Daily Archives: August 20, 2010

“What about the Orthodox?”

I have just been listening to a number of podcasts from John Cleary’s Sunday Night program on ABC Radio National on the subject of “The Future of the Church”. It all got a little boring after a while (although I enjoyed listening to my Evangelical friend Prof. Brian Edgar trying to explain to the Catholic and the Anglican on one episode that it was “all about Christ” – I don’t think they quite got it…).

Then Christine sent through a link to this mob calling itself “The American Catholic Council”. They too are on about “the future of the Church”:

American Catholic Council is a movement bringing together a network of individuals, organizations, and communities to consider the state and future of our Church. We believe our Church is at a turning point in its history. We recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance of the roles and responsibilities of all the Baptized through a radically inclusive and engaged relationship between the Church and the World. We respond to the Spirit of Vatican II by summoning the Baptized together to demonstrate our re-commitment. We seek personal conversion to renew our Church to conform to the authentic Gospel message, the teachings of our Church, and our lived context in the United States. Our reading of the “signs of the times”, as we experience them in the US, our plan and our agenda are set out in our Declaration. We educate; we listen; we facilitate discussions and encounters; and, we build toward an American Catholic Council at Pentecost 2011. At this Council we hope to proclaim our belief in the Rights and Responsibilities of US Catholics.

The idea that has been going through my head as I listen to all this is: “How Occidental this all is.” In other words, I wonder what would happen to all this blather if we just put our hand up and said: “Aren’t you forgetting about the Orthodox?”

Aidan Nichols knows what I am talking about and says it in the conclusion to his great “Rome and the Eastern Churches”.

Rome…not only desires but needs reunion with the Orthodox East. In the face of her own numerous theological liberals and the innovationist tendencies of churchmen (and churchwomen) in various portions of her far-flung “Western” patriarchate, from Santiago de Chile to Manila, from Melbourne to Detroit, Catholicism’s grasp of the historic Christian tradition can only be strengthened by the accession of Orthodoxy to communion with Rome. In such matters as the upholding of the transcendentality of revelation vis-a-vis human understanding; the defence of the Trinitarian and Christological doctrine of the first seven councils; a perception of the nature of salvation as more than temporal alone; the maintenance of a classical liturgical life; the nourishment of group and personal devotion to Mary and the saints; the preservation of the threefold apostolic ministry of bishops, presbyters, and deacons (in that same gender in which the incarnate Word exercised his own high priesthood); the encouragement of the consecrated life, especially in its most basic form. monasticism; and the preservation of the ascetic dimension in spirituality, in all of these the present struggle of the papacy to uphold Catholic faith and practice in a worldwide communion exposed to a variety of intellectual and cultural influences often baleful, if some times also beneficent, can only benefit from Orthodox aid.

So next time you are in a conversation where someone is going on and on about how this or that should be done for the future of “our Church”, just stick your hand up and say: “What about the Orthodox?”

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News Just In: Michael Root becomes Catholic!

HT to Christine for this, who has just sent me the links.

Dr. Michael Root is a very well respected lay theologian who was Professor of Systematic Theology at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC, and Dean of that same institution from 2003 to 2009. He has been blogging about the current ELCA woes on “Lutherans Persisting”, which had not had an update since March this year (there is a certain irony in the title of that blog, btw). Michael has in fact visited this blog in the past (commenting on this post) and thus is in fact a honourary guest at our little table.

Anyway, to business. As the title of this blog has already proclaimed, now comes the news that Dr Michael is the latest leading American Lutheran theologian to dive into the Tiber and come up on the other side (unlike the Anglicans – who get a bridge to facilitate their and so get to stay “high and dry” – Lutherans still have to swim). Someone who knows him writes about it here. The same writer provides an excerpt from Dr Root’s statement to his Seminary faculty:

“On Monday I shared with the faculty the news that in the near future I will be received into the Catholic Church. I now wish to share that news with you. This action is not one that I take lightly. The Lutheran church has been my intellectual and spiritual home for forty years. But we are not masters of our convictions. A risk of ecumenical study is that one will come to find another tradition compelling in a way that leads to a deep change in mind and heart. Over the last year or so, it has become clear to me, not without struggle, that I have become a Catholic in my mind and heart in ways that no longer permit me to present myself as a Lutheran theologian with honesty and integrity.

This move is less a matter of decision than of discernment.

No single issue has been decisive for me, but at the center of my reflection has been the question of how God’s grace engages the justified person and the church in the divine mission of salvation. How are we redeemed as the free and responsible agents God created us to be? Catholic theology speaks of God elevating the justified person and the church to participation in the divine life and mission, so that God grants the Christian and the church participation in God’s actions in a different way than Lutheran theology affirms. Catholic teachings do not follow from that vision with deductive force, but they do hang together with that vision in ways that I have come to find deeply convincing.”

I can deeply identify with the passage in this statement that I have highlighted. At the same time I am not quite sure what Dr Root means by the final sentence in the above statement (partly because I am not sure what “that vision” refers to). And I am sure that while Dr Root does not feel himself able to describe himself any longer as a “Lutheran” theologian, yet his very decision shows him to be and to remain a “theologian with honesty and integrity”. And, I would suspect, unless his experience is different from mine, he will remain in his own particular way, a Lutheran as well – with important distinction that he is now “a-Lutheran-in-communion-with-the-Bishop-of-Rome” as we say here on SCE!

In any case, welcome Michael to the Catholic Church. I think this calls for the whisky bottle, rather than the port…

[In the meantime, a warning to other Lutherans out there: if you don’t want to end up Catholic like Michael and I and others reading this ‘ere blog have, then DON’T (whatever you do) actually do any serious study of what the Catholic Church teaches and why she teaches it. That path has only one conclusion for a “theologian with honesty and integrity”.]

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