Whatever Happened to the Church

Reed DePace

Question I’d ask any to comment upon: is God in the process of judging the Church in America? Scripture to contemplate: Jh 6:28; Mt 5:13; 1Ti 3:4-5; Eph 5:13; 2Ti3:1-5; Jh 15:6

The background to my question comes from this FB status I posted:

Whatever Happened … To the Church?

That is what your grandchildren may ask one day. If things keep going the way they are, God is going to remove the Church from this land. America may become a post-post-Christian nation with barely a remembrance of Christ.

What ever happened to a man not being qualified to shepherd God’s family if he cannot shepherd his own family (1Ti 3:4-5)? Preachers’ Daughters (check out the family bios.)

We are awash in pastors who promote godliness but deny the only One who is its power (2Ti 3:5). Christianity IS NOT about us keeping the rules, and pastors who teach that are doing the same thing the ones Jesus condemned did.

(Don’t read between the lines. Holiness is essential. We don’t get it in any manner that is based on our effort. Our problem with sin is worse than we imagine. We neither believe nor live in what Jesus said is necessary for true holiness. Jh 6:28)

The shame of the Church continues to be paraded and laughed at by the unbelieving culture. What in the world are we thinking supporting that by parading our own sinfulness – and celebrating it – before those who mock Jesus Christ? (Eph 5:12; 1Pe 4:3)

When salt is worthless, what do you do with it? According to Jesus, you throw it into the mud where at least it can add some traction for the feet of those who walk on it. (Mt 5:13) The Church is washing away her saltiness in shallow love for God and heated love for the world. Our children are leaving us in the mud and jumping into the manure-pile of the debauchery of this world.

God have mercy, Christ have mercy, Holy Spirit have mercy. If He doesn’t our grandchildren will be wondering whatever happened to the Church in America.

Reed DePace

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Pope Francis I

The Roman Catholic Church has chosen its first non-European pope ever, and they went to the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. In taking a name no other pope has ever chosen, it seems likely that this pope will have some new directions for the Roman Catholic Church in mind. Both of the famous Francisi of history were reformers. St. Francis of Assisi introduced social reform to the church, whereas Francis Xavier was the founder of the Jesuit movement. Possibly, then, a combination of social reform and theological reform is coming?

A Big Day for the PCA

Today the case of the complaint regarding the Peter Leithart trial comes before the Standing Judicial Commission. Regardless of which side my readers think ought to win (and I’m sure there are those on both sides), it is a huge case with large ramifications for the denomination. Both sides ought to pray that God’s truth would triumph, and that His glory be made manifest, that God’s will (not MY will!) be done, and that the gospel would be paramount. Everyone, please pray about this. In my opinion, this is a far more important day than entire weeks of General Assembly have been for the past several years.

A Guest Post by Leonardo de Chirico

I received an email from Leonardo de Chirico, which has a fascinating analysis of possible candidates for the next Pope. I reproduce that email here, with his permission. I have only very lightly edited it. I also make another disclaimer that Chirico says a few things here in a way different than I would. I found the piece very interesting, chiefly for his analysis of the candidates for the next Pope.

Papabili: A Short Guide Waiting for the Conclave

The outcome of a conclave can be unpredictable. Whether or not one believes that the Holy Spirit actually works in the election of the Roman pontiff, its results defy easy previsions. As an absolute monarchy, the Vatican does not normally operate according to democratic procedures. The conclave, however, is one of the few instances where each vote counts and the total amount of them (two thirds is the majority for the first 34 ballots) determines history. So there is room for political maneuvering and surprises.

The Role of Benedict XVI

Having resigned from office at over 80 years of age means that Benedict XVI will be cut off from the conclave. During the conclave he will be living at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence on the hills outside of Rome. Though physically absent, his influence will be powerful in a couple of respects.

First, as a living former Pope his shadow will be a major factor in determining what the cardinals will decide. It is likely that no cardinal will vote someone that the present Pope would not himself vote. It is unlikely that the conclave will elect someone who would radically depart from Ratzinger’s trajectory, since he will still be around during and after the conclave. Following the new Pope’s election, Benedict XVI will go back to the Vatican where he will live in a former monastery inside the Vatican walls. He will be there and around. The co-habitation with the new Pope suggests that the latter will be somewhat a prolongation of the former. Without voting and without using words, Benedict XVI will have a say in the next election.

Second, his input in the conclave is evident in considering the fact that during his pontificate he has nominated about half of the 117 electors. The composition of the conclave is largely shaped by men personally chosen by Benedict XVI, men he trusted.

