and designs might be constructed. Or we might think of the primary colors, from which the whole gamut of colors might be constructed. Or we might think of how bits and bytes are the fundamental building blocks of all computer programming languages. I’m sure the list could go on.

A large part of the problem is this: what constutites the "early church?"  That, in part, is the issue that Cardinal Kaspar stepped on in his comments about Anglicanism having to choose between the "the churches of the first millennium -Catholic and Orthodox" and the "the Protestant churches of the 16th century."  Judging by the slugfest that ensued on Titusonenine, that’s still a controversial question.

I’m going to try to tackle this question on multiple levels.

Let’s start with the typical "Protestant" view of church history.  We start with the "Apostolic Church," the church that existed when those who put on paper or parchment the New Testment were still on the earth.  Then there’s this gap full of apostasy until the Reformation, after which time we have true religion(s) restored (those infamous variations of the Protestant churches that  Bossuet catalogued!)  until the present time.

Evangelicals of all types have variations on this.  Wesleyans and Pentecostals, for example, like to start the clock of "restoration" with Wesley, with the result that we have a "Wesleyan-Pentecostal trajectory" of history.  Telling someone like me that helped design missles in my career that our history has a "trajectory" only conjures images of something that’s eventually going to explode when it gets in proximity to its target, not the most felicitous view of history.

Such "gappy" views of history only cultivate exceptionalism, something that has been a stumbling block to the unity of the Body of Christ for a long time.  They’re also ahistorical, which means that, since we refuse to learn the mistakes of others, we’re sure to make the same ones ourselves.

Flipping things around, Cardinal Kaspar’s glib characterisation of Catholicism as closer to the church that was in the beginning papers over an enormous number of issues of Catholic and Orthodox history.  To start with, once the dust had settled on the Reformation, what you had was two stark choices: a 16th century Protestant and Reformed construct, or a 16th century Catholic Countereformation construct.  Anglicanism was something of a DMZ between the two, and didn’t stay demilitarised very long either.  (That, BTW, is the real meaning of the "via media," not the mushy liberalism we have today in the TEC.)  Moreover Anglicanism represented the first broad-based attempt to peel away some of the unBiblical accretions and get back to a "Patristic" church of the Roman Empire era.  In the last century, the Catholics themselves realised that much of what they did and practiced were late accretions, which led to the following:

The second (trend before Vatican II) was a trend back towards a stronger Biblical/Patristic emphasis. The Biblical trend was exemplified by the École Biblique de Jerusalem, headed up by Roland de Vaux. It was given a serious boost by the 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, which encouraged Bilbical studies and allowed Catholic Biblical translations to be done from the original Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew rather than strictly the Latin. The Patristic emphasis was the work of scholars such as Jean Danielou and Henri de Lubac.

So where does this leave Pentecostals?  We started in the last century with a "clean slate," but it was quickly filled up by contact with other Evangelicals and their ahistorical approach.  The result was a simple, straightforward church structure that proved simple to implement and propagate, but left us flatfooted theologically in many respects.  Now we are wrestling with many issues that, IMHO, we would find simpler to solve if we had a better handle on where Christianity has been.

To start with, we need to take more regard for what came in the centuries immediately after the New Testament.  They weren’t perfect, they didn’t always get it right, but they wrestled with many issues in a culture not only closer to the NT’s but also a pagan culture that we’re seeing a comback of in our own time.  The "Patristic" era would be a good study on how these people dealt with many issues that we’re trying to sort out today.  One important note: although the manifestations of the Pentecostal gifts declined during this era, the belief that God should be an active help in our lives didn’t.  I’m specifically thinking about the miraculous, something the Reformers jettisoned and Protestant Christianity has struggled to come back to.

Second, we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that we’re going to have structure of some kind.  The Evangelical/Pentecostal romantic dream of a Christianity "without form and void" only obscures the real problems we face.  For example, the back and forth over the election of state/regional Administrative Bishops in the Church of God at MissionalCOG would be well informed by the practice of the Roman Empire church (which is why I brought up the issue and my reference to Ambrose’s election to start with.)  What we need is a structure that serves the needs of God’s work and God’s people, not the other way around.

Third–and this is the real "trout in the milk" for Evangelicals and Pentecostals–we need to realistically face the fact that Christianity went to liturgical forms of worship a lot more quickly and easily than we care to admit.  Our worship is generally structured (and in many cases contrived) even without liturgical structure.   Same kind of structure was part and parcel with Judaism and it’s unreasonable to think that Christianity would be completely free of it.  Again we need to find forms of worship that really bring us closer to God, irrespective of what form or lack of it they take.

History is a big deal.  It’s time to face it realistically if we want some help from those who went before in our journey into where we’re going.

Protestant or Catholic: Choose Ye This Day, Anglicans

The Vatican is trying to force Anglicans’ hand on the subject of which way they need to go:

The Vatican has said that the time has come for the Anglican Church to choose between Protestantism and the ancient churches of Rome and Orthodoxy.

Speaking on the day that the Archbishop of Canterbury met Benedict XVI in Rome, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity, said it was time for Anglicanism to "clarify its identity".

He told the Catholic Herald: "Ultimately, it is a question of the identity of the Anglican Church. Where does it belong?

"Does it belong more to the churches of the first millennium -Catholic and Orthodox – or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century? At the moment it is somewhere in between, but it must clarify its identity now and that will not be possible without certain difficult decisions."

It’s been "put on the back burner" because of the more pressing controversies over homosexual prelates and clergy, but the Evangelical vs. Anglo-Catholic divide is right up there as one of those "contradictions" that Anglicans have to deal with on a daily basis.  Anglicanism is in reality a hybrid of both; it can and has gone in both directions over the years, but the emphasis of one or the other is a source of disunity.

In the case of the Shi’ites from Iran, we see the Vatican attempting to apply pressure at an opponent’s weak point in order to gain advantage.  Cardinal Kasper is doing exactly the same thing with the Anglicans, taking advantage of their current chaotic situation to force Anglicans that just might "swim the Tiber" (like the TAC) to make their move.  It’s something to keep in mind in any current "dialogue" with the Vatican.