Why conservative Anglicans can’t just go to Rome

My colleague Dr. Roberta Bayer, professor of political theory here at Patrick Henry College is a conservative Anglican, an editor with the Prayer Book Society, which champions the 1928 version of the Book of Common Prayer. She writes about how the Pope’s offer to let Anglicans come on over to Rome is not a legitimate option for genuine Anglicans:

The spirituality of the Book of Common Prayer is not the spirituality of the Counter-Reformation. The art and the architecture, the poetry and prose of the seventeenth century reflect some of the differences. The churches of the Anglican Reformation reflect classical order, the inward spirituality,of Christian vocation lived out in the family, the community, and the nation. The churches of the Counter-Reformation reflect an inward spirituality as well, but one which glories in the spiritual journey of the soul within the church. The Bernini statue of the Ecstacy of Teresa of Avila relates an approach to God which is very different from that found in the theology of the Reverend Jeremy Taylor, writing in the same period, or the poetry of George Herbert and John Donne. Roman spirituality calls for an ecstatic art and architecture, calling heaven down to earth, and the church up to heaven. Anglican spirituality, calls for columns and rational proportion, for reflection upon the right relation of our sinful nature to our final redemption, a proper relation of man to world, and the consideration of holy living in this world, and preparing ourselves for the the next.

The nineteenth century revival of a nostaligic neo-Gothic in both Roman and Anglican traditions, bringing with it a spirituality sometimes of sentiment, followed in the twentieth century by a new spirituality, charismatic and self-expressive, means that in the English speaking world, Christianity presents itself, in both Roman and Anglican churches, as more or less similar. Yet contemporary perceptions are deceptive. Counter-Reformation practices in the church of Rome are as remote to most peoples’ contemporary sensibilities as is the Book of Common Prayer. The proper recovery of both is salutary to the recovery of the fullness of Christian teaching in both traditions.

In the contemporary world, given our changed perceptions of prayer and worship, and the fact that few leaders, if any, are sympathetic to a historical understanding of their own tradition, people have forgotten the theological basis for the dispute about spiritual formation that drove the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Thus, the move to Rome seems easy: the liturgical rite in an Anglican parish looks much like the rite in a contemporary Roman parish. Rome appears attractive because it upholds orthodox Christian teaching on gay marriage and women clergy. But morality never was a fundamental or key point of difference between traditional Anglican teaching and that of Rome. It is only in the twentieth century that there have come to be divisions over moral truth for reasons having to do with the culture at large.

Benedict has been friendly to those willing to embrace the fullness of tradition in his own church by allowing for the older mass. But on behalf of those too few Anglicans who continue to embrace the theology and spirituality of Cranmer, Hooker, Ridley, Taylor, Donne and Herbert one can only ask of the Vatican how it is that catechetical, spiritual, and liturgical differences can truly be resolved? To move to Rome with this ordinariate may be to remain Anglican in name only. Indeed, it may have the further and unfortunate consequence of confusing perceptions about Anglicanism, and make the possibility of reviving the Anglican Way, its spiritual and liturgical patrimony even more remote. And one may in fact be moving from one instantiation of contemporary theology to another, having lost the riches of the past on the way.

This is an important point. Conservative Anglicanism, as defined in the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, is NOT Anglo-Catholicism. Rather, it is a church of the Reformation.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Christopher McNeely

    “Conservative Anglicanism, as defined in the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, is NOT Anglo-Catholicism. Rather, it is a church of the Reformation.”

    This is a vital point that is completely absent from all this silly discussion about Anglo-papalists seeking shelter under the Roman canopy. “Traditional Anglicans” is a misnomer; the few Anglicans who will uneasily yoke themselves to Rome are anything but traditional Anglicans; they are rather figments of a post-Oxford Movement British neo-Gothicism mixed with all the worst latitudinarian aspects of 20th Century ecumenism. It’s just too bad that true traditional Anglicans are in such short supply in this country and so divided among themselves.

  • Christopher McNeely

    “Conservative Anglicanism, as defined in the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, is NOT Anglo-Catholicism. Rather, it is a church of the Reformation.”

    This is a vital point that is completely absent from all this silly discussion about Anglo-papalists seeking shelter under the Roman canopy. “Traditional Anglicans” is a misnomer; the few Anglicans who will uneasily yoke themselves to Rome are anything but traditional Anglicans; they are rather figments of a post-Oxford Movement British neo-Gothicism mixed with all the worst latitudinarian aspects of 20th Century ecumenism. It’s just too bad that true traditional Anglicans are in such short supply in this country and so divided among themselves.

  • Christopher McNeely

    I should also mention that your monograph, Dr. Veith, Reformation Spirituality: The Religion of George Herbert, was helpful in clearing some of the Anglo-Catholic cant from the air when I was once looking into the difference between Anglicanism and Anglo-Catholicism. No one could honestly claim Herbert as an Anglo-Catholic (and they all do) after reading your fine book. Paul Elmer More’s introductory essay to the book he co-edited with Frank Cross, Anglicanism, is also helpful.

  • Christopher McNeely

    I should also mention that your monograph, Dr. Veith, Reformation Spirituality: The Religion of George Herbert, was helpful in clearing some of the Anglo-Catholic cant from the air when I was once looking into the difference between Anglicanism and Anglo-Catholicism. No one could honestly claim Herbert as an Anglo-Catholic (and they all do) after reading your fine book. Paul Elmer More’s introductory essay to the book he co-edited with Frank Cross, Anglicanism, is also helpful.

