Will Pope Francis Be the End of Protestantism?

Jason Micheli —  November 14, 2013 — 6 Comments

martin-lutherI’ve got to confess.

And I’ll do it publicly here.

Because, after all, I’m a Protestant and- on paper at least, even if its seldom practiced in most congregations- I believe in corporate confession.

I don’t need to duck inside a little private booth (note to Protestants: most Catholics haven’t used those in a long while, no matter what you saw in Keeping the Faith) to have a priest mediate my confession and prayer for absolution to God.

I can do it all by myself. With and in front of others.

There doesn’t need to be anyone who comes between me and God (note which noun comes first in that subordinate clause).

Which just nicely guarantees that very little communication, to say nothing of confession, passes from me to God.

While famous corporate confession from the Book of Common Prayer:

“…We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders…”

is incredibly pointed and powerful, I daresay it’s salvific sting would be felt more keenly if I had a confessor forcing me to own up and articulate exactly how what I’ve ‘left undone’ in my life and relationships that’s deserving of the label ‘sin.’

I’ve already shown my hand without actually fessing up:

I’ve got to confess.

I’ve got a serious case of Catholic-envy.

A virus that was perhaps latent within me since John Paul but has flared up to near-fatal levels by the arrival of Pope Francis.

While my own denomination continues to sever itself over North American issues of homosexual ordination, I’ve got to admire (if not agree) with a tradition that at least has the logical consistency to demand celibacy of all its clergy, gay or not. In a denomination severing itself over issues of homosexual marriage while about 1/2 of its members- let’s not talk about its clergy- divorce, I’ve got to admire (if not agree) with a tradition that has the logical consistency to teach that marriage is a lifelong covenant. In a denomination that is inescapably ‘American’ I’ve got to admire a tradition that is thoroughly ‘universal’ even while it universality means its rate of change seems incredibly slow to this American.

But really, like so many others, Pope Francis is the reason for my Catholic envy.

How I wish my own tradition had a globally recognizable leader in whom the life and teachings of Jesus were so palpably and incarnately demonstrated.

Just check out this picture. If not worth a thousand words, it def rates a short homily or a Broadway billboard:

Screen-Shot-2013-11-08-at-7.26.28-AM

The other Francis was right.

You don’t need evangelism when you’ve got leaders like this who are like a flesh-by-numbers display of the Gospel.

Had I not already signed on to a particular Jesus tribe and were, right now, ‘seeking’ a place to follow him, I gotta confess I’d give our Romish brothers and sisters a try.

Which but leads me to another confession that IS corporate for most my Protestant tribe:

Why are we not Catholic?

Or rather, in what ways are we still meaningfully Protestant?

I don’t know what church you attend or denomination you belong to but, chances are, you’re not ‘protesting’ anything anymore. Even if you are protesting things, odds are good it’s got more to do with ‘social justice’ or ‘the conservative agenda’ and little to do 16th century theology.

After all, the main points of contention that compelled Martin to post his 95 Theses have long since been reconciled.

Abuse of indulgences? Check.

Scripture and liturgy in the vernacular? Check.

Justification by faith alone? Double Check.

Every year it strikes me as odd that Protestant churches actually celebrate Reformation Sunday.

Even if you agree with Luther’s vision of Christianity, schism isn’t something to celebrate. That’s like celebrating your parents’ divorce- I know firsthand that even when the separation is necessary it’s still tragic.

You’d think it strange if I offered prayers every late October celebrating the rupture of family wouldn’t you?

I’ve spent a lot of time in Latin America, a region where the United Methodist Church is all but unknown so small is its population share. There, the Jesus family is divided into 2 homes, Catholic or Evangelical (usually meaning ‘Pentecostal’). Truth be told, I’ve got a lot more in common with the former there than I do the latter. In terms of worship, theology and how mission and service are to be done.

I wonder, given the changing contours of post-Christian America, if our future is to be found in Latin America?

Do our increasingly diverse cultural options make it necessary to winnow down the Christian options to two basic choices: Catholic or Pentecostal?

Could it be the Protestant affection for Pope Francis is a harbinger of things to come?

By the way, here’s a great article from First Things that echoes.

