By Tom Quiner
I spent the first half of my life in the Episcopal church before converting to Catholicism.
While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed a link to an article written by a noted progressive Christian writer, Rachel Held Evans, who is a proud Episcopalian.
She chastised the gyrations “hip churches” go through to attract young members, whom research shows are turning their backs on organized religion.
A sampling of her argument:
“If young people are looking for congregations that authentically practice the teachings of Jesus in an open and inclusive way, then the good news is the church already knows how to do that. The trick isn’t to make church cool; it’s to keep worship weird.”
In other words, the old-fashioned approaches seem more authentic. So far, so good, although the word ‘inclusive’ is a red flag when it is used by a
She continues …
“You can get a cup of coffee with your friends anywhere, but church is the only place you can get ashes smudged on your forehead as a reminder of your mortality.
You can be dazzled by a light show at a concert on any given weekend, but church is the only place that fills a sanctuary with candlelight and hymns on Christmas Eve.
You can snag all sorts of free swag for brand loyalty online, but church is the only place where you are named a beloved child of God with a cold plunge into the water.
You can share food with the hungry at any homeless shelter, but only the church teaches that a shared meal brings us into the very presence of God.”
I found myself nodding my head. To this day, I value Episcopal liturgy, modeled as it is after Catholic liturgy.
And then she really spoke to my Catholic beliefs when she proclaimed…
“What finally brought me back, after years of running away, wasn’t lattes or skinny jeans; it was the sacraments. Baptism, confession, Communion, preaching the Word, anointing the sick — you know, those strange rituals and traditions Christians have been practicing for the past 2,000 years. The sacraments are what make the church relevant, no matter the culture or era.”
Yes, yes, I found myself saying to myself. In fact, I might have even said it aloud. Here’s a liberal writer really talking sense. But then she makes a left turn…
“My search has led me to the Episcopal Church, where every week I find myself, at age 33, kneeling next to a gray-haired lady to my left and a gay couple to my right as I confess my sins and recite the Lord’s prayer.”
The notion of Episcopal “inclusion” goes beyond inclusion and acceptance, it now means normalization and acceptance of human abortion, including partial birth abortion, homosexualtiy, and so-called gay marriage.
My Catholic Facebook friends had this to say about the article:
“Sounds about right.”
“Great read and perspective.” [Catholic priest]
“Some things to think about ? Where do you think [our parish] is at with liturgy music acceptance judgement and recruitment of new young families?”
“We can always do better.” [Catholic priest]
These responses were fair enough. I responded this way:
“The writer is an Episcopalian, as I once was. The Episcopal church has maintained liturgical tradition, but jettisoned their beliefs on sexual morality and life issues. In the last decade, their church attendance has declined by 24 percent. Other mainline Protestant churches that have bowed to the culture have seen similar declines. Cultural conformity is the kiss of death. The Catholic Church has always been counter cultural. Our “hospital doors” are open to everyone who seeks healing.”
Mainline Protestantism is doing much of of what Ms. Evans calls for. Their embrace of the culture is killing their respective denominations.
The Catholic Church calls on us to use her sacraments to heal us of us our sins, not to embrace them.
Yes, Catholic liturgy is timeless and authentic. After all, we worship just like the disciples and all the Church Fathers did. Even more, Catholic beliefs are timeless.
That’s what really counts.