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Every denomination needs one of these...

Thomas Hears Pope's Rebuke

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

By Pastor Ted Weis, Congregational Church, Little River, KS

UCC President Rev. John Thomas and Ecumenical Officer Lydia Veliko were among an ecumenical contingency of 200 Christian leaders who gathered in New York City to hear Pope Benedict XVI at an evening ecumenical prayer service on April 18.

In a press release leading up to the meeting, Thomas expressed optimism about what the Pope might say:
"As participants in many rounds of theological dialogue between Reformed Christians and Roman Catholics in the United States, we are committed to a vision of unity that can overcome the many differences that still inhibit a fully shared participation in God's mission here and throughout the world. I look forward to hearing a word of ecumenical hope from Pope Benedict that can be lived out between UCC churches and Catholic parishes around the country."
While it's nice that Rev. Thomas offered polite words about going to hear to the Pope, Thomas is no fan of Benedict XVI, an opinion he made quite clear in 2005:
"Today as the conclave announces its decision, the offering of prayers for this new pontificate is the most appropriate response from other Christian leaders," the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, said in a written statement to United Church News. "Nevertheless, I acknowledge that I personally greet Cardinal Ratzinger's selection with profound disappointment. Cardinal Ratzinger's long tenure in the Vatican has been marked by a theological tone that is rigid, conservative and confrontational."
With this in mind, I'm sure that Rev. Thomas didn't enjoy hearing this veiled, but clear rebuke:
"Too often those who are not Christians, as they observe the splintering of Christian communities, are understandably confused about the Gospel message itself. Fundamental Christian beliefs and practices are sometimes changed within communities by so-called "prophetic actions" that are based on a hermeneutic not always consonant with the datum of Scripture and Tradition. Communities consequently give up the attempt to act as a unified body, choosing instead to function according to the idea of "local options". Somewhere in this process the need for diachronic koinonia – communion with the Church in every age – is lost, just at the time when the world is losing its bearings and needs a persuasive common witness to the saving power of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:18-23)."
Translation: That's not an endorsement of the "God Is Still Speaking" campaign.

At least Rev. Thomas went to hear someone he doesn't agree with.

But if he didn't go, what would that have said?

I'll bet the conversation over hors d’oeuvres with colleagues afterwards was interesting.
posted by Living the Biblios, Tuesday, April 22, 2008


My family watched with interest, passion, and many times tears, the Pope's visit to the United States this past week. Not even being Catholic (brought up in the UCC), we were glued to the TV. The Pope brings HOPE IN CHRIST, that was his message, and truly, there IS hope in Christ, the hope that the Pope speaks of.

Watching, and listening to the Pope's words, watching the masses, where everything, including the music, is out of the Bible made us realize where HOPE IS found. It is not found in the re-written hymns taking Father, LORD, HE, HIM, HIS out of our beloved hymns; HOPE is not found being told you are hateful bigots, and wrong when you state that you believe that the Bible is the WORD OF GOD.

We wondered if the HOPE OF CHRIST will have much more meaning to those who are hopelessly clinging to the "hope" of Obama.

We also realized, that although heart wrenching, we made the right decision to leave the United Church of Christ. Hope and the Holy Spirit had left the building ...
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 11:01 AM  
Rev. Weis,

So you converted to Catholicism? That is good to hear. Congratulations!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:09 PM  
The last words out of the Pope's mouth were "God Bless America" and Rev Wright said (fill in the blank)
"God ____ America".

One speaker energized me, the other appalled.

I for one enjoyed the papal visit.

JT needs a reality check.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:15 PM  
Hmm... perhaps this explains why after two millenia the Catholic Church remains a viable institution capable of speaking with authority, whilst the UCC is an ever-shrinking violet whom fewer and fewer are noticing?

And, if to add insult to injury, the Pope actually called upon God to "bless America", not to condemn America. How dare he!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 2:04 PM  
Neither is it an endorsement of any expression out of the Roman Catholic Church either. I am Prostestant, so what the Pope's views on a host of things aren't likely to be persuasive authority with me or my fellow Prostestants.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 4:47 PM  
One could say that the Pope is still speaking ... and he's speaking to President Thomas! Maybe JT was there for a purpose, and it was to hear God's Holy word.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 4:54 PM  
Couldn't the Pope's comment be considered a rebuke (although mild) of all non-Catholic Christian churches? I'm not sure why the "God is Still Speaking" campaign should be singled out.

commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 5:34 PM  
I'm wondering how many in the UCC would be willing to participate in "diachronic koinonia – communion with the Church in every age," other than a handful of former German Reformed Churches that still maintain the E&R liturgy. I don't know how well "communion with the Church" goes over with the BWF or the ECOT folks. Perhaps the Pope is speaking to them.
commented by Anonymous Bill Uhrich, 9:23 AM  
Since BWF and ECOT 'folks' aren't changing beliefs and practices due to so-called 'phophetic action' and the don't function according to the idea of "local options", I don't think the Pope was speaking to them. They hold high fundamental Christian beliefs and practices and many are (F&W's) working hard to have ther voice heard in the denomination rather than just leave. It seems as thought the liberal UCC national office agenda is to sytematically pushing them out. So much for the founding principals of the UCC.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9:00 AM  
I was raised Roman Catholic and educated entirely in Roman Catholic seminaries before joining the United Church of Christ. My college was even a seminary.

A couple of notes. The papacy had lost a great deal of moral authority in light of the clergy scandal. To his great credit, the Pope did finally acknowledge that this was a horrendous problem and that the Roman Catholic Church did handle it poorly.

John Thomas, God is still speaking, the Lutherans, the Baptists, the Methodists, etc., all fall in one category in Roman Catholic official lines and it has gotten worse.

In the Second Vatican Council document on religious liberty the Protestant Churches were no longer called apostate but were embraced as separated brethren. Paul VI made it clear, however, when he attended a meeting of the World Council of Churches where he stood. His first words were "Sumus Petrus," "We are Peter." Paul tended to use the imperial 'we' and was referring to himself as the true leader of Christianity and that the Roman Catholic Church was the one true church.

The current Pope's words were not as generous towards Protestant Communions as the Vatican II documents. He referred to Protestant Churches as defective.

Your post is interesting and I did appreciate it. I found the Pope's visit to the United States to be a powerful witness and he used the opportunity to speak truth to power in some very dramatic ways. His address to the United Nations was pretty bluntly, in part, directed at the United States and it wasn't flattering. He was, however, very honest and spoke, in my mind, with great integrity.

I guess my point is that he's a brilliant man who does speak with great authority within the Roman Catholic Church and there is much we can learn from him. Let's not be deceived, however, that he'd find any expression of Christianity other than Roman Catholicism to be truly effective.
commented by Blogger John Manzo, 5:00 PM  

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