Buyer Beware

A common refrain among converts to Roman Catholicism is a lament about the sorry state of Protestantism, especially the mainline Protestant churches. Betsy Fox Genevose spoke for many when she described the lack of Christianity she had experienced while growing up a Protestant:

Throughout my non-churchgoing, non-believing adult years, I had always considered myself a Christian in the amorphous cultural sense of the world. Having been reared on the Bible and Protestant hymns, I was conversant with the language and basic tenets of Christianity. I had, moreover, been reared with a deep respect for the great Hebrew prophets, assorted Protestant leaders and Catholic saints, and even the unique value of Jesus Christ as the preeminent exemplar of loving self“sacrifice. Never, I am grateful to say, did I, like too many secular intellectuals, denigrate or disdain believing Christians, whom I had always been inclined to regard with respect. But for long years, I did not give much thought to joining their number.

So why is it that the communion that was supposed to elevate former Protestants and give them a better grade of faith is entering into ecumenical discussions with one of the churches, mainline Lutherans, that sent Protestants in search of witness firm on sex and the body?

Nearly 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. has approved a declaration recognizing “there are no longer church-dividing issues” on many points with the Roman Catholic church.
The “Declaration on the Way” was approved 931-9 by the 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly held last week at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton called the declaration “historic” in a statement released by the denomination following the Wednesday vote.

That’s right. A female bishop welcomed the news of entering into closer relations with church that will not ever ordain women.

But some Roman Catholics are not happy (the unhappy Lutherans are already in a different synod — LCMS):

The ecumenical drive has been part of the check-list of popes before the current pontiff. The joint worship service has been described by both the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation as a “commemoration” rather than a “celebration” in order to avoid further controversy. Some Catholics, especially traditionalists, have criticized the prospect of a pope celebrating a schism. Another issue that has traditionalist Catholics and some clerics baleful is the issue of the differing theologies held by the Catholic Church and Lutherans regard the nature and the confection of the Eucharist.

On the upside, Betsy Fox Genovese, who died in 2003, will not have to witness her church’s pursuit of unity with her former church.

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11 thoughts on “Buyer Beware

  1. She wasn’t the wife of the late historian, Eugene Genovese, was she? If so- then, I am kind of bummed…

    So thankful for Romans 3:9-31, which so clearly and so simply cuts through all the fog.

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  2. This sounds like the ELCA:

    In addition, collaboration with other Christian communities and civic organizations and groups are understood as a necessary starting point, preferential and compassionate outreach to certain groups, such as to immigrants, the divorced and remarried, people with special needs and their families, the gay community, etc., are seen as a required service and engagement with people made in God’s image.

    This is the invitation and mantle offered to the parish community. It is the vision hoped for and preached by Pope Francis.

    If accepted and lived in the parish, it will be the vision that allows the Church to be a credible witness of truth, beauty, and goodness in our world today.

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  3. This sounds like the PCUSA:

    The synod demonstrated what has been known, if rarely spoken of publicly, for some years: Much of the Church in northern Europe is in a de facto state of schism, not formally detached from Rome and the rest of the world Church, but thinking and living its own ecclesial reality. Some northern European bishops manifestly do not believe and teach what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. German ecclesiology at the ground level is in such a shambles that those who decline to pay the state-collected Kirchensteuer (church tax) can be denied Holy Communion and access to the other sacraments, while those living in irregular relationships are regularly offered Holy Communion. Addressing this de facto (but not de jure) separation of northern European Catholicism from the unity of the world Church—a sad byproduct of intellectual confusions and intellectual arrogance leading to massive pastoral failure—is a serious issue for the Catholic future.

    The experience of Synod 2015 also suggests that too many of the Church’s bishops have a tenuous grasp on doctrine and a palpable disinclination to discuss grave pastoral matters in their appropriately theological context. Pastorally skillful bishops are, obviously, an imperative. But we are in a moment of cultural crisis in the West. Bad ideas underwrite ideologies that make war on human nature, especially male-female complementarity, and deconstruct the basic norms and institutions that promote human flourishing (often deploying coercive state power to accelerate the deconstruction). Surely the Church can find pastorally skilled and humanly compelling men who can meet the challenge of those desperately deficient ideas, which are magnifying the sum total of human unhappiness—intellectually sophisticated pastors who can invite the walking wounded of postmodernity to the joy of conversion.

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  4. But Darryl, the dogma hasn’t changed right? It’s on paper in a musty vault in the Vatican and a couple of RCs around these parts still believe it, so all’s good. Nothing to see here.

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