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The Church’s great rummage sale
Associated Baptist Press ^ | 08/16/2012 | Mark Wingfield

Posted on 08/20/2012 9:38:49 PM PDT by Alex Murphy

Once more with feeling: The demise of traditional Protestant congregations has been greatly exaggerated.

Yes, mainline denominations have been losing members for a number of years. Yes, many churches are dwindling in number and resources and even closing. And yes, seeker-driven worship and the emerging church movement and screens and projectors and guitars and drum sets and pastors in golf shirts appear to be the wave of the present and the future.

But despite all that, there are well-established Protestant congregations in America that are vibrant and healthy and still adhering to traditional church structures and liturgies. It can be done.

Phyllis Tickle, in her 2008 book “The Great Emergence,” draws upon the image of a church rummage sale to describe the revolution she sees happening in worldwide Christianity. This “great emergence” follows the pattern of 500-year cycles in the history of the Judeo-Christian story, with the current revolution falling 500 years after the Protestant Reformation.

She quotes an Anglican bishop who has declared that about every 500 years, “the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur.”

What’s interesting is that these “rummage sales”—such as the Reformation and the Great Schism that divided the church between east and west—do not abandon what was there before, but instead break it apart and seek to preserve the best. In an almost Darwinian sense, the fittest traditions get preserved while new ideas merge into the overall narrative.

For example, after the Reformation, the Catholic Church didn’t disappear. It changed and responded to the Reformation, but it was still the Catholic Church. This notion was even more meaningful during the upheaval that happened 500 years prior to the Great Schism, around 590, when Gregory I became pope. Gregory the Great’s claim to fame was establishing the monasticism that would protect and preserve the traditions and teachings of the faith during the coming Dark Ages.

“During those centuries of darkness, and largely because of Gregory’s prescience and acumen, Western Christianity would be held in trust in Europe’s convents and monasteries,” Tickle explains. “Almost all those conservators and pioneering thinkers were Christian clergy, monks or nuns; all of them were educated either in monasteries and convents or as a result of them.”

Many of us who lead traditional Protestant churches believe we, too, are holding in trust important truths and practices of our faith amid the overwhelming rummage sale of the contemporary church.

If we are faithful to the task and follow the best examples of those who have gone before us, we will seize this time to clean, scrub, buff and preserve the best of the traditions handed down to us. Healthy traditional churches will get cleaned up and focused but won’t turn out the lights.


TOPICS: Catholic; Evangelical Christian; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach
KEYWORDS:
Once more with feeling: The demise of traditional Protestant congregations has been greatly exaggerated....But despite all that, there are well-established Protestant congregations in America that are vibrant and healthy and still adhering to traditional church structures and liturgies. It can be done....

What’s interesting is that these “rummage sales”—such as the Reformation and the Great Schism that divided the church between east and west—do not abandon what was there before, but instead break it apart and seek to preserve the best. In an almost Darwinian sense, the fittest traditions get preserved while new ideas merge into the overall narrative.

For example, after the Reformation, the Catholic Church didn’t disappear. It changed and responded to the Reformation, but it was still the Catholic Church. This notion was even more meaningful during the upheaval that happened 500 years prior to the Great Schism, around 590, when Gregory I became pope. Gregory the Great’s claim to fame was establishing the monasticism that would protect and preserve the traditions and teachings of the faith during the coming Dark Ages....

....If we are faithful to the task and follow the best examples of those who have gone before us, we will seize this time to clean, scrub, buff and preserve the best of the traditions handed down to us. Healthy traditional churches will get cleaned up and focused but won’t turn out the lights.

1 posted on 08/20/2012 9:38:59 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
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To: Alex Murphy

If by healthy traditional you mean orthodox I agree. The concern is with those mainstream Protestant churches which have allowed heresy to take root. Mostly in the area of teaching on sexual morality but other examples come to mind such as pushes to include ecospirituality in teachings.

Just to show I am not trying to pick on Protestants I will tell you that if you want to see what I mean by heresy the best examples can be found at the websites of many Catholic women religious who are enthusiastic members of the LCWR.

