Monday, August 02, 2004

When is a Church No Longer a Church?

Uh, when this happens, for starters:

In keeping with the understanding that the Holy Spirit moves people in different ways and at varying speeds, St. Christopher’s by-the-Sea is one of several Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Southeast Florida that offers Baptism “with no strings attached.”

Anyone who seeks to be baptized, or to have a child baptized, is welcome without regard to their church membership, their faith tradition or other factors. Our parish baptized 22 new Christians during 2002, a new record and a strong response to our first year of "open baptism."
Discipleship on one's own terms is no discipleship at all.

Do you know why they're doing this "open baptism" and "open communion" stuff? These particular Episcopalians (like many mainliners) do not understand the Church as God's new community. They see it as an organization that dispenses religious goods and services. Baptism is not the initiation into a new life in Christ marked by repentance, healing, transformation and a common life. It's a warm fuzzy. Eucharist is not a channel of healing, a re-committment of both Christ and those who make up his body. It's a warm fuzzy.

And if the complete content of the gospel is to be "open, welcoming and affirming" people, than we must share all of our religous goods and services with everyone, and be no respectors of persons. This, for them, is hospitality, because they have no concept of the common life. They can give bread and wine to folks who sin against the community without repentance, but will they even invite people outside of their normal, comfortable social circles to dinner?

They have instead sought to remove theological significance from the cultic meal (or at least re-write it) instead of developing an ethos for a common life. Eucharist is for those who are part of the community, who are committed to Jesus -- and the Church -- in repentance and faith. Those who are not, are to be shown hospitality. But when all you have is the cultic practice, and not the life it's supposed to grow out of or give impetus to, you're left with stuff like this.

The Pontificator makes some great points on his blog:
Oh how I wish I could in conscience practice “open baptism”!

End of rant. :0)

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