Queen’s to you:

Why are you Protestant?

Why are you not Catholic?

And does your reason trump the cause of Christian unity?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason Micheli

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6 responses to Will Pope Francis Be the End of Protestantism?

  1. I share your frustration with the mainline American church. I try hard not to think much about my own denomination – Episcopal – as much as possible. I prefer to remember my parish instead, a place I find sometimes maddening but often deeply nurturing. A former Catholic, why am I not still there? Lots of not so theological reasons. Topping the list, the average American parish has several thousand members. Several hundred come to Mass each Sunday. No matter how much the priest (there’s usually just one full-time one) tries, there is absolutely no sense of community. It is Eucharistic factory. I need to know my brothers and sisters in Christ and to be known by them. I cannot be nurtured by anonymous spirituality.

    • I totally get most people’s reasons not to be Catholic but too often they have less to do with ‘why I’m Protestant’ and I don’t know if those problems w/ the Catholic Church are more compelling than why I’m Prot.

      As the linked FT article points out, neo-Calvinist churches are usually the only ones who are still clearly ‘Protestant’ without being just prejudicial against Catholics.

      I won’t doubt or dismiss your personal experience, I do know the priest in my parish, and also the ones in my previous homes (Lexington, Va and Princeton, NJ) were def more than overseers of eucharistic factories. I often think priests get blamed for things that are just as prevalent in prot congregations.

  2. Well… how about this? Primacy of scripture over against tradition, transubstantiation, the Marian dogmas, the sacrificial understanding of the Mass, papal infallibility, works of supererogation, veneration of saints (although I know you like that one), adoration of the consecrated Host (gag!), and purgatory, among what I suspect are many other things. Many of these beliefs are not optional extras, but are required of every Catholic in good standing.

    I miss the good old days when we Methodists didn’t have to pretend that we’re all one big happy family, and we thought the Protestant Reformation was a good thing.

    Heck, we don’t know why we’re Methodists, much less why we’re not Catholics!

  3. I always wonder why Christ will allow His body (the church) split into 35000 relics (denominations) to the mockery of nonchristians who are either one Jew, or one Hindu, or one Buddhist or one Sikh or one Jain and only 3 main muslim congregations (sunni, shia, sufi). During ecumenical debates, nonchristian believers don’t buy such stuff ti whom our God appear unreal if He cannot jeep His church united. I wonder if it is a punishment for christian selfishness and arrogance (the excuse of free will) because one christian thought he/she is more selfrighteous than the other? The truth is the only dogma which unites the 34999 non catholic christian denomination is the hate for catholic church. If Christ punished the catholic church with one protestantism, He seems to be punishing the reformed churches with daily protestantism in which one church is splintering into many atleast once a year? If pope Francis was there in the 16th century, he would have called Luther for a dialogue rather than being arrogant to call him a heretic. If pope Francis was the protestant, he would have gone fasting unto death so that the one western catholic church changed- well Gandhi brought independence to the 200 yr british sopjisticated slavery(colonialism) with simple fasts to which an enslavednation joined. We American christians are spiritually obese since our Lord is either too kind or too disinterested to gives us tests inorder to live and shine in our christian faith like the persecuted christians of pakistan, syria, egypt, etc., who live their faith at the risk of their own life. Christians like pope Francis are sent like the apocalyptic John the baptist, that if we western christians do not unite in our faith (but divide our Lord with our selfish quarrel), western christianity will die with us, the warring western christians while our ypung ones are turning secular, atheistic since we do not give a christian role models. And we all know, that did not hesitate to give 2 world wars and fascist/communist terror in the 20th century. We can only pray to our Christian God to preserve western christianity by removing our infighting unchristian hatred. He may not like one bully pulpit hence let us listen to great christian as they come, rather than casting stones at them because they dont belong to our denomination.

  4. You are missing the point. Protestantism was mainly pegged on pagan practices in the Roman Catholic Church. A thorough examination of the Catholic doctrines and teachings reveals a lot of error. the main ones include idolatry (eradication of the second commandment in the Catholic Catechism and bibles), confessing to the fathers and pope instead of Jesus.

    Examination of bible prophecy reveals the role of catholic church in end time events. I urge you to read for yourself.

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