The Ordinariates and the New Evangelism


One of the things that has been on my mind since the announcement of Anglicanorum Coetibus is how to make use of this to evangelize the world? It's hard for me to speak of the context outside the United States, but classical Anglicanism (whatever that is!) has always been the bridge between Protestantism and Catholicism. Sadly, that meant that there was always a heavy traffic pattern between the two groups using Anglican churches as their highway. I'm one of them in one sense, as I come from a Protestant background. But while in the Episcopal Church, I saw many people leave for the Catholic (or Orthodox) Church and left us Anglo-Catholics behind. This is one of the reasons I rejoiced at the announcement of Anglicanorum Coetibus, because I see it as a way to corporately be fully Catholic in communion with Rome - something that most Anglo-Catholics have always longed for - and yet continue with our Anglican heritage and to bring who we are into the Church together as groups, rather than the former process of individual reception at local Roman Rite parishes. Admittedly, a theological transformation occurred during my time in seminary where I came to believe the claims of Rome about herself; Anglo-Papalists in the United States - as opposed to England where the term is not merely a theological position but a historical claim - are much more rare, as most tended to individually leave the Episcopal Church (or other Anglican jurisdictions after the breakdown). And here in the US, many more Anglo-Catholics are attracted to the notion of Eastern Orthodoxy for the main reason they self-identify as Anglo-Catholics: a catholicism without a pope.

One of the great questions I ponder frequently is, "How do we best use the Anglican Ordinariates to participate in a unique way to do our part in evangelizing our nation for Christ and his Church?"

This morning, I came across this article, which put numbers to a trend I've noticed. It talks about how in America one out of every ten Christians is an ex-Catholic, and there are two main groups in this number: (a) those who stop going to church completely, and (b) those who become Protestants. Now, group (b) is further split between those who become members of a mainline Protestant denomination - and they tend to be very liberal, thinking the Church isn't liberal enough - and those who join conservative Evangelical churches - and they tend to be morally and doctrinally conservative.

The greatest linking thread between all those who leave, however, is that their "spiritual needs are not being met" in the Church. This goes against the claim by liberal Catholics that people are leaving because the Church isn't progressive enough, as well as the claim by traditionalist Catholics that the liturgy is too loose or not reverent enough. That's not to say there aren't people in both of those camps of course, just that the majority who leave do not leave over these issues.

How to Stem the Tide?
The first problem that needs to be addressed is how the leaks can be plugged, for even if we find a way to reach out to those who've left and convince them of the necessity of coming back, they would not want to come back if the fundamental problems continue to exist.

It seems to me that Evangelicals, who are former Catholics, have left because they are seeking authenticity that exists on a more holistic level than doctrine or liturgy (which they view as "do's and don'ts"). They often describe finding that authenticity as "accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior" (emphasis on the personal). For them, Catholicism is dry, abstract, legalistic and not complete or very "real."

On a more basic level, most (all?) of the Evangelicals, who are formerly Catholic, that I've personally met have been poorly, poorly catechized as children, even those who've attended Mass regularly and even Catholic school. What they contend against isn't Catholicism, but a caricature thereof.

As for liberal Catholics who join mainline Protestant denominations, they typically leave because either they married a Protestant, find the Church too rigid and conservative, or have a general apathy about where they attend church. One common thread I find between these two groups of former Catholics, current Protestants is that they either never believed the Catholic Church is the gate of Heaven and to leave her is spiritually dangerous, or they stopped believing it because they were never taught Catholic hermeneutics and spirituality, and thus were misled by some Protestant (conservative or liberal) schools of thought.

But what practical ideas do you all have to help plug the holes?

How to Reach Out to the Disaffected?
Another goal we must attain is to discern and implement a way to reach out to those who are disaffected and have left the Church. How do we demonstrate to them the reality of the fullness of Catholicism as evangelical in the best sense of the word? That yes, Jesus Christ is our personal Lord and Savior, but not exclusively on an individualized level.

The article I referenced above says - in accordance with Pope Benedict's latest encyclical - that the study of Scripture is very important, something that evangelicals understand completely. But applying that study to both the corporate life of the whole Church universal, to the diocese, to the parish, and to the individual is all very necessary. Sermons shouldn't be so heavy weight that only academics can follow, but neither should they be on the level of kum bah yah. Parishes should have regular adult and children's Sunday Schools or midweek catechises in addition to confirmation classes. Parishes should incorporate outreach with worship, the liturgy being the primary form of worship (though I'm not at all opposed to have modern praise and worship in a different context outside the liturgy--a coffee shop evening set up might work, for example).

What are some ideas you all have of bringing out the authenticity that Catholicism has already in a practical way that perhaps was missing for many people?

Finally, how can Anglican Ordinariate Catholics play a unique role in helping to stop this and reach out to disaffected former Catholics?

 

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US and AUS Ordinariate Updates