Dwight Longnecker: Does the “Springfield Spirit” Point the Way Home for Protestants?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

They’re a large but neglected group of Christians. Some do not have their own denomination. They have no bishops or pastors. Others might be Baptists or Presbyterians or members of a nondenominational fellowship or a mega church. They are sincere evangelical Protestants who are disenchanted with evangelicalism and are searching for a church that is historical, traditional and liturgical.

Usually the first place they stop and shop is the Episcopal Church.

Before long they discover that Episcopalians are too liberal for their liking. Not only does the Episcopal Church ordain women priests and bishops, but it also permits bishops and priests to be “out and proud” homosexual activists.

The evangelical searchers move on. They read. They study. They pray. They explore Eastern Orthodoxy. But that’s not English, and they’re not Greek or Russian, and the culture shock is enormous.

Finally, they turn to the Catholic Church, and that’s a letdown, too. First of all, the same sorts of ethnic problems that turned them away from the Eastern Orthodox turn up among the Catholics. They’re bewildered by Catholic culture. Rosaries, novenas, Fatima, statues and candles, the Infant of Prague — all of it seems foreign. Plus a lot of Catholics seem just as liberal as the Episcopalians.

This is where the new Anglican ordinariate — established by Pope Benedict XVI last fall — may well prove a bridge to Rome not only for Anglo-Catholics but also a wide range of Protestants.

Read the whole article from NCR.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI* TheologyEcclesiology

24 Comments
Posted January 11, 2010 at 7:33 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. TomRightmyer wrote:

A fertile field ripe for the ACNA?

January 11, 9:15 am | [comment link]
2. Sarah wrote:

An interesting article.  One key thesis appears to be this:

“These brothers and sisters in Christ are looking for a church where the historic faith is taught, the worship is liturgical and the culture is acceptable. If they could only find a church with decent liturgy, fine music, solid preaching and a link with the Catholic Church, they’d be in church heaven. If the new Anglican ordinariate is set up in the right way and is run by the right people, many more of our separated brethren than we first envisioned will cross the bridge.”

I can see why some RCs who oppose the new ordinariate would be vexed by the above thesis.  It’s as if the RC church isn’t good enough for converts, and so there must be some Anglican/evangelical culture of Roman Catholicism that is allowed.  And speaking as an Anglican evangelical myself is the RC church a place that actually constantly offers “decent liturgy, fine music, solid preaching and a link with the Catholic Church”?  That’s not my understanding of it.  And the reasons for that are many, some of which have to do with the theology and doctrine of that church itself.  But honestly if I were to believe their doctrine I’d convert anyway, regardless of any lacks in liturgy, music, preaching, or other things-Sarah-likes.

I agree that for those evangelical Protestants willing to believe the RC’s doctrines the ordinariate might work for them.

It will be interesting to watch what happens.

January 11, 9:52 am | [comment link]
3. Ian+ wrote:

#1 TomRightmyer, it seems to me that ACNA may be a safe haven for now. But it has built the seeds of its own destruction into its constitution. Apart from opposing homosexual practice and ordination, the only other gesture it has made toward holistic orthodoxy is to forbid female bishops. Otherwise it’s TEC 2. The Ordinariate will be a complete return to Christian orthodoxy. So I believe Fr Longenecker is right.

January 11, 11:31 am | [comment link]
4. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

I am fed up with hearing the efforts being put in by the Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church, this or that church, the wacko ancient church of the Nabateans or whatever to look after ordinary Anglicans.    It just puts into context the miserable failure of our Instruments and Rowan Williams in particular to do the necessary with regard to them.

Why do we bother with these failed Instruments - time for a revamp - out with the dead wood running the Communion.  It is this failure which will probably end the position of Canterbury - and perhaps that is what God is pointing us to - Williams’ failure making the case for reform?

January 11, 11:40 am | [comment link]
5. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

#3 - of course the Ordinariate is nothing of the sort - it is not Anglicanism with a Catholic link - it is Catholicism, with a few Anglican dressings.  No - what is necessary is a proper Anglican provision, and this is what the miserable wretch Williams has resisted in his passive-aggresive manner.