There are two counter-elements to be considered. One is that the conclave will not be held in the emotional atmosphere that generally follows the funerals of the previous Pope. It will be more cerebral than sentimental. The other is that, given the unprecedented decision by Benedict to resign and the shock that has caused in the curia, the conclave could be used as a showdown in the Vatican checkerboard. It is clear that Ratzinger’s weakening conditions that led to his resignations were hastened by internal fights and unresolved tensions in various Vatican departments. The conclave will have to decide what to do about them and the outcome could be surprising. Benedict surrendered to the stand-still situation, but the new Pope will have to act.

A List of Candidates

After two non-Italian Popes (the Polish Wojtyła and the German Ratzinger) is it time for an Italian one? If this is the case, then the Archbishop of Milan Angelo Scola (72) is the first and perhaps only option. The Italian candidates, however, could pay the price of a possible showdown. Many of the recent scandals (e.g. Vatileaks and the Vatican bank’s financially opaque maneuvers) originated in the Roman curia, which is mainly governed by Italian prelates. Moreover, the Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone (78), himself an Italian, is part of the on-going controversy. So the poor performance of the Italian hierarchy may result in leaving Italians out of the game to wait for the next round.

Two solidly “Ratzingerian” candidates are the Archbishop of Québec Marc Ouellet (68) and the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schoenborn (68). The French-speaking Canadian Ouellet is the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops and knows the Vatican machinery very well. His role of selecting the new bishops allowed him to have the pulse of the world-wide Church, though he is not a “charismatic” figure in Weberian terms. Schoenborn is a brilliant theologian that denounced some of the silences over the sex abuses scandal. His bold exposition on this issue could find resonance in some traditional circles. Adding to that, the fact that a growing number of Austrian priests are taking critical stances on the celibacy issue may falter Schoenborn’s candidacy. Another papabile in the same group is the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan (63). Historically, North-American candidates have been excluded for the simple fact that the Roman Catholic Church did not feel comfortable with the idea of having a Pope coming from a super-power of the world. This emotional and political obstacle should be overcome to give Dolan a chance.

Finally, there are three outsiders. Voices around the world repeatedly say that the time has come for a “black” Pope. Cardinal Peter Turkson (65), Ghanean, is President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a rising star in Vatican circles. A non-Western Pope would definitely come to terms with the reality of the Christian growth in the Global South and the need to move the axis of the Church toward it. In 2012, however, Turkson caused many eyebrows to rise when he launched a document evoking the creation of a global agency to preside over the world’s economy. “Does he want a Soviet-type of control over the world?”– people asked. Turning to Asia, the Archbishop of Manila (Philippines), Luis Antonio Tagle (56) is another option if the Roman Catholic would turn the page in a more radical way towards becoming a less Western institution. This smiling, apparently simple, yet engaging and charming young cardinal made a positive impression at the last Synod of Bishops for the New Evangelization and attracted immediate positive feedback. A middle way solution could be the Archbishop of San Paulo (Brazil) Odilo Pedro Scherer (63), the Brazilian bishop with a German name and European “heart”. Latin America is perceived as being a continent of solid Catholic traditions (like the old Europe), yet expressing the spiritual vitality of the Global South.

An Evangelical Preference?

Given the range of possible candidates, who is the more Evangelically inclined or Evangelical-friendly? This is difficult to say. Here are three criteria that could form a list of Evangelical desires for the next conclave.

First, generally speaking, those ecclesiastical figures with first-hand experience among Evangelicals in their pastoral work tend to be more inclined toward friendly relationship with non-Catholic Christians. It is true that where the Roman Catholic Church is strongly attached to the national state in a privileged position, the leaders tend to have a more “defensive” attitude and inward-looking vision. On the contrary, where the Roman Church experiences the stresses and strains of being a religious institution in the midst of other movements and in the context of a separate political power, there the Church has a more positive attitude towards religious pluralism. To the extent that the next Pope comes from a background of interaction with the plurality of Christian experiences and orientations, the better he will be among evangelicals.

Second, those who have more global perceptions of the state of Christianity surely have a better consideration of Evangelicals than those who are grounded in regional areas where Catholics have a traditional majority status. The challenges of the persecution of Christians, global poverty, and the rising secularism of the West are common concerns that allow conversations and cooperation between different Christians. A Pope who is aware of global trends and who has knowledge of the complex geography of the Christian Churches will be in a better position to appreciate the contribution of Evangelicals around the globe.