  • CRB

    Please excuse the “in house” nature of this post, but I thought that it would be a valuable contribution to the comments on this topic. I believe Wilhelm Loehe* is giving a comment on the false unity of Anglicans and the Roman Catholic church when he states:

    “This is not building the church on doctrine but on order, just as in Rome. In the beginning the succession appeared of its own accord, later it was introduced by force where it had not appeared by itself. The longer it existed the more men made of it, until the hierarchical system of the papacy was finally erected on it. Now the pope can tolerate Greeks and Armenians under his shepherd’s staff even when they have different doctrines, as long as they recognize the primacy of the pope, the succession of bishops, and the dominion of Rome. The whole matter has to do with power; this is the difficulty, and from this one can see clearly that the whole tendency is ungodly.
    Yes, there is a unity, a unity in confession and doctrine, a unity in faith! It is what the Lord and his apostles intended and it is the glorious beauty of the church. This is exactly what the Romans do not have and do not especially care to have. On the contrary, they hide Greeks and Armenians in their bosom, tolerate the differences of the scholastics, the Dominicans and Franciscans, the Jesuits, and others. In the Tridentine documents and in other Roman practices the boundaries are deliberately left vague, and they speak definitely only when something has to do with Rome and its government. Matthius Flacius, who was just and right when he spoke rightly as he was wrong when he spoke wrongly, wrote a book called THE SECTS, DISPUTES, AND CONFUSED DOCTRINES OF THE PAPISTS, and he has a good many successors both among us and among the Reformed. Let them call him a fanatic when he says that Roman unity is Satanic, political, warlike, financial (like Iscariot), tyrannical and slavish (like Herod), superficial, and accidental. It is true of all these names what men often say: Something fits! A unity which has as its highest aim to serve and save itself at any price, even at the expense of the truth, and which believes that mankind has won everything if only it survives – such a unity does not come from heaven and does not lead to heaven.
    Let the great ‘It is sufficient’ with which the Augsburg Confession (article VII) insists upon unity in doctrine and sacrament be our war cry, our watchword, our banner.”

    *(Wilhelm Loehe was a Lutheran pastor in Germany in the 19th century)

  • CRB

    Please excuse the “in house” nature of this post, but I thought that it would be a valuable contribution to the comments on this topic. I believe Wilhelm Loehe* is giving a comment on the false unity of Anglicans and the Roman Catholic church when he states:

    “This is not building the church on doctrine but on order, just as in Rome. In the beginning the succession appeared of its own accord, later it was introduced by force where it had not appeared by itself. The longer it existed the more men made of it, until the hierarchical system of the papacy was finally erected on it. Now the pope can tolerate Greeks and Armenians under his shepherd’s staff even when they have different doctrines, as long as they recognize the primacy of the pope, the succession of bishops, and the dominion of Rome. The whole matter has to do with power; this is the difficulty, and from this one can see clearly that the whole tendency is ungodly.
    Yes, there is a unity, a unity in confession and doctrine, a unity in faith! It is what the Lord and his apostles intended and it is the glorious beauty of the church. This is exactly what the Romans do not have and do not especially care to have. On the contrary, they hide Greeks and Armenians in their bosom, tolerate the differences of the scholastics, the Dominicans and Franciscans, the Jesuits, and others. In the Tridentine documents and in other Roman practices the boundaries are deliberately left vague, and they speak definitely only when something has to do with Rome and its government. Matthius Flacius, who was just and right when he spoke rightly as he was wrong when he spoke wrongly, wrote a book called THE SECTS, DISPUTES, AND CONFUSED DOCTRINES OF THE PAPISTS, and he has a good many successors both among us and among the Reformed. Let them call him a fanatic when he says that Roman unity is Satanic, political, warlike, financial (like Iscariot), tyrannical and slavish (like Herod), superficial, and accidental. It is true of all these names what men often say: Something fits! A unity which has as its highest aim to serve and save itself at any price, even at the expense of the truth, and which believes that mankind has won everything if only it survives – such a unity does not come from heaven and does not lead to heaven.
    Let the great ‘It is sufficient’ with which the Augsburg Confession (article VII) insists upon unity in doctrine and sacrament be our war cry, our watchword, our banner.”

    *(Wilhelm Loehe was a Lutheran pastor in Germany in the 19th century)

  • Christopher McNeely

    That’s a great quote from Loehe and apropos re: Anglicanism. The shameful sectarianism among those ‘traditional’ Anglo-Catholics who left the Episcopal Church in the late ’70s, can be traced to the over-reliance on bishops and, dare I say it, episcopacy. It’s no coincidence that the one Anglican group that long ago jettisoned the essential nature of episcopacy, the Reformed Episcopal Church, is the one that looks the most, well, Anglican in its ‘Reformed Catholic’ sense. Though the REC is now technically/kind of back in the Anglican Communion via the new ACNA. American Anglicans are a funny bunch. I love them nonetheless.

  • Christopher McNeely

    That’s a great quote from Loehe and apropos re: Anglicanism. The shameful sectarianism among those ‘traditional’ Anglo-Catholics who left the Episcopal Church in the late ’70s, can be traced to the over-reliance on bishops and, dare I say it, episcopacy. It’s no coincidence that the one Anglican group that long ago jettisoned the essential nature of episcopacy, the Reformed Episcopal Church, is the one that looks the most, well, Anglican in its ‘Reformed Catholic’ sense. Though the REC is now technically/kind of back in the Anglican Communion via the new ACNA. American Anglicans are a funny bunch. I love them nonetheless.

  • Cincinnatus

    Wow, a lot of bile for Anglo-Catholicism here.

  • Cincinnatus

    Wow, a lot of bile for Anglo-Catholicism here.

  • Joe

    It appears that my understanding of Anglican reformation theology is very lacking. I would have asusmed that since the king doesn’t need a divorce anymore, the return to Rome would be easy enough.

  • Joe

    It appears that my understanding of Anglican reformation theology is very lacking. I would have asusmed that since the king doesn’t need a divorce anymore, the return to Rome would be easy enough.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Cardinal Newman, devoted to the Oxford movement, looked carefully at the patristic sources in order to return the Anglican church to its humble Christian roots. An honest man, he figured out that the Nicene and Athanasian creeds, protected by the Catholic church against the Arians, had the better of the argument. He quite understood that the language of a holy apostolic, catholic meant a lot; consequently he made the lonely move to convert to Catholicism.

    Newman came to undrrstand that the Anglican church had lost its way. However stately and moving men like Hooker, Cranmer, and Herbert were, they little understood that the Reformation would ultimately lead to a seriously fissiparous, divided Christendom. Rome understands this well; London still has no clue, however well meaning the modern Reformation minded Anglicans, in actuality a small, wistful bunch, pining away in the wilderness.

    u

  • Peter Leavitt

    Cardinal Newman, devoted to the Oxford movement, looked carefully at the patristic sources in order to return the Anglican church to its humble Christian roots. An honest man, he figured out that the Nicene and Athanasian creeds, protected by the Catholic church against the Arians, had the better of the argument. He quite understood that the language of a holy apostolic, catholic meant a lot; consequently he made the lonely move to convert to Catholicism.

