There is a “future” dimension, though, to that Ancient-Future worship phenomenon that some of us just-ancient worshippers might find problematic:
For the most part, though, young evangelicals aren’t just reviving ancient traditions. They are stamping them with their own updated brand.
Confession — a staple of Catholicism — is appearing in different formats.Thousands of people, for example, have posted anonymous online confessions on church-run Web sites like mysecret.tv, and ivescrewedup.com. Those posting have confided feelings of guilt over abortions or their homosexuality, while others have confessed to extramarital affairs, stealing, eating disorders, addictions — even murder.
“We do believe there is value in confessing our sins to each other,” said Bobby Gruenewald, pastor at Lifechurch.tv, an Oklahoma-based megachurch that runs mysecret.tv, which has received 7,500 confessions since it started in 2006. Ministers and volunteers pray over the confessions as they come in. “This process may be a more modern way of people discovering the value of that tradition.”
Now, my first reaction is to dismiss this sort of thing. But while my first reaction may be correct, I wonder if we could think through this a little bit in search of ways that maybe the church CAN use the new technology to advance its ancient agendas.
The problem with on-line confession as described on these open web sites is that they are divorced from true pastoral care and from a congregation that exercises, through its pastor, the Office of the Keys. And yet notice that these sites are, in fact, run by churches. What if a congregation had a closed, pass-word protected site that included an online confessional booth, as it were. Members of the congregation could confess the sins that trouble them to their pastor, who could then absolve them.
I ask, especially you pastors and theologians, would that be valid? If not, would a confession over telephone lines or a video-feed be valid? What would be necessary to make an online confession valid? Could the confession be anonymous, or would the sinner have to identify himself? (Weren’t the old confessionals in churches, with their separate doors and screens, trying to promote anonymity?) Could this high-tech practice help coax reluctant sinners into the extraordinarily beneficial practice of confessing their sins and receiving Christ’s forgiveness from their pastor and perhaps be a bridge to recovering the best practice of the in-person rite? Or is another kind of “real presence” necessary;namely, the real presence of sinner and pastor together in an actual, not virtual, church?