Regular Out of Ur contributor David Fitch is back to share his thoughts on church shopping, staying put, and ecumenism. And what's with all the evangelicals going high-church anyway?
I'd like to say some things about the evangelicals going high church and even the emerging church folks rejecting their denominations of origin. I have been tempted many times to leave evangelicalism for a lot of reasons. At times, I have been tempted to leave for more substantive worship or to avoid the narrow minded cheesy ways of selling Jesus. But I think to just leave one's inherited church, without being asked to leave, is a strike against the cause of ecumenism. What? Yeah ecumenism, the unity of the church. So I stay put.
There are good reasons for leaving churches, and also for having no denominational affiliation. Yet the trend of evangelicals leaving their church of birth for high-church traditions seems to be growing. Colleen Carroll, in her book The New Faithful, records this phenomenon. At my own alma mater, Wheaton College, many students raised as evangelicals are "converting" to either Anglo Catholicism or even Roman Catholicism. (I wonder if the Catholics count these converts like we do when it happens in reverse. The Generous Orthodoxy blog has some great discussion on the topic.)
To me this is one more expression of the historical game of musical chairs. At first it was Roman Catholics leaving for Reformed churches. Those Reformed churches came to the New World and weren't individualistic enough, so we had Great Awakenings and folks left to join revivalist churches. Now we have people doing the reverse - leaving evangelicalism for high church traditions. They are sick of the thin insubstantial theologies and narcissistic forms of Christianity that have evolved out of evangelicalism's individualism.
Ironically, its often the theologians who critique the consumerist habits of evangelicals and mega churches that move to the high church traditions. They "church shop" for a more substantial vision rather than help us evangelicals out of our quandary. I wonder how long it will be before the ancestors of these folks complain about rote liturgy and leave for "more authentic" version of Christianity again, and the whole cycle starts again?
I propose we give up the musical chairs and simply stay put. Let us all seek to be faithful and trust the Spirit to work where God has put us. It is slow but I believe this strategy could lead us toward a renewed unity of the church.
Alasdair Macintyre writes in After Virtue:
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