    Newman came to undrrstand that the Anglican church had lost its way. However stately and moving men like Hooker, Cranmer, and Herbert were, they little understood that the Reformation would ultimately lead to a seriously fissiparous, divided Christendom. Rome understands this well; London still has no clue, however well meaning the modern Reformation minded Anglicans, in actuality a small, wistful bunch, pining away in the wilderness.

    u

  • kerner

    Hmm…So Peter, I see our previous conversation has not convinced you.

    But I say again that it was Rome’s errors that were the ultimate cause of the Reformation, and it is largely Rome’s present errors that continue to divide the Church.

    The divisions will not be healed by the “lonely move(s)” of individuals to Rome. The divisions will only be healed when Rome has the humility to renounce its errors, including any arrogant claim to being anything more than an errant group (albeit a large group) of Christians gone wrong.

    Unfortunately, I see little sign of that coming to pass any time soon.

  • kerner

    Hmm…So Peter, I see our previous conversation has not convinced you.

    But I say again that it was Rome’s errors that were the ultimate cause of the Reformation, and it is largely Rome’s present errors that continue to divide the Church.

    The divisions will not be healed by the “lonely move(s)” of individuals to Rome. The divisions will only be healed when Rome has the humility to renounce its errors, including any arrogant claim to being anything more than an errant group (albeit a large group) of Christians gone wrong.

    Unfortunately, I see little sign of that coming to pass any time soon.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Come on. Get a back bone, or be quiet.
    It boggles my mind that you can berate people for not doing something you yourself are unwilling to do. Yet the people you are berating have by far better reasons for not doing it. You think Rome is right and yet stay in a congregational church because of family connections. That is pitiful.
    So my idea would be, go to Rome, or read Luther and begin to understand the reformation.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Come on. Get a back bone, or be quiet.
    It boggles my mind that you can berate people for not doing something you yourself are unwilling to do. Yet the people you are berating have by far better reasons for not doing it. You think Rome is right and yet stay in a congregational church because of family connections. That is pitiful.
    So my idea would be, go to Rome, or read Luther and begin to understand the reformation.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, your moralism becomes tiresome.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, your moralism becomes tiresome.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@9), allow me to translate for you. When Peter says “moralism” (@10), he’s referring to your expectations that he act in the same way that he expects others to act.

    Peter, if I may also translate for you, when Bror refers to “a back bone”, he means “cojones” (cf. your previous comments using that word from November 22, 2008; February 11, 2009; March 26, 2009; April 4, 2009; April 28, 2009; August 26, 2009; and October 14, 2009).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bror (@9), allow me to translate for you. When Peter says “moralism” (@10), he’s referring to your expectations that he act in the same way that he expects others to act.

    Peter, if I may also translate for you, when Bror refers to “a back bone”, he means “cojones” (cf. your previous comments using that word from November 22, 2008; February 11, 2009; March 26, 2009; April 4, 2009; April 28, 2009; August 26, 2009; and October 14, 2009).

  • Cincinnatus

    While I think Peter is being a bit overbearing in his papistry, I wouldn’t be too hard on him–and I address this to you, tODD and Bror. The “argument from family” as we can call it here, is actually quite valid, I think. For instance, I find Eastern Orthodoxy to be more theologically compelling and closer to authentic Christianity than anything else out there, but I am deeply hesitant to “convert” precisely for cultural and familial reasons: to go to such a Church would be to divorce myself from the Christian culture of my parents and Western European/American culture, which is a terribly steep price to pay, in fact–though perhaps I merely lack cajones. Which is more important? A holistic life which incorporates family, hearth, home, and the actual version of Christianity which may depart somewhat from “the truth” but which actually forms the “deep structure” (to borrow a term from Veith) of my culture? Or a fractured life in which I am alienated from my family in favor of a Slavonic culture and a version of Christianity that at approaches “the truth” slightly closer? I don’t think it’s a question that is so easily answered, which, if nothing else, does speak volumes about those apostles who forsook everything to follow Christ.

    (notice that this argument does not apply to converting to generalized Christianity from paganism, etc.)

  • Cincinnatus

    While I think Peter is being a bit overbearing in his papistry, I wouldn’t be too hard on him–and I address this to you, tODD and Bror. The “argument from family” as we can call it here, is actually quite valid, I think. For instance, I find Eastern Orthodoxy to be more theologically compelling and closer to authentic Christianity than anything else out there, but I am deeply hesitant to “convert” precisely for cultural and familial reasons: to go to such a Church would be to divorce myself from the Christian culture of my parents and Western European/American culture, which is a terribly steep price to pay, in fact–though perhaps I merely lack cajones. Which is more important? A holistic life which incorporates family, hearth, home, and the actual version of Christianity which may depart somewhat from “the truth” but which actually forms the “deep structure” (to borrow a term from Veith) of my culture? Or a fractured life in which I am alienated from my family in favor of a Slavonic culture and a version of Christianity that at approaches “the truth” slightly closer? I don’t think it’s a question that is so easily answered, which, if nothing else, does speak volumes about those apostles who forsook everything to follow Christ.

    (notice that this argument does not apply to converting to generalized Christianity from paganism, etc.)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@12), I disagree. And I do so not because I think attending a different, more faithful, church than your family would be easy — I understand that it can be very difficult to do something like that, depending on the circumstances.

    No, I disagree because Scripture disagrees with your position. Like it or not, you’re weighing the Truth against family ties and emotions, and deciding in favor of the latter. How can you possibly square that with Jesus’ words in Matthew 10: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”?

    You acknowledge that your own argument would not hold for a pagan abandoning his family’s beliefs to join a Christian church, but you provide no basis for this reasoning. Pagans should give up their sinful ways, leaving behind error, even if it means family strife. But not so with Christians, apparently. Why? Is the argument that, if salvation can be found in that church — some way, somehow — then the rest of the errors don’t matter? Would you thus counsel a Jehovah’s Witness or an LDS member to stay in their church for family reasons, since it’s possible — by listening only to the Scriptures being read and otherwise ignoring the teaching in those groups — for such a member to be saved, however unlikely?

    No, you’re right to laud the apostles and disciples “who forsook everything to follow Christ” — Jesus did. I just can’t figure out why you laud them, given that you apparently don’t think they actually should have done so. They could have just as easily kept attending the local synagogue with the family, inwardly ignoring the legalism and focusing on the messianic parts of Scripture.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@12), I disagree. And I do so not because I think attending a different, more faithful, church than your family would be easy — I understand that it can be very difficult to do something like that, depending on the circumstances.

