Friday, February 26, 2010

The death of the Episcopal Church marks the end of the Reformation?

So an essay by Charlotte Hays suggests in the Wall Street Journal. Here is an interesting paragraph:

But Father Bergman not only predicts a mass movement toward Rome. He believes Anglican Use may mark the beginning of the end of the Reformation. There will be "a flourishing of this throughout the world," he says. "Wherever there are Anglicans, there will be people who want to enter Holy Mother Church." As he told a rapt audience at St. Mary's, "If we look at histories, heresies run themselves out after about 500 years. I believe we are seeing the last gasp of the Reformation in the mainline Protestant groups."

Mr. Bergman is a Roman priest who converted from Anglicanism. I would first like to point out the error of saying that heresies run themselves out after 500 years. After all Rome is still going strong after a millennium. I do think he is sort of right, although he is right for all the wrong reasons. I am not sure how much of a mass movement there will be. First of all, there aren’t a ton of Episcopalians anyway. Many of those who are outraged by the Episcopal Church’s wholesale abandonment of Scriptural authority have already left and formed a more conservative denomination. I would hazard a guess that many who are staying are staying precisely because of that same abandonment. Then there are those who are staying behind because that is just where they go to church.

More importantly, as the title of the essay suggests and as Mr. Bergman asserts, is this a sign of the end of the Reformation? In spite of many important areas where the Reformation and the Reformers fell short, the Reformation era was the most important era in the church since the apostolic age. The collapse of the “mainline” denominations is not a sign that the Reformation is over. Just the opposite. As the liberal denominations fall like dominoes, the line between Rome and the church is seen in more stark relief. As civil religion is abandoned and as the cost of discipleship goes up, the principles of the Reformation will become even more important. Far from being over, the Reformation may have been given new life.

(addendum: As soon as I posted this I saw that Al Mohler already addressed this essay. Four hours ago at 5 AM. Seriously. Check it out here)

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