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April 09, 2006

Comments

Sonetka

Um...it's hard to know what to say. Then again, you can forgive a guy named "John Thomas" a bit of oversensitivity. The ad and website are pretty repellent, though "Hey, you! Look at the mote in our neighbour's eye!"

Jeff Milelr

To be more accurate they should have had orthodoxy, tradition, and liturgy shown as being ejected.

Doctor J

What do you do when you wish to describe something far superior to the human intellect (as in the case of God)...

or when you wish to describe something as tangled and twisted as a bowl of relativist spaghetti (as in this case)?

You go apophatic. "Well, let me tell you what we're NOT."

Deep.

Todd

If it works for them, more power to them.

We're all adult enough to realize that people are r/ejected mostly not for theological reasons, but for the human failings that surface when two or more are gathered. Feelings get hurt. Hurts get nourished. The cycle continues.

Is it reasonable to ask that a "rejected" site not be clouded with axes UCC'ers have to bear against their own? Is it a good idea to have our Catholic complainers at RCIA meetings, new parishioner gatherings, and first grade classrooms? Maybe it would be more truthful, but I'm not sure it would be appropriate.

If the UCC is serious about this, their ministers would all be briefed on making ultra-sure they possess an appropriate openness to their own alienated members. The last thing we need is a sort-of denominational musical chairs. The purpose of evangelism is not to reach out to angry or upset Christians, but to touch those who do not believe in Christ.

Donald R. McClarey

The UCC has been hemoraging members in huge numbers for decades. Maybe they might try preaching the gospel and adhering to its message? Nah, better to pay for ads trying to bash other denominations and continue down the lemming path they've been on.

Fr. Totton

Hmm,

I remember when the first round of commercials came around - remember the one with the bouncers at the door ala some "velvet-rope" type nightclub? A friend of mine was on the council of his church (UCC-affiliated, but it is small and in the country and therefore not much for these latest stunts) He was showing me the propaganda they had given him at some convention in Memphis - complete with their new slogan: "Don't put a period where God has put a comma..." My favorite rebuttal to that appeared recently (in the last six months) on the marquee of the First Baptist church (SBC) here in town: "Don't put a question mark where God has put a period." Sometimes I wish we had a marquee, but for the most part, I am glad we don't!

thomasina

Re the first comment: What am I missing about the name "John Thomas" that would cause oversensitivity?

Fortiterinre

"John Thomas" is a euphemism for a part of the male body often euphemised.

The problem I have with this campaign is that it simply doesn't compare apples to apples.

A gay couple in lots of churches WOULD experience rejection, to the point of being refused communion and/or being asked to leave. That's why a lot of individual congregations have gone to putting the rainbow sticker on their sign, and gay couples who are churchgoers are well-informed about this without a $1.5 million ad campaign.

But what kind of rejection from an established Chirstian church is someone going to experience based on race, age, or mobility? Not simply weak welcoming, which churches could improve for lots of newcomers, but actual rejection? It simply doesn't happen, and it's silly to pretend that it does in the 21st century when Christian churches have bigger problems than the old problems of half a century ago.

If the issue is that the single African-American mother is going to feel rejected as a sinner, the truth is most conservative churches would be happy that she seemed to have repented as evidenced by showing up at church.

The ad campaign describes an historical problem that was solved several decades ago.

Patrick Rothwell

The problem with the premise of the ad is that Christianity is, fundamentally, an "exclusive" religion with set boundaries - though precisely where those boundaries lie are indeed subject to some dispute. One can appeal to Jesus' encounter with the lady at the well, the parable of the prodigal son, etc. for evidence of his "radical inclusivity," yet if one looks at who he and his disciples were, they were sociologically a rather exclusive, sectarian bunch, no? And what about Jesus' saying "many are called, but few are chosen?" And just how does Jesus' killing of the barren fig tree square with the image of the "radical hospitality" of Jesus?
And what about the secretiveness and "exclusionary" practices of the post-apostolic age?

Dave Pawlak

So a caucus group of conservative UCC members has started up their own "Fellowship of the Ejected" campaign, which can be found at www.biblicalwitness.org.

I didn't realize conservative members of the UCC existed.

Robert King, OP

Patrick: Christianity is not fundamentally an "exclusive" religion; the radical scandal of the early Church was the inclusion of gentiles in the ranks of God's Chosen People.