    No, I disagree because Scripture disagrees with your position. Like it or not, you’re weighing the Truth against family ties and emotions, and deciding in favor of the latter. How can you possibly square that with Jesus’ words in Matthew 10: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”?

    You acknowledge that your own argument would not hold for a pagan abandoning his family’s beliefs to join a Christian church, but you provide no basis for this reasoning. Pagans should give up their sinful ways, leaving behind error, even if it means family strife. But not so with Christians, apparently. Why? Is the argument that, if salvation can be found in that church — some way, somehow — then the rest of the errors don’t matter? Would you thus counsel a Jehovah’s Witness or an LDS member to stay in their church for family reasons, since it’s possible — by listening only to the Scriptures being read and otherwise ignoring the teaching in those groups — for such a member to be saved, however unlikely?

    No, you’re right to laud the apostles and disciples “who forsook everything to follow Christ” — Jesus did. I just can’t figure out why you laud them, given that you apparently don’t think they actually should have done so. They could have just as easily kept attending the local synagogue with the family, inwardly ignoring the legalism and focusing on the messianic parts of Scripture.

  • Cincinnatus

    I didn’t say the disciples shouldn’t have done it; I’m merely stating that, while it’s easy to “talk the talk,” the answer is not nearly so stark as you have portrayed it. There is also another level to my argument (hence my distinction between conversion from paganism and “conversion” to another sect in the same religion): no Church has a monopoly on truth, in my experience, so the stakes of which I speak are much lower than, again, a conversion from paganism (from falsehood to truth is a terribly simple way to describe it); I am speaking of a switch to another sect in the same religion that, in my opinion, approaches the truth more closely than a Protestant church (though both fail to grasp the “whole”), a transition which also happens to involve a nearly unjustifiable alienation from family, culture, community–all things necessary for human flourishing, if they can be had. My argument may or may not make sense (it’s rather inchoate to myself, even), but the core of it is this: the Protestant penchant for church and sect-hopping is one of its worst features and bears careful reexamination.

  • Cincinnatus

    I didn’t say the disciples shouldn’t have done it; I’m merely stating that, while it’s easy to “talk the talk,” the answer is not nearly so stark as you have portrayed it. There is also another level to my argument (hence my distinction between conversion from paganism and “conversion” to another sect in the same religion): no Church has a monopoly on truth, in my experience, so the stakes of which I speak are much lower than, again, a conversion from paganism (from falsehood to truth is a terribly simple way to describe it); I am speaking of a switch to another sect in the same religion that, in my opinion, approaches the truth more closely than a Protestant church (though both fail to grasp the “whole”), a transition which also happens to involve a nearly unjustifiable alienation from family, culture, community–all things necessary for human flourishing, if they can be had. My argument may or may not make sense (it’s rather inchoate to myself, even), but the core of it is this: the Protestant penchant for church and sect-hopping is one of its worst features and bears careful reexamination.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Scripture counsels us to place Christ above family or any other considerations; It doesn’t follow from this that one should join another denomination that has a superior tradition of Christian truth.

    Christ’s prayer and admonition during His Passion that His followers be one [ut unum sint] does require Christians of all denominations to work towards reconciliation. It is true that some brave souls, including Newman, Chesterton, Dulles, and Neuhaus have crossed the Tiber, though most of we ordinary souls, who have come to see the wisdom of reconciling with Rome, need not feel compelled to cross the Tiber; we can, however, work assiduously within our churches to foster Christian reconciliation.

    As far as I know, none of those who made the crossing have remarked that those in other Christian denominations sympathetic to reconciliation with Rome are required to join the Roman Catholic church. Being serious Christians, they don’t go in for shallow, self-righteous, moralistic arguments.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Scripture counsels us to place Christ above family or any other considerations; It doesn’t follow from this that one should join another denomination that has a superior tradition of Christian truth.

    Christ’s prayer and admonition during His Passion that His followers be one [ut unum sint] does require Christians of all denominations to work towards reconciliation. It is true that some brave souls, including Newman, Chesterton, Dulles, and Neuhaus have crossed the Tiber, though most of we ordinary souls, who have come to see the wisdom of reconciling with Rome, need not feel compelled to cross the Tiber; we can, however, work assiduously within our churches to foster Christian reconciliation.

    As far as I know, none of those who made the crossing have remarked that those in other Christian denominations sympathetic to reconciliation with Rome are required to join the Roman Catholic church. Being serious Christians, they don’t go in for shallow, self-righteous, moralistic arguments.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Do they berate others for not crossing the Tiber as you do?
    You see I could put up with you on this, if you weren’t so hypocritical about it. And what exactly are you doing in your church body to foster reconciliation with Rome? How is the Maryology flying there? Do you even have a picture of the pope on the premise of your local church?
    My guess is that answers to this are in the negative.
    See Cincinnatus, it isn’t that Peter doesn’t want to cross the Tiber because of family connections that has me quite so riled. I don’t agree with that as being a good reason to stay in a church you don’t agree with. However, I can be a bit forgiving and understanding of that too. Jesus is, I would think, a bit forgiving of that too, at least when it comes to “Christian” denominations. The right thing to do though is go where your theological convictions lead you. Though you might want to take a serious look at those convictions before acting upon them. Like finding out why the fence is there before you tear it down.
    What gets me is Peter thinks that “family” is a better reason for staying than to actually believe what your church believes. He berates us Lutherans, and the Anglicans who have serious theological qualms with joining the Catholic church for not joining, and then stays in his congregation because one of his forefathers who fought in the Revolutionary war founded it. I doubt it is even a matter of his wife and children not wanting to make the journey with him. The probably wouldn’t shun him for it even if he made it alone. It would really not be that fractured of a life.
    But peter has moralism mixed up with integrity. He should not be lecturing others for not doing what he is not willing to do. Of course he used to be an officer, and I knew plenty that were good at that sort of thing.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Do they berate others for not crossing the Tiber as you do?
    You see I could put up with you on this, if you weren’t so hypocritical about it. And what exactly are you doing in your church body to foster reconciliation with Rome? How is the Maryology flying there? Do you even have a picture of the pope on the premise of your local church?
    My guess is that answers to this are in the negative.
    See Cincinnatus, it isn’t that Peter doesn’t want to cross the Tiber because of family connections that has me quite so riled. I don’t agree with that as being a good reason to stay in a church you don’t agree with. However, I can be a bit forgiving and understanding of that too. Jesus is, I would think, a bit forgiving of that too, at least when it comes to “Christian” denominations. The right thing to do though is go where your theological convictions lead you. Though you might want to take a serious look at those convictions before acting upon them. Like finding out why the fence is there before you tear it down.
    What gets me is Peter thinks that “family” is a better reason for staying than to actually believe what your church believes. He berates us Lutherans, and the Anglicans who have serious theological qualms with joining the Catholic church for not joining, and then stays in his congregation because one of his forefathers who fought in the Revolutionary war founded it. I doubt it is even a matter of his wife and children not wanting to make the journey with him. The probably wouldn’t shun him for it even if he made it alone. It would really not be that fractured of a life.
    But peter has moralism mixed up with integrity. He should not be lecturing others for not doing what he is not willing to do. Of course he used to be an officer, and I knew plenty that were good at that sort of thing.

