July 11, 2007

The Protestants Church is not a Church!

At least that is what the Pope is saying.

Now, before we go off the deep end, we must understand what is being said. According to a "Catholic" friend of mine, you could fill 500 pages with the definition and discussion of what constitutes a church.

In a nutshell, though, the Catholic Church defines a church by:
1. Having an ordained minister with apostolic succession. Apostolic succession means the pastor can trace his ordination back through the history of the church to a disciple of Jesus Christ. That is Peter, mostly, in the Catholic tradition.

2. Maintained unity and fellowship with the "one" church. This means that they haven't broken away from or rejected the Catholic church. The Catholic views itself as the "one" church because it has descended directly from the disciples. They recognize they have had their problems, but they have stuck it out and haven't gone off in a huff to start their own church.

While stating that Protestants are not really a "church," the Pope does recognize that the Spirit of Christ is at work in what the Protestants are doing. For Protestants, though, that may not seem like much encouragement.

But let's take a different view.

The Pope is attempting to protect the integrity of the ordained ministry and the word "church" as he sees it. It seems that any yahoo with an inkling can start a church and call himself/herself a pastor. There is no one there to say, "You don't have the qualifications," "You are teaching heresy," "You are not really a church." We have also seen the destruction caused by someone getting mad and running off to start their own church. We are called Protestants for a reason!

Let me give you an example. I spent 8 years learning the theology of the church and how to interpret the Bible. I didn't learn everything about doing ministry, but I received a good, foundational education. Not that this makes me better than anyone, it was just what I felt God wanted me to do to be prepared for the ministry of His Word. However, a friend of mine got on the internet and purchased an ordination certificate. The she started performing weddings. She had no training. She had no understanding of what she was doing.

It would be like purchasing a certificate that allowed me to do brain surgery or practice law.

I am not saying that seminary is the only way to educate or prepare oneself for the ministry. But, I am saying that being a pastor, and being ordained, is not something that should just be taken on a whim with an internet certificate. I believe that the role of the pastor is demeaned when we cheapen the entrance into it. Those called to professional ministry are called to a ministry of service with high expectations. That means being able to both do the job well and to do it with theological integrity.

Every time I hear of another internet ordained minister, I want to scream. It cheapens the role of the ordained pastor. And, I think that is how the Pope feels. The Catholic church is not the one who got angry and left. They have had their problems, and I certainly don't condone some of their actions. But, the Pope's point is that by their definition the Protestants are not a church. It is his attempt to protect the integrity of the word.

Viewed from that angle, I understand the Pope's statement without anger. I, however, disagree on his definition of church. Though I do believe we need to find (or found) some ordination standard so that some internet-savvy idiot can't claim to be an ordained minister. I could go on and on.

Here is a link to the original Papal statement.

What do you think? Does it cheapen the ministry? Does having different church denominations and governing bodies break the "unity" of the Church Universal?


  1. The error in the Catholic Church’s argument is that they consider the Catholic Church the one true church, instead of seeing the churches that split from them as the continuation of the Apostolic faith.

    Is it possible that the “Protestant” Churches went back to the roots of the First Church (recorded in the Book of Acts) and maintained more characteristics of that Church than the Catholics did? It’s rarely discussed or considered, but is it possible that the Catholic Church strayed from the original pattern of the Church in Acts? Could it be that after just three hundred years the Catholic Church no longer mirrored the original Church?

    I’ve always thought it ironic that the Catholic Church claims the Apostle Peter as the founding priest of their church, while at the same time denying or distancing themselves from some of the examples Peter set. Peter, “the first pope,” spoke in other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance (Acts 2:4). The Catholic Church has relegated this to a one-time occurrence, and categorized it in some cases as signs of demonic possession. Peter believed in divine healing and allowed the Holy Spirit to use him as a vessel for that healing (Acts 3). Peter was married (Matthew 8:14). Peter was not the Rock upon which the Church would be built (Jesus Christ being the Chief Cornerstone). The Rock was the truth that Peter had just spoken to Jesus (“Thou art the Christ…” – Matthew 16:16). The foundation of the Church is the understanding that Jesus is God, the promised Messiah, Christ.

    I understand I might be preaching to the choir here, but these are points that we fail to mention as we allow the Catholic Church to divide churches into two inaccurate categories of Catholic or Protestant. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just be Christians and see Jesus Christ as the origin of our faith? Then the definition of a Christian Church could be answered by asking “Who stayed the course of the original Church in Acts?” not “Who didn’t leave the Catholic Church?”

    When we consider the things that were being protested it appears possible that the protestors were taking the Church with them when they left, not leaving the Church behind to start their own movement.
    Thanks for a thought-provoking blog!

  2. Rick,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    I tend to see both sides. We did have things to protest against. There were wrongs being committed that were not being addressed. However, we broke unity with the church rather than stick it out and try to fix it. Is there more to it than that? Certainly.

    I also don't think we have the same footing today as Luther did when he nailed the 95 Thesis to the door. Since that day, we have broken and split and broken more times than Evil Knievel!

    Because of this, we also need humility when pointing out all the wrongs of the Catholic Church. The Protestant church has failed in many ways. We too divide the church in two: Christians and Catholics. That seems much more detrimental than simply saying Protestant and Catholic.

    I am not trying to be contrary. I just think the Pope's statement could seem inflammatory unless the Protestant take a hard look first at what he meant and the context behind it, and second, maintain a little humility in the face of our shortcomings.

    What do you think?