I also do not mean heresy as defined in Catholic faith but heresy as defined by the Protestant churches themselves. Those who oppose these innovations are going to find themselves increasingly on the margins. Yes new congregations can be formed but that can place a large personal and financial burden on people.

I know the weakening of Christian convictions in many mainstream Protestant churches pleases the devil. That is why though I may disagree with some of their teachings it saddens me to see them lose their traditions.


2 posted on 08/20/2012 10:30:37 PM PDT by lastchance ("Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis" St. Augustine)
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To: Alex Murphy
Good article and I agree with the premise. Phillip Schaff wrote a very good book on The History of the Christian Church. The link to it is http://www.ccel.org/a/schaff/history/7_ch01.htm. The first chapter speaks to the topic in this thread:

    Protestantism represents the most enlightened and active of modern church history, but not the whole of it.

    Since the sixteenth century Western Christendom is divided and runs in two distinct channels. The separation may be compared to the Eastern schism of the ninth century, which is not healed to this day; both parties being as firm and unyielding as ever on the doctrinal question of the Filioque, and the more important practical question of Popery. But Protestantism differs much more widely from the Roman church than the Roman church differs from the Greek, and the Protestant schism has become the fruitful mother of minor divisions, which exist in separate ecclesiastical organizations.

    We must distinguish between Catholicism and Romanism. The former embraces the ancient Oriental church, the mediaeval church, and we may say, in a wider sense, all the modern evangelical churches. Romanism is the Latin church turned against the Reformation, consolidated by the Council of Trent and completed by the Vatican Council of 1870 with its dogma of papal absolutism and papal infallibility. Mediaeval Catholicism is pre-evangelical, looking to the Reformation; modern Romanism is anti-evangelical, condemning the Reformation, yet holding with unyielding tenacity the oecumenical doctrines once sanctioned, and doing this all the more by virtue of its claim to infallibility.

    The distinction between pre-Reformation Catholicism and post-Reformation Romanism, in their attitude towards Protestantism, has its historical antecedent and parallel in the distinction between pre-Christian Israel which prepared the way for Christianity, and post-Christian Judaism which opposed it as an apostasy.

    Catholicism and Protestantism represent two distinct types of Christianity which sprang from the same root, but differ in the branches.

    Catholicism is legal Christianity which served to the barbarian nations of the Middle Ages as a necessary school of discipline; Protestantism is evangelical Christianity which answers the age of independent manhood. Catholicism is traditional, hierarchical, ritualistic, conservative; Protestantism is biblical, democratic, spiritual, progressive. The former is ruled by the principle of authority, the latter by the principle of freedom. But the law, by awakening a sense of sin and exciting a desire for redemption, leads to the gospel; parental authority is a school of freedom; filial obedience looks to manly self-government.

    The characteristic features of mediaeval Catholicism are intensified by Romanism, yet without destroying the underlying unity.

    Romanism and orthodox Protestantism believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in one divine-human Lord and Saviour of the race. They accept in common the Holy Scriptures and the oecumenical faith. They agree in every article of the Apostles’ Creed. What unites them is far deeper, stronger and more important than what divides them.

    But Romanism holds also a large number of "traditions of the elders," which Protestantism rejects as extra-scriptural or anti-scriptural; such are the papacy, the worship of saints and relics, transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, prayers and masses for the dead, works of supererogation, purgatory, indulgences, the system of monasticism with its perpetual vows and ascetic practices, besides many superstitious rites and ceremonies.

    Protestantism, on the other hand, revived and developed the Augustinian doctrines of sin and grace; it proclaimed the sovereignty of divine mercy in man’s salvation, the sufficiency of the Scriptures as a rule of faith, and the sufficiency of Christ’s merit as a source of justification; it asserted the right of direct access to the Word of God and the throne of grace, without human mediators; it secured Christian freedom from bondage; it substituted social morality for monkish asceticism, and a simple, spiritual worship for an imposing ceremonialism that addresses the senses and imagination rather than the intellect and the heart.