  • Peter Leavitt

    I’ve not berated anyone for not crossing the Tiber. I’m critical of those who don’t care about or are opposed to ecumenical reconciliation with Rome.

    You’ve blatantly distorted my position in your usual righteous and arrogant style.

  • Peter Leavitt

    I’ve not berated anyone for not crossing the Tiber. I’m critical of those who don’t care about or are opposed to ecumenical reconciliation with Rome.

    You’ve blatantly distorted my position in your usual righteous and arrogant style.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Who does not care about reconciliation with Rome? You have assumed that these people you have berated have no ecumenical inclination whatsoever. And you are not the person to berate anyone about a righteous or arrogant style.
    You have mistaken doctrinal integrity for opposition to ecumenical undertakings. I would be more charitable with others if I wanted to be treated charitably.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Who does not care about reconciliation with Rome? You have assumed that these people you have berated have no ecumenical inclination whatsoever. And you are not the person to berate anyone about a righteous or arrogant style.
    You have mistaken doctrinal integrity for opposition to ecumenical undertakings. I would be more charitable with others if I wanted to be treated charitably.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Don’t kid yourself, Bror. Many of those who profess doctrinal integrity are adamantly opposed to reconciliation Rome; cf. Paul Mc Cain. As I remember it, you recently averred that when one has the gospel other issues are not important.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Don’t kid yourself, Bror. Many of those who profess doctrinal integrity are adamantly opposed to reconciliation Rome; cf. Paul Mc Cain. As I remember it, you recently averred that when one has the gospel other issues are not important.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    For one, and people who know me know this, Paul McCain is no authority in my corner. However, I think you would find if you talked to the man, he like to see, and in fact does support honest ecumenical dialogue with Rome. To say he is adamantly opposed to reconciliation with Rome is to needlessly slander this man’s name. And I really can’t believe that I am defending him for anything right now. To be Lutheran is to want reconciliation with Rome, but when certain conditions are met and not before. It is true unity we desire, not some white washed gloss over real doctrinal issues. We Lutheran’s will not renounce the gospel to have fake unity with Rome.
    However you have no doctrinal issues with Rome yourself, this owing to the fact that you have read woeingly little of the Bible, Luther, or even Catholic Dogma, and yet you still refuse to go over and berate now Paul McCain for having serious doctrinal qualms. A man I do believe has been charged with Romanism a time or two.
    Second, “not important,” and “not AS important” are two different statements, very different. I suggest you start reading more carefully. Unity with Rome is not near as important to me as Justification by faith alone.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    For one, and people who know me know this, Paul McCain is no authority in my corner. However, I think you would find if you talked to the man, he like to see, and in fact does support honest ecumenical dialogue with Rome. To say he is adamantly opposed to reconciliation with Rome is to needlessly slander this man’s name. And I really can’t believe that I am defending him for anything right now. To be Lutheran is to want reconciliation with Rome, but when certain conditions are met and not before. It is true unity we desire, not some white washed gloss over real doctrinal issues. We Lutheran’s will not renounce the gospel to have fake unity with Rome.
    However you have no doctrinal issues with Rome yourself, this owing to the fact that you have read woeingly little of the Bible, Luther, or even Catholic Dogma, and yet you still refuse to go over and berate now Paul McCain for having serious doctrinal qualms. A man I do believe has been charged with Romanism a time or two.
    Second, “not important,” and “not AS important” are two different statements, very different. I suggest you start reading more carefully. Unity with Rome is not near as important to me as Justification by faith alone.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Actually, I do have doctrinal issues with Rome having to do with Papal authority and Mariology, though with good faith and hard work see no reason why these could not over time be resolved.

    Since stationed with the Marines in Japan in 1955, I’ve read daily a chapter from the New and Old Testaments. While making no pretension of large knowledge, I’ve read Luther’s Bondage of Will and Bainton’s biography of Luther, Here I Stand; On ecumenical matters: George Weigel.s biography of John Paul II, the Lutheran Catholic Joint Declaration on Justification, and JP II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint: On Commitment to Ecumenism, along with numerous articles on ecumenism in First Things

    On the issue of justification of faith alone, I should suggest that you read the Joint Declaration… including the following: Section 2- The Doctrine of Justification as Ecumenical Problem:

    13.Opposing interpretations and applications of the biblical message of justification were in the sixteenth century a principal cause of the division of the Western church and led as well to doctrinal condemnations. A common understanding of justification is therefore fundamental and indispensable to overcoming that division. By appropriating insights of recent biblical studies and drawing on modern investigations of the history of theology and dogma, the post-Vatican II ecumenical dialogue has led to a notable convergence concerning justification, with the result that this Joint Declaration is able to formulate a consensus on basic truths concerning the doctrine of justification. In light of this consensus, the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today’s partner.

    I understand that some Lutheran synods still have issues with this Declaration.

    Have you read and carefully reflected on any of these key ecumenical documents?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Actually, I do have doctrinal issues with Rome having to do with Papal authority and Mariology, though with good faith and hard work see no reason why these could not over time be resolved.

    Since stationed with the Marines in Japan in 1955, I’ve read daily a chapter from the New and Old Testaments. While making no pretension of large knowledge, I’ve read Luther’s Bondage of Will and Bainton’s biography of Luther, Here I Stand; On ecumenical matters: George Weigel.s biography of John Paul II, the Lutheran Catholic Joint Declaration on Justification, and JP II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint: On Commitment to Ecumenism, along with numerous articles on ecumenism in First Things

    On the issue of justification of faith alone, I should suggest that you read the Joint Declaration… including the following: Section 2- The Doctrine of Justification as Ecumenical Problem:

    13.Opposing interpretations and applications of the biblical message of justification were in the sixteenth century a principal cause of the division of the Western church and led as well to doctrinal condemnations. A common understanding of justification is therefore fundamental and indispensable to overcoming that division. By appropriating insights of recent biblical studies and drawing on modern investigations of the history of theology and dogma, the post-Vatican II ecumenical dialogue has led to a notable convergence concerning justification, with the result that this Joint Declaration is able to formulate a consensus on basic truths concerning the doctrine of justification. In light of this consensus, the corresponding doctrinal condemnations of the sixteenth century do not apply to today’s partner.

