Tag Archives: Catholic

Terry Smith: Silence Does Not Fit Francis I

by Terry M. Smith

It is disappointing that Francis I, whom we respect, will not yet apologize to Indigenous peoples in Canada for the residential school legacy. This does not sound like the worldwide pastor that he is. Perhaps legal reasons posed by the Curia, the Vatican’s administration, are behind this unfortunate abundance of caution.

It’s a tremendous expression of grace by many Indigenous people across Canada that they remain Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, United Church, and members of many other parts of Christ’s Church—despite the residential school history of isolation, indoctrination, and abuse. It’s a work of the Spirit that’s seen ultimately not because of the residential school system, but despite its inner decay and collapse.

Francis I could have said that children should not have been taken from their parents and communities or abused physically, mentally, sexually, culturally, and spiritually. That the Church and government erred in their process of assimilation. That the Church erred in its missionary strategy. That God was present and working among Indigenous peoples before missionaries arrived.

He could have said that Jesus gets angry when his disciples interfere with young children coming to him (Mark 10:13-16). That leaders deserve rebuke when they shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces or ignore “justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:13, 23).

What Francis I need not apologize for is the Gospel itself. It remains Good News needed by all peoples of the world (John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:3-6). The relationship between Christianity and other religions in the world, though, isn’t a simple one. That’s an error of the past. If we are to give Christ his proper due, the relationship is to be recognized as complex. It’s reflected in natural and special revelation, in common and special grace (see, for instance, Acts 14:11-18, 17:22-31; Rom. 1:20). A few words here are not enough.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

Francis I’s silence, and its communication by Catholic bishops, will be hurtful to Indigenous Catholics across Canada, and it will affect how the Christian Church as a whole is perceived in our country. His silence is ironic given that his recent Easter message included concerns for justice and that people live in dignity.

It need not surprise us if we hear from him yet.

Dissecting ‘catholic’ in the Apostles’ Creed

by Kimberly Muehling, Paul Walker, and Jessica Wichers, EMC Worship Committee

In the Apostles’ Creed, we agree that we belong to the “holy catholic” church. What does this mean? Are we saying that we are part of the Roman Catholic Church? What does “catholic” mean anyways?

Let’s unpack the grammar first.

Written in Latin sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, “holy” and “catholic” are adjectives (descriptive). Church is the noun (the thing). So, the church is holy: devoted to the service of God and morally and spiritually excellent, and catholic: including a wide variety of things; all-embracing (see Oxford Living Dictionary).

The exact origin of the Apostles’ Creed has been rather lost to the haze of history. By the 9th century AD, when Charlemagne imposed the version we use today, it was already accepted throughout Christendom. The earlier (AD 381) version of the Nicene Creed uses the phrase “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” As there was only a loose conglomeration of churches at the time, many with differing theology, the council of Nicaea could only have meant the universal church.

Even Martin Luther spoke of and to the church as one general group as he experienced it. While he directed criticism to the Pope and traditional practices, the church was simply the general population. Theological barriers have since gone up on all sides and we now identify ourselves as members of specific church groups, but it is important to recognize that we are still one (albeit messy and often dysfunctional) family in Christ. Karl Barth explains, “The church is universal because it is not limited by any barrier, either of state or of race or of culture” (The Faith of the Church, Wipf and Stock, rep. 2006, 117).

So, reading “holy” and “catholic” as adjectives is very different from agreeing to believe in the Catholic Church. If you capitalize the words, you are implying a proper noun, which would mean the actual organization known as the Roman Catholic Church. Interestingly, within the Roman Catholic Catechism both the adjective and the proper noun are employed. In direct discussion about the Apostles’ Creed, they use the adjective. However, later in the additions from the Second Vatican Council they use the proper noun (Catechism, 1993, see sections 750, 816-819). This change came about gradually as part of the Counter-Reformation.

As the use of catholic is not common in everyday language, some churches have moved to the use of other synonyms in its place, such as global, universal, or diverse. The current Lutheran Service Book uses “holy Christian Church.” While in Living in God’s Kingdom uses “holy catholic church,” EMC churches are free to use different phrasing at their own discretion. After all, we are all translating.

So, however we use the Apostles’ Creed, with our handy lowercase letters, we can freely and confidently agree to participating in the holy catholic church alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ “from every nation, and all tribes and peoples and tongues (Rev. 7:9 NRSV).

Kimberly Muehling (Fort Garry), Pastor Paul Walker (Roseisle), and Jessica Wichers (EFC Steinbach) serve on the EMC Worship Committee under the authority of the Board of Church Ministries. See the Worship Committee’s article Using the Apostles’ Creed in Worship (Jan. 2017).

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Kimberly Muehling
Paul Walker
Paul Walker
jessica-wichers
Jessica Wichers

Terry Smith: Work Together?

by Terry M. Smith

Based on his study of church trends here, Dr. Reg Bibby suggests that Evangelicals and Roman Catholics should work together more in Canada (A New Day, 2012, free download).

Bibby, a professor of sociology at the University of Lethbridge (and a graduate from a Baptist seminary), says, to his surprise, that Evangelicals and Roman Catholics have healthy patterns of church attendance in Canada.

Catholic attendance is strong outside of Quebec, and Evangelical churches have grown overall, he says. In contrast, the United, Anglican, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches are in serious decline.

Bibby says that Catholics and Evangelicals are now the major players among churches in Canada.

Do issues remain between Catholics and Evangelicals (including Anabaptists)? Of course. Despite the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church signing a document saying that they agree on the doctrine of justification (1999), I suspect Martin Luther would not have signed it. If asked, I could not sign it now.

Further, workers in other countries describe many nominal Catholics, Catholicism’s being mixed with folk religions, and an unclear message of grace in Catholic circles. These stories must be listened to carefully with discernment.

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Terry M. Smith

In Canada, need we Evangelicals take an antagonistic stance toward Roman Catholicism and Catholics? I will not do so. We can seek common ground where it exists; and as long as the Apostles’ Creed is held and said in genuine belief, it does exist.

Blind cooperation isn’t warranted, but who says we need to be blind to cooperate?