Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Little Thing, But ...

... in English, the adjective precedes the noun, except in poetry and wilful archaism.

So when people talk about "the Church catholic," both our priestly and English-major hackles are raised. They wouldn't say "the Church Lutheran," would they? Likely not.

Obviously, they just can't stomach saying "the catholic Church." And they probably tell themselves that they are avoiding some confusion with the Church Roman.

But in fact, it is just that confusion which the papal party of the Reformation has been exploiting for centuries, identifying itself with the very idea of catholicity. And Protestants have aided and abetted.

Well, we're putting them all on notice. The Church is catholic. It is, therefore, the catholic Church. By definition, and according to the customary syntax of the English language. And those who say otherwise (as the New ALC people do repeatedly in their vision statement) had best prepare to be treated as either bigoted or syntactically ignorant. We'll let them choose.


Soulbuick02 said...

Hardly a little thing. Syntactic gaffes are an endless source of interest.

mark said...


Pastor Joelle said...

I love that you are calling this the new ALC...although I used to be ALC and used to be more offended by these sort of references but as I've gotten older I think the criticisms are mostly true.

Although I think the old ALC was right about not allowed "fund raisers" to achieve what should have been done with good stewardship. I have a feeling that issue is not even on the radar of these new "church catholic"

Father said...

Honestly, the old ALC had a lot to recommend it.

Supply-preaching in our synod, both my wife and I have discovered that you can usually tell a former-ALC congregation within minutes, by the level of Biblical literacy and sheer motivation for Bible study.

And, to be honest, they *were* in full communion with the Reformed, so the ant-ecumenism reputation earned during the battle over CCM wasn't entirely deserved -- except by the faculty of Luther Sem, but that's a separate discussion.

An, as I've said, a more congregation-centered ecclesiology may throw the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle for my taste, but it is at least defensible.

So when I tease the former ALC, I'm really just teasing. And I am painfully aware that the NALC will draw at least some of its numbers from former LCA congregations and pastors, too.

Pastor Joelle said...

I have to admit I fought the historic episcopate tooth and nail--I thought it was dishonest because we don't believe it for one minute but we were just going to say we believed it to be nice and I never understood why we have to agree on these things to work together. But when it was voted on, that was it, my POV did not win the day. Boohoo, on to other stuff.

Father said...

The "on to other stuff" is what our NALC friends don't seem to get.

Not to reduce complicated questions to regional and denominational stereotypes, but I wasn't at all happy about the Formula of Agreement, for reasons parallel to yours with CCM. "Mutual affirmation and admonition" didn't really sound like agreement to me at all, ecumenical or otherwise.

But it passed. It is the direction my little branch of the Church decided to go, and so I swallowed my self-righteousness and moved on.

And in all honesty, I can't say that the results have been disastrous. Lutheran pulpits are not overrun by black-clad Puritans in Geneva bands, denying the Real Presence and teaching double predestination. If a church really wants one of those, it can probably find one; but the truth is that it could have done that before CCM, too. There are a few in every crowd, just as there are a couple of biretta-owning, incense-waving ... hey, wait, that's me.

Anyway. For reasons that deserve a great deal of analysis (think: captivity to one side of a media-driven cultural divide), the NALC crowd can't move on. They are stuck in a reactive, rage-driven place, and can't work through it like adults. And everybody suffers.

Anonymous said...

You got all upset over "catholic"; what about "orthodox"?
Isn't a lot of this resentment an historical, even an ethnic, hangover?

Father said...

Again, this looks like a comment left in the wrong box. I'm not sure what you mean. This post is about the curious anti-catholic quirk, among Protestants, of abusing ordinary syntax to avoid saying "the catholic church." So far as I know, nobody talks about "the church orthodox."

In general, of course, it is true that most religious resentments, among virtually all religious communities, are the fruit of history and ethnicity. The question (and it one I ask a great deal lately) is whether the people involved are truly content to continue fighting because of ancient ancestral slights, or whether they wouldn't be happier if they learned to process the emotion, let go of the rage, and live together like adults.