Final thoughts to finish my series outlining why my family and I believe it is time for us to leave the Episcopal Church (read Part 1: A brief history, Part 2: A crack appears, Part 3: The deluge, Part 4: The end, and Part 5: A new beginning. . .)
I thought about writing a long post on how my family made the decision of which church to join, but Martial Artist beat me to it, so I thought I would post his comment, which is much better written than anything I could do.
The only difference between us is that while MA will start RCIA in November, I have already begun the classes at my local RC parish and am slowly working my way through the Catechism. (I have reformatted MA’s comment here for easier reading and have boldfaced some sentences.)
If, after going through RCIA (which I will likely enter in early November after I have returned from my present vacation and my last sea deployment of this year) I continue to hold the conclusion that my understanding of the Gospel is in full accord, or where it is not that I am prepared to assent to the teachings of the magisterium without reservation, then I will, at the Paschal Vigil (I prefer not to refer to it by a name that references a Celtic fertility goddess) I will seek acceptance into the Roman Catholic Church. This will not be as a reaction to TEC or Anglicanism, which is a separate, but not wholly unrelated, issue, but because I will have concluded that the Roman Catholic Church embodies the fullest understanding of Christ and the Gospels on earth. That is, in my mind, both a necessary and a sufficient condition to do so.
I am on vacation visiting my mother. She was raised as a Roman Catholic, but left the Roman Church for the LCMS when she married my father in 1942 at the age of 18. She is now 84, suffering from macular degeneration, and rarely gets to church unless driven. My wife and I, therefore, insisted on being fully available to see to it that she got to her regular congregation (about 20-25 minutes drive from her house) on the Sunday we were visiting.
The minister who preached the sermon made a very interesting statement about the LCMS church and the doctrine of sola scriptura. He said that all that is needed is scripture, not interpretation and not tradition. The clear implication (indeed, the several sentences he devoted to expanding on the doctrine made it almost explicit) is that each believer needs only the bible and the Holy Spirit.
Even based solely on my experiences with TEC over the past 38 years, I see this as an obstacle to joining any sola scriptura denomination. My reasoning is as follows: The Bible is composed of words. Words have meanings, both denotational, and connotational. It is not uncommon that a word or phrase has multiple meanings, whether denotational or connotational. If I am to be confident that I understand the application of scripture to any particular question, and to deal with the multiple meanings and the fact that some scripture is literal and historical, and some is allegorical and allusional, I (and every other individual in the denomination) will have to give up most of our other activities, including those that provide our sustenance, to have the time to ensure we fully and understand precisely how to apply scripture correctly to any given question or issue.
Clearly, some proposed responses will be obviously contradictory to scripture, but the current unpleasantness teaches us nothing if not that different readers will tend to apply it differently. The foregoing does not even begin to address the question of finding the time to master Hebrew, Syriac, Greek and Latin as those languages were used in the relevant time periods. My conclusion is that I shall ultimately have to rely on someone else to carry most of freight in getting to that unambiguous understanding that I need to live my life in accordance with the Gospel and God’s will.
Stated another way, I have to trust someone to have the correct interpretation of the scriptures that applies to at least some of the questions to which I am going to need the answer. I either do the interpretation myself, working to hear the Holy Spirit, and hope I don’t mishear, or I will have to trust it to someone more knowledgeable than I am, whose judgments I have tested enough to trust. So Pastor Mueller is demonstrably wrong in his statement, assuming, as I did and do, that he meant it literally. And while tradition does not trump scripture, it is an invaluable aid, along with the ecumenical councils, in understanding how those earlier, and therefore closer in time to the divinely inspired human authors of scripture, understood them, not that they anticipated the current issue/question, but that I can extrapolate, or interpolate, from their reasoning from the relevant scriptures as they applied them to their similar issues, in order to help discern the correct answer to my issue.
If I finish reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and have found no issue on which I cannot submit myself to her teachings, then why would I persist in maintaining a schism the causes of which have been appropriately addressed? To do so on the basis that Catholicism had not successfully “proven” their understanding would require me to assume that I know more than they do, perhaps as much as God himself—a highly unlikely, and in the latter case, demonstrably false, assumption.
Finally, this individualistic assertion, that each believer is his own interpreter of scripture, appears to me to be a major contributing factor in the disintegration of TEC. If a Christian denomination has no magisterium, in the sense of an authoritative teaching authority, then it will always be more open to apostasy and heresy than a denomination that does have such an authority. I think it is also a major contributor to the always increasing number of Christian denominations, particularly within protestantism.
This absence in TEC is, I think, its (possibly) fatal flaw, and, to the extent that it is present in other parts of the AC, their (possibly) fatal flaw, as well.
Like Keith, I also wrote a letter to my rector outlining our reasons for leaving. And I am approaching the RCIA classes with no deadline in mind. If it works out, I would love to enter the Roman Catholic Church at the Paschal Vigil, but as I've learned one thing in RCIA, there is absolutely no pressure - at least at my parish, they want you to be sure, not just present.
Because I am no longer with an Anglican parish, while I will continue to keep up with Anglican events and hopefully do some more interviews for AnglicanTV, I will end this blog soon. My focus is turning elsewhere - I can't yet see where, but I feel the time belongs to God.