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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Evangelical Catholicism: The Heart of the Gospel


Well, I am breaking my vow of silence today before I leave to go camping in the York National Park this morning for the next few days. I break this silence due to the nature of the post I am attaching here. As a committed Anglo-Catholic in the Church of England who is soon to be ordained, I am convinced that we need to capture the evangelical heart of true Catholicism that is so wonderfully expressed by the American Roman Catholic Priest, Fr. Scott Newman.

Fr. Scott's call to a vibrant evangelical Catholicism is what it means to receive the Christian faith at baptism. So often today, the Church seems to be losing its way and is not able to give the answers that the world is crying out for that seems to be a result of the loss of our own way. Fr. Scott reminds those with Catholic convictions that being evangelical in our Catholic faith cannot be reduced to the red herring of 'fundamentalism' but is in its very essence the heart of what baptism is all about. He gives eight principles that are noteworthy. I am sure they could be improved upon and expanded but the heart of the faith is there. It is this faith that is a result of true belief in the promises of Christ that will not allow Catholics or Catholic-minded Anglicans to become cafeteria style Christians who in fact model the world consumeristic model of faith rather than the faith of Jesus received in baptism.

I commend the following to you with this question: In the Church of England, we baptise by parish and anyone in the parish is given the 'right' of baptism. Often, this happens outside of the context of corporate worship and is done after a Mass. There are many missiological opportunities here but that begs another question for us. In a post-Christian society like England, does this practice reduce the sacraments to something they were never intended to be? I ask this in light of Fr. Scott's reply to one of his posters. Please read his comments! And follow the links to his blog and parish.

The Eight Principles of Evangelical Catholicism
1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the crucified and risen Savior of all mankind, and no human person can fully understand his life or find his dignity and destiny apart from a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we must know Jesus.

2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is divine revelation, not human wisdom, and the Gospel is given to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which together constitute a single divine deposit of faith transmitted authentically and authoritatively by the Bishops in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. We must surrender our private judgments in all matters of faith and morals to the sacred teaching authority of the Church’s Magisterium if we are to receive the whole Gospel.

3. The seven Sacraments of the New Covenant are divinely instituted instruments of grace given to the Church as the ordinary means of sanctification for believers. Receiving the Sacraments regularly and worthily is essential to the life of grace, and for this reason, faithful attendance at Sunday Mass every week (serious illness and necessary work aside) and regular Confession of sins are absolutely required for a life of authentic discipleship.

4. Through Word and Sacrament we are drawn by grace into a transforming union with the Lord Jesus, and having been justified by faith we are called to sanctification and equipped by the Holy Spirit for the good works of the new creation. We must, therefore, learn to live as faithful disciples and to reject whatever is contrary to the Gospel, which is the Good News of the Father’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

5. The sacred liturgy, through which the seven Sacraments are celebrated and the Hours of praise are prayed, makes present to us the saving mysteries of the Lord Jesus. The liturgy must therefore be celebrated in such a way that the truth of the Gospel, the beauty of sacred music, the dignity of ritual form, the solemnity of divine worship, and the fellowship of the baptized assembled to pray are kept together in organic unity.

6. Receiving the Sacraments without receiving the Gospel leads to superstition rather than living faith, and the Church must therefore take great care to ensure that those who receive the Sacraments also receive the Gospel in its integrity and entirety. Consequently, before Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, and Marriage are administered, there must be in those who request these Sacrament clear evidence of knowledge of the Gospel and a serious intention to live the Christian life.

7. Being a follower of Christ requires moving from being a Church member by convention to a Christian disciple by conviction. This transformation demands that we consciously accept the Gospel as the measure of our entire lives, rather than attempting to measure the Gospel by our experience. Personal knowledge of and devotion to Sacred Scripture is necessary for this transformation to occur through the obedience of faith, and there is no substitute for personal knowledge of the Bible. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

8. All the baptized are sent in the Great Commission to be witnesses of Christ to others and must be equipped by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and deed. An essential dimension of true discipleship is the willingness to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and the readiness to explain His Gospel.

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    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
    --Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

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