Open communion that includes Muslims

2295355354_e65354babd_zIn Atlanta during Holy Week, the entire diocese of the Episcopal Church held a Mass in which the clergy renewed their ordination vows.  This was also an interfaith service.

The Scripture readings included a text from the Quran.  A Muslim woman gave the sermon.  Then, during the Eucharist, the Bishop communed her.

He later explained that his diocese practices “open communion.”  (Even for the unbaptized?  For non-Christians?)

The Muslim woman received the Host.  But, as a good Muslim, she declined the Wine.

At least someone in the service was faithful to her religion.

 

Illustration: Interfaith Banner, photograph by Sean, Flickr, Creative Commons License
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Does mainline liberal Protestantism have just 23 years left?

512px-Ruins_of_Holyrood_Abbey,_EdinburghMore on the plight of mainline liberal Protestantism. . . .

Evangelical scholar Ed Stetzer calculates that at the current rate of decline, mainline liberal Protestant churches will cease to exist in 23 years.

He crunches the numbers and suggests the reasons.  For example, “Over the past few decades, some mainline Protestants have abandoned central doctrines that were deemed ‘offensive’ to the surrounding culture,” but that strategy doesn’t work.

Wait a minute:  Isn’t that the sort of thing that we have been hearing from the evangelical church growth movement?

Stetzer doesn’t really believe that these churches will cease to exist and he laments their decline.  But would it be good if they cease to exist, or is a liberal church better than nothing?  Is there a point to institutional religion without the religion?  Doesn’t that leave just an institution–with all its trappings of bureaucracy, self-protection, and regulation–without a purpose?

I would say that the rumors of the death of mainline churches may be greatly exaggerated.  There still have their Christian pastors, theologians, congregations, and members. But their future may be in their becoming more conservative.  This may be happening.  The Methodists, for example, have embraced the pro-life cause and show some skepticism about the gay agenda, though the church is still torn over those issues.  Conservatives in those denominations often struggle over they should stay and fight–until they are thrown out–or leave, thereby abandoning their church to the liberals.  And it is theoretically possible that some of today’s secularists might start attending the increasingly secularist church bodies.
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Shouldn’t liberals be going to liberal churches?

6209348934_ccf5e3159a_zMainstream liberal Protestantism is dying, with a decreasing number of people bothering to go to their churches anymore.  This is ironic because, in many ways, the message of those liberal congregations is now widely shared among our cultural elite:  be tolerant of all; be progressive; don’t worry about the supernatural; conform to the culture.  But though the cultural elite has embraced the social gospel of liberal Protestantism, hardly any of them bother with liberal churches.

Ross Douthat, himself a conservative Catholic, argues in the New York Times that those who are liberal politically and culturally should start attending a liberal church.  Even out-and-out non-believers in the supernatural will experience little conflicts with their beliefs.  And there are benefits to church attendance that would be good for them.

Douthat says that it would be good for the cause of liberalism to be grounded once again in some kind of church.  Liberalism, to have an impact, needs an institutional home.  He also throws out this priceless line, referring to recent tendencies:  “Liberal Protestantism without the Protestantism tends to gradually shed the liberalism as well, transforming into an illiberal cult of victimologies that burns heretics with vigor.”

Read what he says, excerpted and linked after the jump, but then consider:  Why is it that liberals tend not to go to liberal churches?  Can you have the benefits of going to a church without holding to its beliefs?  Why is mainline liberal Protestantism in such a state of decline?  What happens to a Christianity purged of its supernatural elements?

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A Lutheran Catholic and vocation

Emil AntonOur hosts here in Finland arranged a city tour of Helsinki with Emil Anton.  As he works on his doctorate in theology, he works for a tour company, among other things, and has put together the “Holy Helsinki” tour of religious sites.  But Emil is also quite a Christian thinker himself.  He is a noteworthy author, speaker, and blogger (see this, for which the translator in your browser can give you an extremely rough translation, and this in English).

Emil is a Catholic who loves Luther and Lutheranism.  He says he is the kind of Christian Luther wanted:  an evangelical Catholic, a member of the historic church who, thanks to Luther, understands the Gospel.  Emil is interested in the whole breadth of Christianity.  He reads evangelical authors, such as Ravi Zacharias, and is writing his dissertation on Pope Benedict.  Emil–whose father is Iraqi (an Assyrian Catholic) and whose mother is Finnish and who is married to a Polish woman–is a fascinating model of contemporary Christianity.

Anyway, as he was telling us about the sights of Helsinki, we were also carrying on other conversations.  I commented on how I was struck by the way contemporary Catholic writers were discussing vocation.  Whereas the term “vocation” in a Catholic context used to only refer to the calling to religious orders, I have been seeing it used lately more as Luther used it.  Vatican II documents and papal encyclicals now talk about the “vocation” of laypeople, the “vocation” of marriage, the “vocation” of workers.  More than that, these documents also talk about the concept in ways that reflect the specific content of the Lutheran doctrine of vocation:  God works through human vocations.  The purpose of vocation is to love and serve our neighbors.

Emil said, “Right!  Which brings us to something I want to show you.”  Huh?, I thought.  What can he show me on a city tour in Finland that would bear on the new Catholic understanding of vocation? [Read more…]

Confessional Lutheranism in Finland

Martin_Rautanen_i_Olukonda_1899Imagine that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod suddenly went liberal.  Pastors of every gender and sexual identity, seminaries that ignored the Bible, the gospel replaced by leftwing politics–the whole way.  Also imagine that there were no other church bodies that you could go to instead–no Wisconsin Synod, no Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and, even though this might not be an option for you, hardly any Catholics, Orthodox, Reformed, or Baptists.

There were still some faithful pastors and congregations, carrying on with great courage despite an often hostile church bureaucracy.  But there aren’t any of these near where you live.

The Synod’s Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs), however, are still faithful and confessional.  These RSOs have been officially authorized by the church body to carry out specialized ministries.  They have the right to call pastors.

So these RSOs start holding worship services.  The pastors preside at the Divine Service and offer the Sacraments.  Though you keep your membership in your old congregation with its feminist pastor, you stop attending there on Sunday mornings and instead drive thirty miles each Sunday afternoon to worship with your fellow area conservatives at the offices of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation.

This is basically the situation of confessional Lutherans in Finland.  [Read more…]

Hank Hanegraff, the Bible Answer Man, joins the Orthodox Church

640px-Hank_HanegraaffHank Hanegraff, who hosts the Bible Answer Man radio show and who operates the Christian Research Institute, has converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.

An apologists for evangelicalism, Hanegraff and his ministry has spoken against Baptismal regeneration and the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.  This has put him against Lutheranism.

But now he is embracing the sacraments and other beliefs of Eastern Orthodoxy, including the doctrine of theosis.

He is foreswearing Protestantism, but he is continuing his work with the CRI and the Bible Answer Man.

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