But neither is it "inclusive" in the way that UCC & co. spin it: as if who you are or what you do doesn't matter. Rather, Christ included people in himself. He didn't welcome people so much as he called them, spoke their names and challenged them to repent, to return to God, and to incorporate their lives into his. The way to answer this call was, and is, sharing in his suffering as he shared in ours, and giving our lives for our neighbors as he gave his for ours.

Fortiterinre

Well said, Fr. King. I can't agree that Christianity is fundamentally "exclusive," Christ Himself denies that in the gospels when the disciples compalin that others outside the twelve preach in Christ's name.

Christianity is an intentional inclusivity; one has to have the intention to be a Christian. One can disagree about some serious things and still be a Christian; that's why some of the churches have the rainbow stickers on their signs and others don't. But the intention has to be there, and to include one who simply does not have the Christian intention simply isn't honest.

But the UCC'ers aren't looking to be inclusive, they're looking to have a successful marketing campaign that attacks what they see as competition. That's all this is, it's really not about Christianity at all but rather the "Christian brand."

Patrick Rothwell

I think we are not that far apart, Father King, but it really isn't clear to me at that the inclusion of the Gentiles does not prove your point - though it indeed was a serious scandal for certain judaizer sectors of the Church. Dom Gregory Dix in his "The Shape of the Liturgy" portrayed the sub-apostolic church in the following manner, which seems correct.

"We regard Christian worship in general, not excluding the eucharist, as essentially a public activity, in the sense that it ought to be open to all comers, and that the stranger (even the non-christian, though he may not be a communicant) ought to be welcomed and even attracted to be present and to take part. The apostolic and primitive church, on the contrary, regarded all Christian worship, and especially the eucharist, as a highly private activity, and rigidly excluded all strangers from taking any part in it whatsoever, and even from attendance at the eucharist. Christian worship was intensely corporate, but it was not 'public.'"

And, with respect to the opening of the Church to the gentiles, Dom Gregory writes:

"It was because of the specifically domestic character of christian worship, especially the eucharist, that the admission to it of the gentiles who had not passed into the church through judaism provoked the crisis between S. Paul and the jewish christians which we can discern in the NT, though we cannot trace the details of its settlement....Perhaps the question was never properly settled in principle but simply ended by the march of events. The proportion of gentiles to jews in the church changed with extraordinary swiftness, so that within forty years of the Last Supper, what had begun as a small and exclusive jewish sect had become a large and swiftly growing but still rigidly exclusive gentile society which retained a small jewish wing."

Personally, I have a strong aversion and distaste for Christians - and Catholic Christians in particular - who eagerly and with great relish plot to cast out of the Church a panoply of sinners, heterodox, and other supposed enemies of the Church whose presence they find to be a nuisance. In a practical sense, therefore, I strongly tend towards the inclusion principle. That said, there is a baseline for inclusion within that family known as the People of God. Everyone is called, but in the end some must be excluded.

Br. Francis de Sales, OP

This reminds me of something a good friend of mine who converted to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism observed about a year after her conversion: she had never before in all her Christian life (and she had been devout all her life up to her 30's when she converted) seen such a genuine gathering of wildly diverse people as she sees routinely in any downtown urban Catholic church at every Mass.

In many urban Catholic churches (especially the Cathedral church) in any given Mass--daily or Sunday--you have in one pew distinguished folks like doctors and lawers and professors. And in the very next pew you have half-crazy drug addicts and homeless people who don't smell so good. All coming forward right after each other in the same communion line.

There is really no other church, at least in the American experience, that routinely experiences such wild diversity of people at the same worship gathering as the Catholic Church.

I am also a convert. And it is also my experience that if you pick any random non-Catholic church and visit their Sunday worship, you will see a group of people who may talk about Christ's openness to all, but who in the actual constitution of their group, are a remarkably homogenous collective of people who look and talk very much like each other. They are self-selected bodies where the outsider who doesn't fit in eventually moves on to another church until he finds one where the members are more like him. To some extent this happens in Catholic churches, but to a much lesser degree. Geography is usually more of a factor than self-selection.

My friend said it really struck her that until she became Catholic, she had never experienced in an actual worship service a gathering that reflected the radical openness of Christ to welcome all people unto Him--that Christianity calls out to all nations, all peoples. There they were, a representative showing of all peoples, right before her eyes, in a way she had never seen before in a local Christian body. It was for her a sort of epiphany of recognition of Christ's church.