    The difference between the Catholic and Protestant churches was typically foreshadowed by the difference between Jewish and Gentile Christianity in the apostolic age, which anticipated, as it were, the whole future course of church history. The question of circumcision or the keeping of the Mosaic law, as a condition of church membership, threatened a split at the Council of Jerusalem, but was solved by the wisdom and charity of the apostles, who agreed that Jews and Gentiles alike are "saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 15:11). Yet even after the settlement of the controversy by the Jerusalem compromise Paul got into a sharp conflict with Peter at Antioch on the same question, and protested against his older colleague for denying by his timid conduct his better conviction, and disowning the Gentile brethren. It is not accidental that the Roman Church professes to be built on Peter and regards him as the first pope; while the Reformers appealed chiefly to Paul and found in his epistles to the Galatians and Romans the bulwark of their anthropology and soteriology, and their doctrine of Christian freedom. The collision between Paul and Peter was only temporary; and so the war between Protestantism and Romanism will ultimately pass away in God’s own good time.

    The Reformation began simultaneously in Germany and Switzerland, and swept with astonishing rapidity over France, Holland, Scandinavia, Bohemia, Hungary, England and Scotland; since the seventeenth century it has spread by emigration to North America, and by commercial and missionary enterprises to every Dutch and English colony, and every heathen land. It carried away the majority of the Teutonic and a part of the Latin nations, and for a while threatened to overthrow the papal church.

    But towards the close of the sixteenth century the triumphant march of the Reformation was suddenly arrested. Romanism rose like a wounded giant, and made the most vigorous efforts to reconquer the lost territory in Europe, and to extend its dominion in Asia and South America. Since that time the numerical relation of the two churches has undergone little change. But the progress of secular and ecclesiastical history has run chiefly in Protestant channels.

    In many respects the Roman Church of today is a great improvement upon the Mediaeval Church. She has been much benefited by the Protestant Reformation, and is far less corrupt and far more prosperous in Protestant than in Papal countries. She was driven to a counter-reform which abolished some of the most crying abuses and infused new life and zeal into her clergy and laity. No papal schism has disgraced her history since the sixteenth century. No pope of the character of Alexander VI. or even Leo X. could be elected any more. She lives chiefly of the past, but uses for her defence all the weapons of modern warfare. She has a much larger membership than either the Greek or the Protestant communion; she still holds under her sway the Latin races of both hemispheres; she satisfies the religious wants of millions of human beings in all countries and climes; she extends her educational, benevolent and missionary operations all over the globe; she advances in proportion as Protestantism degenerates and neglects its duty; and by her venerable antiquity, historical continuity, visible unity, centralized organization, imposing ritual, sacred art, and ascetic piety she attracts intelligent and cultured minds; while the common people are kept in ignorance and in superstitious awe of her mysterious authority with its claim to open the gates of heaven and hell and to shorten the purgatorial sufferings of the departed. For good and evil she is the strongest conservative force in modern society, and there is every reason to believe that she will last to the end of time.

    Thus the two branches of Western Christendom seem to hold each other in check, and ought to stimulate each other to a noble rivalry in good works.

    The unhappy divisions of Christendom, while they are the source of many evils, have also the good effect of multiplying the agencies for the conversion of the world and facilitating the free growth of every phase of religious life. The evil lies not so much in the multiplicity of denominations, which have a mission to fulfill, as in the spirit of sectarianism and exclusivism, which denies the rights and virtues of others. The Reformation of the sixteenth century is not a finale, but a movement still in progress. We may look hopefully forward to a higher, deeper and broader Reformation, when God in His overruling wisdom and mercy, by a pentecostal effusion of His Holy Spirit upon all the churches, will reunite what the sin and folly of men have divided. There must and will be, in the fullest sense of Christ’s prophecy, "one flock, one Shepherd" (John 10:16).

I think we all lose when we try to assert superiority over another because the ONLY thing that should differentiate between what honors God or dishonors Him is how faithful we are to His divine revealed word. At least in the more civilized parts of the world today we have the freedom to follow our conscience and, when our conscience has been renewed through the new birth in Christ, this freedom can better glorify God in truth. Thanks for the thread.

3 posted on 08/20/2012 11:14:37 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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To: boatbums

Thank you...what you wrote will stay inside of me...sort things out.. and draw me closer to my beloved Saviour, Jesus Christ.


4 posted on 08/21/2012 3:58:55 AM PDT by rusureitflies? (A person becomes a lost fool when they reject the Holy Spirit.)
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