    I understand that some Lutheran synods still have issues with this Declaration.

    Have you read and carefully reflected on any of these key ecumenical documents?

  • kerner

    Peter:

    I regret that we, by debating with you simultaneously in a single forum, may create the impression of us ganging up on you. Alas, this is where the debate is, and you seem to possess a skin thick enough to deal with our points and make your own. Which I, for one, appreciate.

    But anyway, as I read your comments I see that the one of the big negatives you perceive in our present situation is what you have called “fissiparous, divided Christendom”. Your solution, near as I can tell, is for all Christians to unite with, or at least accept the leadership of, Rome.

    I guess I remain unconvinced of your take on these things. I do not see the evolution of the ancient Church, from scattered communities to consolidationg bishoprics, to oligarchical patriarchates, to (in the West, not the East) a monarchical papacy, as a result of divine ordinance so much as the result of the socio-political circumstances existing while the Church’s orginization was developing.

    The fact is that the development of Western Christianity under a sort of an organization with a pyramidal flowchart of authority was unique to the West. And this wqs largely because the old Western Roman Empire had only one patriarchate. In the Eastern Empire there were 4 patriarchates, all 4 of which were eventually overrun by the Muslims. Thus, in the East the polity of the Church ceased to be identified with a unifying imperical government or culture. As a result of this, in part, Eastern Christendom never developed a unified chain of command and instead tended to rely more upon eccumenical counsels composed of elements from all over the Eastern world. While some of these elements were sometimes stronger than others, you don’t see in the East the kind of demand for obeisance to a single authority that we get from the papacy.

    Frankly, I think the papal model of polity is doomed to failure by its very nature. I don’t think the Church was ever meant to be governed by the kind of authoritative monolith we see in the papacy.

    I realize that Biblical imagery compares the Church with a human body, with a single head and diverse members. But Christ is the head of the Church, not any member.

    Besides, another Biblical image of the Church is that of a vine with many branches. Again, Christ is the vine itself, while we, His people are the branches the spread from the central trunk. Under this image, a certain amount of diversity is to be expected, and even is positive. It would be futile (not to mention arrogant and foolish) for a single branch to insist that it, and only it, is the entire vine, even if this particular branch is the largest with the most individual twigs.

  • kerner

    Peter:

    I regret that we, by debating with you simultaneously in a single forum, may create the impression of us ganging up on you. Alas, this is where the debate is, and you seem to possess a skin thick enough to deal with our points and make your own. Which I, for one, appreciate.

    But anyway, as I read your comments I see that the one of the big negatives you perceive in our present situation is what you have called “fissiparous, divided Christendom”. Your solution, near as I can tell, is for all Christians to unite with, or at least accept the leadership of, Rome.

    I guess I remain unconvinced of your take on these things. I do not see the evolution of the ancient Church, from scattered communities to consolidationg bishoprics, to oligarchical patriarchates, to (in the West, not the East) a monarchical papacy, as a result of divine ordinance so much as the result of the socio-political circumstances existing while the Church’s orginization was developing.

    The fact is that the development of Western Christianity under a sort of an organization with a pyramidal flowchart of authority was unique to the West. And this wqs largely because the old Western Roman Empire had only one patriarchate. In the Eastern Empire there were 4 patriarchates, all 4 of which were eventually overrun by the Muslims. Thus, in the East the polity of the Church ceased to be identified with a unifying imperical government or culture. As a result of this, in part, Eastern Christendom never developed a unified chain of command and instead tended to rely more upon eccumenical counsels composed of elements from all over the Eastern world. While some of these elements were sometimes stronger than others, you don’t see in the East the kind of demand for obeisance to a single authority that we get from the papacy.

    Frankly, I think the papal model of polity is doomed to failure by its very nature. I don’t think the Church was ever meant to be governed by the kind of authoritative monolith we see in the papacy.

    I realize that Biblical imagery compares the Church with a human body, with a single head and diverse members. But Christ is the head of the Church, not any member.

    Besides, another Biblical image of the Church is that of a vine with many branches. Again, Christ is the vine itself, while we, His people are the branches the spread from the central trunk. Under this image, a certain amount of diversity is to be expected, and even is positive. It would be futile (not to mention arrogant and foolish) for a single branch to insist that it, and only it, is the entire vine, even if this particular branch is the largest with the most individual twigs.

  • kerner

    My point is that, if some degree of unity in the Church is ever going to be achieved, it will not be acomplished through the bullying of one branch trying to subjigate the others. Rather is will be through a system the includes some room for diversity and some checks and balances.

    While it is never a good idea to use OT examples in the NT without reservation, we could also look to God’s establishment of authority in Ancient Israel in the decentralized hands of the Judges. The fact that God eventually gave Israel the king they asked for, and how the monarchy worked out, indicates to me that diversity of authority is the better approach and a single authoritative magiterium is at best a necessary evil.

    Accordingly, “crossing the Tiber” is neither wise nor desirable. And besides, that there is even a Tiber to cross confirms that it is Rome that has created this “us vs. them” outlook that besets the Church. By creating “sides” within the Church, Rome has instituted itself as “the Dark Side”, and Darth Neuhaus and his colleagues have simply made the mistake of going over to it.

  • kerner

    My point is that, if some degree of unity in the Church is ever going to be achieved, it will not be acomplished through the bullying of one branch trying to subjigate the others. Rather is will be through a system the includes some room for diversity and some checks and balances.

    While it is never a good idea to use OT examples in the NT without reservation, we could also look to God’s establishment of authority in Ancient Israel in the decentralized hands of the Judges. The fact that God eventually gave Israel the king they asked for, and how the monarchy worked out, indicates to me that diversity of authority is the better approach and a single authoritative magiterium is at best a necessary evil.

    Accordingly, “crossing the Tiber” is neither wise nor desirable. And besides, that there is even a Tiber to cross confirms that it is Rome that has created this “us vs. them” outlook that besets the Church. By creating “sides” within the Church, Rome has instituted itself as “the Dark Side”, and Darth Neuhaus and his colleagues have simply made the mistake of going over to it.