I think this is very true. A typical Catholic church, compared to a typical non-Catholic church, exhibits a wild, almost crazily incongruous diversity (how can these people be under the same roof?!). For a convert, the experience of this dramatic difference can be revelatory. Many Catholics don't realize that the crazy diversity they barely notice and even take for granted each Sunday is indeed a rare and precious thing--at least in American Christianity. In fact I would think that a sure way to direct a 'seeker' toward the Catholic Church would be to tell him to visit all different churches, and to find the one where all of God's children are gathered under one roof: saints and sinners, rich and poor, sane and insane. He will in this way quickly find the Catholic church.

Susan F. Peterson

This was certainly something I noticed when I moved from the Episcopal church to the Catholic church in Annapolis some 30+years ago. The Episcopal church was all upper middle class and just plain upper class white folks, except for a few students (who mostly came from upper middle class backgrounds but dressed like students) and one black man who sat every Sunday in the same back pew; it turned out he was the janitor and the pastor had specifically asked him to come and he was proud of this, but how he endured his difference from all the rest of the folks I don't know.

The Catholic church had the middle and some upper middle class folks, but it also had poor black folks who still lived in downtown Annapolis then. (soon after they were evicted when their rentals were gutted and redone in an upscale way and resold for prices unthinkable for them.) There are a lot of black Catholics in Maryland. The story is that they had a separate church but when it needed repairs, during the Civil Rights era, the bishop just said, no, shut it, we will all be in one church. Meanwhile the Episcopal church (I was told, this is unverified) caved in to pressure from its big contributors, moved the "black" Episcopal church out of town where they said it would become "naturally" integrated. It hadn't by the early 70's but the story is probably different by now.

The Catholic church also had Filipinoes who worked in the kitchen and cleaning at the Naval Academy. So all in all it was much more ethnically and class wise diverse than the Episcopal church. (The only other churches I was in in Annapolis were the United Church of Christ church..white suburbanites...and the Greek Orthodox...all ethnic.)

However you don't see much of this in my parish now. Sadly, mostly poor people don't go to church and if they do, it is not to the Catholic church, which is clearly just as middle class as the Episcopal church. There are a couples of less prosperous families within the parish.. I used to be one of them...there is one black mother and daughter at one of the "worship sites" who seem as suburban as the rest of that site...and we do have one genuine crazy person who shows up at at least two of the sites and sometimes stands up and makes rambling comments at inappropriate moments at the small one; at the large one he comments only to his neighbors.

Susan Peterson

Maclin Horton

If you haven't already, everyone should go read the testimonials at rejectionhurts.com. Sad stuff. Most of it is personal hurts, some of them surprisingly small-time, delivered by a clumsy or obnoxious pastor or congregant. A few are of the "How dare anyone say I'm not a member in good standing of this church just because I don't believe what it teaches?!?" sort. A fundamental disconnect there.

No one reported bouncers or ejection seats.

Fr. J

The UCC actually attacked John Paul II at his death last year. I wrote to complain about their anti-Catholicism. I guess I was "ejected".

amy

Br. Francis:

I have to tell this story.

Years and years and years ago, I was living in a small town in Tennessee. The Catholic church partnered with the Presbyterians to do a Vacation Bible School. I volunteered. The first organizational meeting was in the Presbyterian church basement. I was very, very new in town, and barely knew anyone at the Catholic Church, much less the Presbyterians. I walked into the basement. On one side of the room were seated several women, all trim, all with similarly carefully coiffed hair, izod shirts and pressed khaki shorts or crisp jeans. On the other side were several women of varying shapes and sizes, a couple dressed like those in the first group, the others in wildly varied styles.

Did I immediately know who the Catholics were?

Yup.

RC

"Here comes everybody!"

Fortiterinre

Patrick,

Your citations of Dom Gregory Dix are interesting but do little to adequately define Christianity as "rigidly exclusive." The "domestic" character of antiquarian Christianity was not a uniformly positive development and hindered evangelizationl; it was a cultural effect of its day more than a theological mark of the Church. The Romans were able to dismiss Christianity as a childish "mystery religion" precisely because Christians were so rigid and private, like the Egyptians and other strange provincial religions. As abused as the term "inclusive" is in the present day, it is simply taking the bait to define Christianity as "exclusive," theologically or in practice.

Alan K. Henderson

I didn't know there were any churches that discriminated against persons using walkers.

thomps

Hey Alan, you stole my observation! I have never heard of any mainstream Christian Church chucking old folks out of churches because of using a walker. Whoever came up with that particular idea for the ad was definitely out in la-la land because it is too ludicrous to be believed. Just out of curiousity does anyone out there know if this particular church supports euthanasia or assisted suicide? If they do, then they have a questionable claim to being all-inclusive.

