Sunday, October 03, 2010

Enough time was allotted to meals to get into some interesting discussions. At dinner on Friday night, I sat down at table with a woman from New York City, so said her name tag. Underneath, her church was listed, "Redeemer Presbyterian Church."
Oh, you attend Tim Keller's church. What's that like?
She was surprised to learn how popular Keller is with this gathering. She seemed rather blasé about Keller being her pastor. After she left the table, someone speculated that she probably never sees him.

At lunch yesterday, my friend spoke freely about her non-religious upbringing, her conversion to Catholicism in college and then her adoption of Reformed theology. I didn't press her for specifics, even though I was curious. I just let her say what she felt led to say.

I met her at the Reformed church years ago and she recognized my NCPL conference tote. She said she was living with the man who became her husband while she was very active in church ministry, teaching religious education.
And no one said anything to us about it, even though they all knew.
I do wonder what she expected. Did she mean to say that she didn't know it was wrong? Would she have respected the recommendation that she withdraw from active ministry? She attends an Arminian church now, for her husband's sake, and she's frustrated by the fact that she can't teach the Bible there. The fact that nobody said anything to her about her sin isn't the reason she left Catholicism - there were many other reasons - but it's something negative that she remembers of her Catholic experience. She asked me whether I'm in the Catholic church for the sake of my husband and I said, no, that I want to be there. She seemed surprised and a little sad. I think she thought I was a prisoner of male headship or something, like herself.

Another lady joined us from New Life Church in Glenside. I was able to share with her that last summer our Bible study relied on the Psalm material on their website. Someone was trying to name the man most associated with Ligionier Ministries and I was able to supply that. Someone expressed concern about the plenary sessions and what's the difference between teaching and preaching. I'd have to agree that the exhortations with which Connie concluded her third plenary bordered on preaching. When about the only thing a pastor does is preach - and not offer a sacrifice like a priest - it's very difficult to distinguish gender roles in ministry and very hard to say "men only." Yes, I was thankful to be affirmed in the Catholic notion of priesthood.

My study guide leader took me aside and inquired so gently, "How did you become a believer?" I told her my story of reading Mere Christianity in college and realizing that I'd never heard a description of Christ's work on my behalf before, despite being in church my whole life. But that, if it's is true, and I think it is, I want to believe it. Then, at church, I had "new ears" and could hear what had been said all along. I'm not sure whether my story convinced her.


evanscove said...

It's sad that there's so much divorce and promiscuity in our churches -- Protestant and Catholic alike -- these days. There seems to be no sense of shame over sin any longer. As C. S. Lewis remarked, people will justify anything as long as it involves "four bare legs in a bed."

And why is it that so many Protestants can't fathom that plenty of Catholics, both converts and "cradle Catholics," love the Church and are glad to be a part of it? As you pointed out, some will assume that you're Catholic simply because of your spouse or that you've just never done any thinking for yourself or... whatever. It's like they think no one is Catholic because they want to be and because they have decided there are solid reasons for being Catholic.

And you raise a good point about the role of a Protestant minister being mainly to preach. If there is no priesthood among them, why the need for an all-male clergy?

Thanks for sharing these experiences.


Kathleen@so much to say, so little time said...

The other day, I actually stumbled across some justification of extramarital sex that said you have to read Scripture in the light of the patriarchal society in which it was written. This person's conclusion was that extramarital sex is *not* counter to Christ's teaching. My jaw almost hit the floor. I almost wanted to read his thoughts further, but eventually decided it would just upset me, and would change nothing. People will always resist, and there's nothing I can do but live as I know to be true.

Moonshadow said...

"in the light of the patriarchal society in which it was written."

Well, look, our society is still patriarchal, especially< in marriage, so an argument for free love dependent upon relativism isn't persuasive to me.

Thanks for your comments, Kathleen & Evan.