26 September 2012

History and faith

Earlier today a friend shared this image on Facebook:

The image of Blessed John Henry Newman, a convert from Anglicanism, contains one of my favorite quotes and reminds of a conversation I had when I did my Clinical Pastoral Education, a form of observed chaplaincy, at BroMenn Hospital in Bloomington, Illinois.

For the program, I joined four other students: a young man with the Disciples of Christ who sought to be a youth ministry; an assistant pastor with the Methodist ecclesial community (who didn't believe taught by the Methodist tradition); a female seminarian with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; and a woman studying to be a pastor in the United Church of Christ.  We got along very well and respected and loved each other; it was a very good experience.

Now to the conversation.  One day I was sitting in the conference room working on something when the Methodist man came in and sat down.  After a while he said to me, "Daren (I wasn't a priest yet), if you weren't Catholic what would you be?"  His question was straight forward and sincere.

After a moment's pause, I answered, "I guess I'd have to be Orthodox."

"No," he replied.  "I mean, if you had to be a Protestant, which one would you be?"

Without a moment's pause, "None," I said.  "From my study of history alone I could not be Protestant."  I went on to explain that Protestantism began in the 1500s yet claims to be the Church established by Jesus, a claim history can't defend.  It seems logical enough to me.

"Huh," he answered, and that was the end of the conversation; he never brought it up again.

Cardinal Newman is right: To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.

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