Sunday, July 30, 2023

Reformed Catholicism. . .

Curious to read that there are voices from among the tattered ruins of mainline Protestantism, Evangelicalism, and even from within Rome in search of a Reformed Catholicism.  Curious, I say, because that space has already been claimed by the Lutherans -- at least I thought it had been.  The Lutheran Reformers clearly did not think they were starting a new church but bringing renewal to one that had lost its way.  They understood themselves and their work as the continuation of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church -- really nothing short of a dispute with Rome over the very claim to be the Catholic Church born at Pentecost and continued through the ages where the Word was rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered.  These individuals insisted that the catholicity of the faith is found in its teaching (the Word of God), not in a singular church office (like the papacy).  Their goal was not to dispute what had always and everywhere been believed and confessed but to preserve and pass on this  catholic doctrine so that the church catholic might be preserved and renewed amidst a time of great political, cultural, and technological upheaval.  

Could it be that some are calling for a new version of a Reformed Catholicism because Lutheranism has failed either to make its case as such or even perhaps has forgotten that this is who we claimed to be in our public confession?  Could it be that we have settled in as a more conservative version of the mainline Protestants with whom we really have nothing in common?  Could it be that we have deferred to being a more liturgical form of Evangelicalism as the path to maintaining or even growing  our church?  Could it be that have simply decided that it was too ambitious to be the continuing Catholic Church and have given up any aspirations except those of being a conservative denomination?  I wish I could say that such items were on the agenda for our national convention now meeting but they are not.

Instead, I fear that we are tired of the battles and have given up the bold aspirations of our Confessions and would rather be less than we could be or should be.  I fear that we are so content with the structures we put in place and propping them up that we no longer look to what might be if we took more seriously our Confessions and put to work the assets and blessings we have all around us.  I fear that we have adopted a less is more idea of our church -- less congregations but bigger or more stable congregations, less members but more committed ones, less of a mission but one we can handle.  Why does it have to be a choice?  Why do we have to settle for being a smaller church with a smaller mission just to survive?  We are we more comfortable seeing ourselves as another but more conservative brand of Protestantism than we are taking up the call to be the Reformed Catholics we said we were in the beginning?

Church conventions are more about bylaws, reaffirming our stands, avoiding conflicts too big or public, and assuring that our resolutions are passed by 80% or more.  We have too many folks calling the question just when we have begun to deliberate the issue.  We have too many who like to grandstand about their pet issue instead of dialog and deliberate the great challenges before us.  We have too many who have already given up on Synod and think it best to think of things local over anything else.  I have been to too many conventions, under Presidents from Bohlmann to Harrison, and we seem to be more interested in blaming the leader instead of looking into the mirror and more interested in avoiding the discussions of who we are and why we are here than having them.  It is not a new thing.  Instead of simply rearranging things to get by for another couple of years or postponing conventions by adopting a four year cycle, we ought to be looking into the soul of our life together through the lens of our Confessions and try being the Catholic Church we claim to be (well, at least we claimed to be nearly 500 years ago).  Then maybe those who are looking for alternatives to the mess of Protestantism, Evangelicalism, and Rome might have someplace to go.

1 comment:

Wurmbrand said...

Though they are not the most cheerful things to read, comments such as this one encourage people like me (layman, convert from Evangelicalism).

I think almost any attempt to move congregations towards a more truly Lutheran (catholic) ethos will run into obstacles quickly. For example, the use of the individual cups in the Sacrament of the Altar is something I'm sure we took over from Baptists or other Protestants, but I suppose many people would be affronted by the suggestion that they should be phased out. But they lend themselves to abuses such as I have witnessed, in which the used cups are thrown in the garbage without being rinsed and the rinse water poured into the ground.

I know of a congregation that, under a catholically-minded new pastor, accepted Communion every Sunday. Covid changed that, and Covid has passed, but the reversion to monthly Communion (for those who show up), remains.

These are disheartening things, but it's encouraging to read that, at least, there are some who desire the better things that rightfully belong to and should characterize us. Maybe someday.....