January 11, 11:44 am | [comment link]
6. paxetbonum wrote:

What you all seem to be missing is the moderate voice. Most people who come out of other denominations aren’t flaming conservatives or liberals. Those breakaway churches are at least as conservative as the Episcopal Church (en masse) is liberal.

I think most people are looking for a church that transcends the culture wars anyway. Sorry folks, but I think David Simmons is spot on with this one. http://www.ayiailuvatar.org/2009/07/why-am-i-an-episcopalian.html

January 11, 1:05 pm | [comment link]
7. Branford wrote:

“Moderate” only exists as the midpoint between progressive and orthodox - it’s a constantly moving target, both politically and religiously. What is moderate today becomes too conservative tomorrow (just look at TEC). I don’t hold with “moderate” per se - I think it’s better to truly know that we are all miserable sinners and only through God’s grace are we redeemed. From that, we try in true godly love to follow God’s will, not our own.

January 11, 1:30 pm | [comment link]
8. Catholic Mom wrote:

They’re bewildered by Catholic culture. Rosaries, novenas, Fatima, statues and candles, the Infant of Prague — all of it seems foreign.

If you’re a “going to mass on Sundays at a local suburban church” kind of Catholic as opposed to a “going to mass every day at an inner-city ethnic church” kind of Catholic, you could live your whole life and never know a thing about rosaries, novenas, Fatima, and the Infant of Prague.  As far as statues and candles, I think you’re going to find those in any Anglican Church.  Whch reminds me of the old joke.

PENITENT IN CONFESSION:  Father, I’m not sure but I think I may be doing something wrong.  There’s a building site right across from my house and I’ve been going over there every night and getting wood that I’m using to build a shed in my back yard.  Is that stealing?

PRIEST:  Of course it is and you know it very well or you wouldn’t be sneaking over there at night.

PENITENT:  You’re right.  I’m really ashamed.

PRIEST:  Good.  Now, for your penance I want you to make a novena.  Do you know what that is?

PENITENT:  No, but if you have the specs, I know where we can get the lumber.

January 11, 1:44 pm | [comment link]
9. paxetbonum wrote:

Branford said, “Moderate” only exists as the midpoint between progressive and orthodox - it’s a constantly moving target, both politically and religiously. What is moderate today becomes too conservative tomorrow (just look at TEC). I don’t hold with “moderate” per se - I think it’s better to truly know that we are all miserable sinners and only through God’s grace are we redeemed. From that, we try in true godly love to follow God’s will, not our own.”

Branford, I think you are probably right that moderate isn’t a good descriptor. Via media - able to tolerate theological and political difference and able to live in the tension of theological and political difference is probably a better descriptor.

I am really complaining about the Fox-news-ification msnbc-ification of everything. This notion that “those whom I disagree with demean my very existence.” The we’re right and everyone else is wrong. I am not interesting in being a part of an Episcopal parish nor an ACNA parish that carries out its mission and ministry that way.

Moreover, I think there is a theological generous orthodoxy that is deeper and more encompassing than one’s views on the place of gays and lesbians in the church. I think church is about worshiping God and following the Risen Christ and not arguing about sex, or coalescing around a political or ideological temperament. I often hear more ideology and politics in the conversations here than I do real engagement about the good news of God in Christ. I hear more “demean, degrade, and destroy those who disagree with me” than I do honest discourse about what the church does in the face of the rapid change that our times have produced. Mostly I hear anxiety spilled in rapid fire. All of that makes me pine for a new era whose leaders are more pragmatic, focusing on the mission and ministry of the church, and less ideological.

January 11, 2:10 pm | [comment link]
10. Hakkatan wrote:

Catholic Mom, I have served in four Episcopal parishes and have visited many more.  None of the churches where I served had candles or statues, and fewer than a third I visited have had statues or candles.  Out in the Midwest, that might be different, but along the eastern seaboard, those things are not so common.

I am far more likely to go PCA than RC if the ACNA folds up -which I do not think it will do, because it is very missionary-minded and even more because it is not a society of “Aginers” who are united solely by opposition to a new view of homosexuality, but rather by a strong and delighted desire to share “mere Christianity” with as many people as possible.  There are differences on important but secondary matters such as the ordination of women (which I do not support), but there is unity on who God is and how we may be reconciled to him through Jesus Christ.  And that is the core.

