Saturday, April 1, 2006
What I Mean By "Catholic"
This post was inspired by recent conversations on Jeff Steel's blog and on our theology pintnight discussion group.
I'm a Reformational, evangelical, ecumenical catholic. I can't deny that I'm a Protestant, but I'd like to think that I'm an evangelical, ecumenical catholic, too. What does this mean?
For one, I prayerfully long and work for the unity of the church. I believe that the church was instituted by God for the life of the world - it is the missio Dei. So I believe in an institutional, missional church. However, I agree with Bishop Bledsoe that metropolitan rather than denominational unity is what the early church had and is where the church of the future is headed. And metropolitan unity is a very organic, messy, wonderful thing.
For another, having said this, I have no problem with the bishop of Rome's primacy. I don't think his primacy is written into the law of the world - I don't think it's Gospel or unalterable tradition, but I think it's historically and currently undeniable. The Holy Spirit has chosen to lead the vast majority of Christians worldwide through the pope. Who am I to argue with Him - or him?
But I'm a Protestant, so I do argue with him, or at least protest a few things about the papacy. I think our divisions will be largely healed once the Vatican makes three reforms (and they may well be in the works):
1. The papacy must return to a pastoral model of primacy rather than a juridical or authoritarian one, and he must be primus inter pares, first among equals - not the one man who can speak infallibly ex cathedra.
2. Clerical celibacy must become optional. Enough said.
3. Anything with even the appearance of idolatry must go. That means eucharistic adoration, invocation of saints, veneration of icons, crosses, relics, etc, for the Lord our God is a jealous God. (Cf. Articles 22, 25, 28, 29, and 31.)
I'm not on the road to Rome. I'm on the road to the church of Jesus Christ in Monroe, which includes a number of Roman Catholics. But once the Catholic Church makes certain reforms, I think the church of Jesus Christ in Monroe will be all the better and stronger for it.
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