  • kerner

    Geez, will I ever learn to proof read?

  • kerner

    Geez, will I ever learn to proof read?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Really? You think those doctrinal issues will just up and go away if we all just align with Rome? And in the meantime they aren’t as important as superficial unity?
    The joint declaration. Ever wonder what that new scholarship is? The problem with protestantism is much of it has gutted itself and no longer knows what it believes or why. If those people want to go back to Rome, well it might actually be better than where they are now. I don’t advocate division for division sake. But I see no where that makes Vatican II any more palatable that the Council of Trent. In fact in many ways the universalism it has endorsed is quite appalling in my mind. And the new Rome is confusing as well as heretical.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Really? You think those doctrinal issues will just up and go away if we all just align with Rome? And in the meantime they aren’t as important as superficial unity?
    The joint declaration. Ever wonder what that new scholarship is? The problem with protestantism is much of it has gutted itself and no longer knows what it believes or why. If those people want to go back to Rome, well it might actually be better than where they are now. I don’t advocate division for division sake. But I see no where that makes Vatican II any more palatable that the Council of Trent. In fact in many ways the universalism it has endorsed is quite appalling in my mind. And the new Rome is confusing as well as heretical.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Kerner, thanks for the thoughtful comment. Personally, for many years I thought that it was good for the branches of the Christian vine to come to their own conclusions and compete with one another, much in the way of firms in a free economy.

    However, mainly through the influence of a good friend, the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, I came to see the tragedy of a badly divided Christianity. Having, also, read Ut Unum Sint, it became clear that the Catholic Church respects the Pauline/Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith and is willing to make reasonable compromises with any church’s important doctrine.

    The sad reality is that Christianity faces a serious challenge from the considerable forces of doctrinaire secularism and radical Islam; we would do well to rigorously pursue Christian reconciliation in order to come together and defeat these forces.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Kerner, thanks for the thoughtful comment. Personally, for many years I thought that it was good for the branches of the Christian vine to come to their own conclusions and compete with one another, much in the way of firms in a free economy.

    However, mainly through the influence of a good friend, the late Avery Cardinal Dulles, I came to see the tragedy of a badly divided Christianity. Having, also, read Ut Unum Sint, it became clear that the Catholic Church respects the Pauline/Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith and is willing to make reasonable compromises with any church’s important doctrine.

    The sad reality is that Christianity faces a serious challenge from the considerable forces of doctrinaire secularism and radical Islam; we would do well to rigorously pursue Christian reconciliation in order to come together and defeat these forces.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, reasonable men can and do discuss and come to agreement on difficult doctrinal issues. The important point is that the discussion is honest and forthright. Ut Unum Sint and the Joint Declaration are good examples of such discussion.

    However, should any one of the parties claim that somehow they exclusively “have the Gospel,” then the discussion becomes a charade. There is more to heaven and earth than pure Lutheran or Calvinistic doctrine.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, reasonable men can and do discuss and come to agreement on difficult doctrinal issues. The important point is that the discussion is honest and forthright. Ut Unum Sint and the Joint Declaration are good examples of such discussion.

    However, should any one of the parties claim that somehow they exclusively “have the Gospel,” then the discussion becomes a charade. There is more to heaven and earth than pure Lutheran or Calvinistic doctrine.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    In what way was the joint declaration honest? The “Lutherans” who signed it sold out the Gospel, and the leading Lutheran faculty all over the world renounced it, not to mention that the Catholic church realized that those who signed it did not hold to the historic Lutheran view, and did not recognize the document themselves. tODD pasted their reaction to this when we discussed it earlier. It was anything but honest discussion.
    But listen if I didn’t believe I had the gospel as a Lutheran I would not be Lutheran. And please refrain from lumping calvinism and Lutheranism together when talking to me. Calvinism is your disease and heritage, don’t load me with that baggage. Lutheranism you will find if you ever care to study it is worlds apart. And I don’t think that you will find anywhere that I have made the claim that only the Lutheran church ever has it. But I do make the claim that Lutheranism gives the cleanest and clearest expression of it.
    You read much into what other people write, I am beginning to think you read your own historical baggage into it.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    In what way was the joint declaration honest? The “Lutherans” who signed it sold out the Gospel, and the leading Lutheran faculty all over the world renounced it, not to mention that the Catholic church realized that those who signed it did not hold to the historic Lutheran view, and did not recognize the document themselves. tODD pasted their reaction to this when we discussed it earlier. It was anything but honest discussion.
    But listen if I didn’t believe I had the gospel as a Lutheran I would not be Lutheran. And please refrain from lumping calvinism and Lutheranism together when talking to me. Calvinism is your disease and heritage, don’t load me with that baggage. Lutheranism you will find if you ever care to study it is worlds apart. And I don’t think that you will find anywhere that I have made the claim that only the Lutheran church ever has it. But I do make the claim that Lutheranism gives the cleanest and clearest expression of it.
    You read much into what other people write, I am beginning to think you read your own historical baggage into it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@27), is it worth noting that the only documents you seem to consider examples of “honest and forthright” discussion are those authored or co-authored by the Roman Catholic Church?

    And while we certainly do enjoy engaging you (some [@22] more politely than others [@11]), you obviously enjoy responding back to us about our denominations. But left out of this discussion, for some reason, is the denomination you belong to, the Congregationalists. You seem to think highly of their ecumenical qualities, but tell me how they’re dealing with doctrinal error? Any issues there worth noting?

    And finally, since you seem committed to mentioning Ut Unum Sint ad infinitum (though I will refrain from doing a Google search to count your previous references), I will do my best to continue asking you about the unity that Jesus wanted among his followers.

    Was it merely belonging to the same organization that Jesus hoped for? Is that the unity that the Father and the Son share? Or was it something more important than that? Was it complete agreement, for instance? Isn’t that at the basis of any true unity?

    When James, Peter, and John gave Paul the “right hand of fellowship” in Galatians 2, was it in spite of the disagreements they shared over doctrinal issues? No, it was because, as Paul said, “those men added nothing to my message.” And when they did disagree, as with Peter’s backsliding, Paul made his opposition painfully clear.