January 11, 3:34 pm | [comment link]
11. Catholic Mom wrote:

Hakkatan:  Really??  There always seemed to be lots of candles and statues in all the cathedrals on TV that British royalty gets crowned or married in.  I’ve been in our local Episcopal church and there were lots of candles (unless you’re thinking of votive candles) but now I can’t remember what the statue situation was.  I’ll have to check.

BTW, is your “handle” supposed to mean “the little one” in Hebrew??—we people married to Israelis notice stuff like this—and, if so, why do you put two “k"s in it versus ha(the)katan(little) ??

January 11, 3:51 pm | [comment link]
12. phil swain wrote:

#10, whose “mere Christianity”?  The days of the ecumenical approach of “mere Christianity” is over. 

#9- If part of the Church’s mission didn’t include “arguing about sex”, we could have gotten by with fewer commandments.

January 11, 4:02 pm | [comment link]
13. Charles wrote:

#11 - in the Midwest (Kansas City area), Episcopal churches do tend to have candles, no matter the churchmanship, and some have statues.  Almost every one I’ve seen has at least has a Christus Rex behind or above the altaer, but some of the more low-church parishes have a simple cross (simply click here to see a typical Anglican/Episcopal Christus Rex).

January 11, 5:13 pm | [comment link]
14. flaanglican wrote:

My Anglican parish is a breakaway parish from TEC in 2005 and now part of the ACNA.  Initially, most of our membership was made up of the former TEC parish.  Within the last several years we have seen an influx from faiths other than TEC (Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, unchurched, etc.) who yearn not only for the Gospel but the liturgy that goes with it.

For my part, I applaud the Pope’s efforts and understand his motivations, but I have no desire to become a Catholic.  I would think others might have the same mindset.  All the Anglican preservations of liturgy etc. in the Pope’s plan doesn’t change the fact that you’re becoming part of the Catholic church.  That doesn’t interest me.

January 11, 5:50 pm | [comment link]
15. Sarah wrote:

RE: “I think most people are looking for a church that transcends the culture wars anyway.”

Sure—“transcends”—but not “ignores.”

And I think David Simmons’ post in no way at all represents why I ended up in the Episcopal Church.

January 11, 9:09 pm | [comment link]
16. MichaelA wrote:

Catholic Mom,
Very well spotted, re “hakkatan”!!
I believe the explanation for the doubling of the “k” (actually a q) is this: In classical Hebrew, the letter after the definite article is doubled (signified in most cases by a dot or dagesh hazaq placed in the letter). Johanan Ben-Haqqatan is mentioned in Ezra 8:12.
I don’t think this is very common in modern Hebrew.

January 18, 8:47 am | [comment link]
17. Catholic Mom wrote:

Well, doubled in the sense that maybe that’s how European scholars choose to transliterate it into the Latin alphabet, but not in the sense that two letters appear in Hebrew!  The dot usually signifies a “hard” pronounciation.  For example “bait” (or “beth” as they like to transliterate it in the Bible) with a dot is “b” and without is “v.”  In this case, the pronounciation (at least in modern Hebrew— and I challenge anyone to figure out how they were pronouncing things 2,000 years ago smile ) is “k” so should simply be rendered as “k.”  But hey—when was the last time anybody could figure out how to pronouncing a Chinese word transliterated in the new modern convention??  Most of these transliteration techniques are cues for scholars to be able to guess what the actual letter was, not for real people to guess what the actual pronounciation is.  However, in modern Hebrew hakaton transliterates easily 1 for 1 into Latin letters.

January 18, 11:08 am | [comment link]
18. MichaelA wrote:

Catholic Mom,
No, doubling of the first letter after Ha “the” is just one of the characteristics of classical Hebrew. You will find it early on in any of the classical grammars, e.g. Weingreen. It doesn’t have anything to do with European scholars. The practice died out centuries ago, hence you won’t find it in modern Hebrew.

The dagesh dot actually has at least four distinct grammatical uses. And yes, one of them is to harden the letters b, g, d, k, p, t. However, the letter qoph which I render with “q” (as opposed to kaph or “k”) is not one of those.

