Saturday, July 14th, 2007

One of the central tenets of modern mainline Protestant leaders is “diversity.” The church is conceived of as a big tent, one that has room for virtually all beliefs, ritual practices, and moral conduct. All kinds of things are justified by this: Islamopalian priests, atheist bishops, gay ordination, same sex blessings, interfaith baptisms, etc. Diversity ceases to be important only when it comes to traditional Christians.

Today’s Washington Post has a striking example of this double-minded. The “On Faith” column today asks this question: “Pope Benedict is encouraging wider use of Latin Mass. What elements of tradition — including language — are essential for worship?” Now, I have no brief for Latin, in worship or out, but keep in mind that Pope Benedict XVI’s authorization of greater use of the Tridentine Mass 1) is forced on no one; 2) meant to meet a genuine spiritual need and desire among traditional Roman Catholics; 3) part of an effort to bring schismatic and/or disaffected Catholics back to the church; 4) never likely to be widespread. With that said, here are a couple of the responses from the Post‘s panelists. First, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite of Chicago Theological Seminary (UCC):

Using the language of peoples long dead as a means of worship doesn’t “connect” us to the ancestors in the faith—it alienates us from them because theirs was a living faith, expressed in the language and customs of their time. If we import their past into our present without making it our own, we are dressing up in our parents’ clothing. Nothing really fits.

Human beings cannot go back to the past, they can only go back to the future and take their faith with them. The way we connect to the ancestors in the faith is to cultivate a lively and contemporary faith ourselves, the way they did.

Then there’s Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches:

There may be some Roman Catholics who find the Latin Mass is meaningful and helps them to connect with God. There are Orthodox Christians who find worshipping in Greek, Russian, Arabic, Serbian or Armenian leads them to a closer relationship with their creator.

There is a danger, however, if an element of tradition loses its meaning for the people practicing it. If people end up worshipping a tradition rather than seeing it as a means to connect with God, then the tradition becomes an idol. For those who use the Bible as their sacred text, there are thousands of verses warning the faithful against idolatry. Those admonitions are just as valid today.

These are by no means the only negative responses (some of which make perfectly good sense, some of which are based on misinformation), but what strikes me is that two of our foremost apostles of diversity have no apparent interest in making room for traditionalists. But then, that’s not really news, is it?


Just got this in e-mail this morning, from EPC headquarters:

Transitional Presbytery Update

The commissions for the Transitional Presbytery and the New Wineskins / EPC Transitional Presbytery are up and running. As of July 9, three churches have been received into the NW/EPC TP:

  • Upper Octorara (Parkesburg, PA). William E. Kelly, Jr., pastor.
  • Forks of the Brandywine (Glenmoore, PA). James A. Curtis (Andy), pastor.
  • Central (Huntsville, AL). Randy Jenkins, pastor (Randy is currently a member of the Central South presbytery).

This can be found on the news archive at the EPC Web site, which also has a summary of significant events from last month’s General Assembly.