    Finally, Peter (@21), you said you “do have doctrinal issues with Rome having to do with Papal authority and Mariology, though with good faith and hard work see no reason why these could not over time be resolved.” Well, Martin Luther raised his objections over those issues, in part, some 500 years ago. How do you think the resolution has progressed so far? Think they’ll be giving up the papacy or Mariolatry any time soon?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@27), is it worth noting that the only documents you seem to consider examples of “honest and forthright” discussion are those authored or co-authored by the Roman Catholic Church?

    And while we certainly do enjoy engaging you (some [@22] more politely than others [@11]), you obviously enjoy responding back to us about our denominations. But left out of this discussion, for some reason, is the denomination you belong to, the Congregationalists. You seem to think highly of their ecumenical qualities, but tell me how they’re dealing with doctrinal error? Any issues there worth noting?

    And finally, since you seem committed to mentioning Ut Unum Sint ad infinitum (though I will refrain from doing a Google search to count your previous references), I will do my best to continue asking you about the unity that Jesus wanted among his followers.

    Was it merely belonging to the same organization that Jesus hoped for? Is that the unity that the Father and the Son share? Or was it something more important than that? Was it complete agreement, for instance? Isn’t that at the basis of any true unity?

    When James, Peter, and John gave Paul the “right hand of fellowship” in Galatians 2, was it in spite of the disagreements they shared over doctrinal issues? No, it was because, as Paul said, “those men added nothing to my message.” And when they did disagree, as with Peter’s backsliding, Paul made his opposition painfully clear.

    Finally, Peter (@21), you said you “do have doctrinal issues with Rome having to do with Papal authority and Mariology, though with good faith and hard work see no reason why these could not over time be resolved.” Well, Martin Luther raised his objections over those issues, in part, some 500 years ago. How do you think the resolution has progressed so far? Think they’ll be giving up the papacy or Mariolatry any time soon?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Calvinism is my “disease and heritage.” I appreciate the good will and depth of your ecumenical discussion.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Calvinism is my “disease and heritage.” I appreciate the good will and depth of your ecumenical discussion.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Just being honest and forthright. You are a congregationalist right? They do hail from the reformed tradition do they not? So how is it not your disease and heritage? I might be more polite about it, but you tried to impute it onto me, and I don’t care for Calvinism much. It is curable though. Read Luther twice daily for the rest of your life.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Just being honest and forthright. You are a congregationalist right? They do hail from the reformed tradition do they not? So how is it not your disease and heritage? I might be more polite about it, but you tried to impute it onto me, and I don’t care for Calvinism much. It is curable though. Read Luther twice daily for the rest of your life.

  • kerner

    Peter:

    I’ll give you this much: The Church could stand to increase its level of unity in the face of ascendant Islam and doctrinaire secularism. For the various Christian bodies to come together on those issues that unite us, C.S. Lewis’ “mere Christianity” if you will, would be an improvement over the status quo. I think the logistics of doing something like that would be tricky, but not impossible.

    But I also think that much of the vigilance over doctrine in confessional Lutheran circles comes as much from a desire to fight off these very enemies (secularism and non-Christian doctrine) that has infiltrated the Church as it does from a desire to fight other committed (if wrong headed) branches of Christianity.

    I haven’t read Ut Unum Sint, and maybe I should. But you have not addressed how you would deal with the RC claim of papal authority. I mean, my family was Congregationalist for 4 years when I was in middle school, and one of the things I remember from that distant past is that Congregationalists feel (or felt) so strongly about a decentralized Church polity that they named their denomination after their commitment to the autonomy of the individual congregation.

    The LCMS is similarly (although somewhat less) committed to congregational autonomy. Many LCMS Lutherans sometimes grumble that this respect for congregational autonomy has caused error to be tolerated among us. But I think the correct response is that respect for congregational autonomy has also enabled the truth to survive when the powerful are in error.

    I’m afraid that I’m committed to the proposition that the Church is, on balance, better off with the decentralized authority it now enjoys than it would be under the thumb of a single magisterium. I know the temptation is strong to emulate the organizational structure of real earthly armies in the face of earthly adversaries who seem more centralized and single minded than we are. But I think that there is an underlying truth in common Christian phrases like “we struggle not against flesh and blood” and “My kingdom is not of this world”. If we beging to behave like the world, we by that very act are defeated by it.

  • kerner

    Peter:

    I’ll give you this much: The Church could stand to increase its level of unity in the face of ascendant Islam and doctrinaire secularism. For the various Christian bodies to come together on those issues that unite us, C.S. Lewis’ “mere Christianity” if you will, would be an improvement over the status quo. I think the logistics of doing something like that would be tricky, but not impossible.

    But I also think that much of the vigilance over doctrine in confessional Lutheran circles comes as much from a desire to fight off these very enemies (secularism and non-Christian doctrine) that has infiltrated the Church as it does from a desire to fight other committed (if wrong headed) branches of Christianity.

    I haven’t read Ut Unum Sint, and maybe I should. But you have not addressed how you would deal with the RC claim of papal authority. I mean, my family was Congregationalist for 4 years when I was in middle school, and one of the things I remember from that distant past is that Congregationalists feel (or felt) so strongly about a decentralized Church polity that they named their denomination after their commitment to the autonomy of the individual congregation.

    The LCMS is similarly (although somewhat less) committed to congregational autonomy. Many LCMS Lutherans sometimes grumble that this respect for congregational autonomy has caused error to be tolerated among us. But I think the correct response is that respect for congregational autonomy has also enabled the truth to survive when the powerful are in error.

    I’m afraid that I’m committed to the proposition that the Church is, on balance, better off with the decentralized authority it now enjoys than it would be under the thumb of a single magisterium. I know the temptation is strong to emulate the organizational structure of real earthly armies in the face of earthly adversaries who seem more centralized and single minded than we are. But I think that there is an underlying truth in common Christian phrases like “we struggle not against flesh and blood” and “My kingdom is not of this world”. If we beging to behave like the world, we by that very act are defeated by it.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Kerner, the Congregational Church in its early days actually was quite coherent and orthodox in its theology, though, as with all churches there were issues. The trouble with decentralized authority is that error inevitably slips in.

    In the case of the Congregational Church as a whole at present, it has become quite liberal, though some congregations, including mine, have stayed orthodox.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Kerner, the Congregational Church in its early days actually was quite coherent and orthodox in its theology, though, as with all churches there were issues. The trouble with decentralized authority is that error inevitably slips in.

    In the case of the Congregational Church as a whole at present, it has become quite liberal, though some congregations, including mine, have stayed orthodox.


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