And the pronunciation of qoph and kaph are different, for an educated speaker (and its the same in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac and Arabic). Of course, in colloquial pronunciations there can be a lot of variations.

Anyway, good to see that there is some knowledge of Hebrew around - the more the better as far as I’m concerned!

January 18, 7:40 pm | [comment link]
19. Catholic Mom wrote:

No, doubling of the first letter after Ha “the” is just one of the characteristics of classical Hebrew. You will find it early on in any of the classical grammars, e.g. Weingreen. It doesn’t have anything to do with European scholars. The practice died out centuries ago, hence you won’t find it in modern Hebrew. 

But the letters to spell “hakaton” in classical Hebrew are not doubled IN HEBREW—just in the transliteration, which is anybody’s game.  Just looked it up in my Hebrew bible as per your reference in Ezra.  It is spelled hey, koph (with a dagesh in it), tet,  nun.  Four letters in total.  The koph only appears once.  I will grant you (looking it up) that this is transliterated in my English bible as “Hakkatan.”  Obviously a translator’s convention to try to convey the dagesh.  My husband said he has never heard of a doubling of a letter after “ha” even in biblical Hebrew.

January 19, 2:39 pm | [comment link]
20. MichaelA wrote:

Catholic Mom,
The Dagesh in the qoph means the letter is doubled. As I say, refer to a basic Classical Hebrew grammar. We covered the point pretty early in first year at uni.

Also, if you can’t easily get to a grammar, someone has messaged me that the wikipedia article on dagesh also covers the point, for what that is worth.

I don’t doubt that your husband may not have heard of it - it is only a minor point of grammar. I know at my friend’s temple, all the children learn to read biblical hebrew beautifully by the time of their bar-mitzvot/bat-mitzvot, but they never learn biblical hebrew grammar in any depth unless they do it at high school or uni (which few choose to do).

January 19, 6:34 pm | [comment link]
21. Catholic Mom wrote:

The Dagesh in the qoph means the letter is doubled. As I say, refer to a basic Classical Hebrew grammar.

I think at the point we’re having trouble with English, not Hebrew. smile  What does “doubled” mean to you?  To me, it would mean that the letter is written twice, as in an English rule such as “double the final consonant before adding “ed””  If when you say that a Hebrew letter is “doubled” you mean that it appears with a dot in the center, then I guess it’s doubled for you.  It’s not doubled for me. smile It’s doubled for me if it appears twice.  In the name to which you referred (notice the doubling of the “r”) in Ezra, it appears in Hebrew with one and only one koph.  I see that by looking at in a Hebrew bible. I don’t have to study a grammar to see how it’s spelled in biblical hebrew—it’s right there in front of me. smile
FWIW I would guess that my husband knows Hebrew a tad better than your friend’s bar mitzvah students since he is a native speaker and was raised in Israel where study of the bible is mandatory all the way through 12th grade.  Hence he can read both classical Hebrew and Aramaic.

January 19, 10:22 pm | [comment link]
22. Catholic Mom wrote:

OTOH, if you’re saying that the presence of a dagesh in a koph is a sign for translitterators to double the Latin letter when they transliterate it, then you’ll get no argument from me.  It is, however, as I say, a convention of the translitterators.

January 19, 10:24 pm | [comment link]
23. MichaelA wrote:

Catholic Mom,
I have a degree in classical hebrew and I can assure you that it means doubled. The actual spelling *pre-MT* would be he-qoph-qoph-tet-nun. It has nothing whatsoever to do with “transliteration”, except that the translators of the NIV are scholars who know how classical Hebrew works.
Please actually read a classical hebrew grammar or something at a similar level before responding.

January 19, 10:41 pm | [comment link]
24. Catholic Mom wrote:

Are you telling me they modernized the Hebrew bible to update the spelling sometime after the middle ages?  Strangely, the only Hebrew bible I have is not one of my husband’s but one I got 25 years ago when I took a class in biblical Hebrew.  And it definitely has but one “qoph” (with a dagesh.)  Are you saying that the spellings have been changed in the last 500 years?  I thought they were copied exactly from generation to generation.

January 20, 9:27 am | [comment link]
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