 Other Marc

My submission to "Rejection Hurts":
I returned to church services as a college freshman. I became very enthusastic very quickly. The priest at this parish was very "open" and soon allowed me to participate in various liturgical functions despite his knowledge that I was not a member of that denomination. When the main priest went on vacation, I was on the schedule to help distribute Communion. After the Mass, I was having some small talk with this priest and it came up that I was not an official member of this denomination. The stand-in priest became very upset and asked me repeatedly why I was acting as a liturgical minister.

I took this very personally, felt ashamed, and did not attend church for some time after that event. After I had matured a bit, though, I realized that he had had a very normal, human reaction (who would have guessed that priests are human, too??), and that my reaction was also very human. I also realized that he was simply upholding the standards of the Gospel since we are to "discern the Body and Blood" before partaking. In light of this, it seems obvious that he was really mad at the wayward priest, not at me per se. I forgave him for his understandable reaction and I accepting the guilt for my rejection of the Truth based on my petty feelings of "hurt feelings".

After sorting this out, I joined this same Church as an official member and I am now very, very happy to belong to a Church that does not bother with "tickling ears" or changing the Truth in order to attract customers. The salvation of souls is much more important.

M.E.

Other Marc - your post is very confusing. Are you talking about the Catholic Church? If so, why in heaven's name would you want to distribute communion if you were a member of "another denomination" since I am not aware of any denominations that have the same theology of the Eucharist as the Catholic Church (except maybe the Orthodox)?

Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist fall under fairly strict rules. At the bare minimum, one must be a Catholic who has received the sacraments!

Being an Extraordinary Minister is not like a "fun job." Pope John Paul II wrote on the issue and said first of all that they should be used ONLY in extraordinary circumstances.
I wish our parish did not use them at all, but they do, and they are requried to undergo fairly rigorous training in the theology of the Eucharist among other things....then be commissioned by the Bishop!

Please tell me that this isn't a church that throws left over hosts down sink that goes to a sewer (I kid you not. This happens). If they are so sloppy about everything else......

Christine

"I also realized that he was simply upholding the standards of the Gospel since we are to "discern the Body and Blood" before partaking."

It also assumes that the one partaking is in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Christine

I forgot to add, Rev. Thomas made no secret of his disappointment in the election of Benedict XVI.

True to his Puritan/Congregational/Reformed roots.

 Other Marc

Yes, I was describing the Catholic Church. I don't think it matters since the over-riding theme of my response to them is that standards matter.

My story is that I was raised Lutheran, but started going to a Catholic Church on campus when I was a freshman. I was encouraged by the campus priest to participate liturgically. Unbenownst to me at the time, this was a big no-no. This was pointed out to me in very direct terms by a visiting priest. I took it personally. Later, AFTER MATURING A BIT, I realized that he did the right thing. I joined the Catholic Church in large part because this experience, though it was initially a source of hurt, made me realize that the Catholic Church has standards (unlike certain denominations which advertise for 'customers'). That is why these UCC ad campaigns are so riduculous to me. Why would anyone design an ad campaign which can be summed up as "it doesn't matter what you believe because we have no standards"?

Does it make sense now? Sorry if it was confusing, but please, you can all stop admonishing me for something that happened 30 years ago and take a breath. There is no need to prove your own purity with me. I do now know that distributing Communion is "more than a fun job" and that one needs to be in full communion with the Church to do it. Thirty years ago, I did not know that, and a priest asked me to do it anyway. Sorry if I was naive when I was 17 years old.

Christine

Marc, I was raised Lutheran. I don't think anyone here is trying to be "purer than thou", our dismay is not so much with you but with the priest who should have known better.

There was a lot of ecclesiastical confusion 30 years ago, as evidenced by this priest and by the fact that Lutherans practice intercommunion with denominations that the Catholic Church doesn't.

No offense intended.

Marie

"There is really no other church, at least in the American experience, that routinely experiences such wild diversity of people at the same worship gathering as the Catholic Church."

Our parish is small and located in an area of expensive Northern Virginia housing, so there is not much economic diversity in the pews. But we have whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, and various Europeans represented at every Mass. In the last three years, we've had resident priests from Australia, Kenya, and Germany. By contrast, the Protestant churches in the area are extraordinarily segregated. One is an all-black congregation founded by the descendants of freed slaves. There are several Asian and Hispanic Protestant congregations that rent space from the elderly white Presbyterian and Methodist congregations -- the Taiwanese group recently bought out their landlord.

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