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Lay-led churches release the church from key limiting factors. When you don’t need a building and a stipend and long, costly college-based training for every leader of the church … then we can release new people to lead and new churches to form. It also releases the discipleship of people. In church planting, there are no passengers.
The need for expensively educated full-time (and therefore paid) clergy is a “limiting factor” on growth in the sense that for a given sum of money you can only staff a limited number of parishes or missions with them. Buildings are also a “limiting factor”, because they cost money and take time to build, but then so are doctrines, because they might put people off.
There is a grain of truth in this: ecclesial bodies which don’t have lengthy (or any) training for their leaders, or tiresome fixed teachings, can grow very fast. Saying “there are no passengers” means that every member of the congregation is expected to evangelize, maybe even become a “leader” and plant a new community: all you need is a bible, an appealing message, and a carrying voice — or an efficient sound system.
This raises the question of why the whole world hasn’t long since been effectively evangelized, by the kind of independent or loosely organized “preachers” who have roamed Protestant countries since the 16th century. Yes, they can spread like wild fire through a society, “planting churches” in town after town, but these communities can evaporate just as quickly. The part of England in which I live was once a hotbed of this kind of thing, and today their tiny churches can still be seen, often several in one village or small town, almost all of them converted into homes. The tide came in, and the tide went out again.
Not only has the Church of England failed to learn from the history of the last four centuries, which has seen one after another Protestant revival rise and then collapse like a soufflé, but it hasn’t learnt from its own history of the past four decades. Because all this has been tried before: lay leadership, “house churches”, doing without the Eucharist, doing without doctrine, and doing without anyone trained in theology.
The Catholic Church, alas, is not immune to these temptations. We too have seen a continuous series of slickly packaged initiatives, which involve closing down and selling off church buildings and calling 0n lay people with limited, or no, theological or pastoral training to take up the slack. The latest example in England is the lay “Synod” organized by the Archdiocese of Liverpool in 2020. I don’t doubt the good will of those involved, but the results were predictable. The most popular resolution of this exercise, which absorbed vast amounts of time and energy, and a certain amount of money as well, was that the Church should do more in the way of:
honouring the many vocations of all the baptised, women and men alike. This will also include a strong commitment to lay ministry including training employed ministers, supporting volunteer ministers, and coordinating their work alongside the clergy.
The next most popular one was practically the same. The Archdiocese was told to:
assist parishes in understanding, meeting, forming and welcoming young people and young adults, and developing locally employed and volunteer youth ministers to work with young people and young adults.
What this means in practice — and we know this because these things are have been happening, to some extent, for years — is “lay-led” parishes, lay-led “Communion services”, lay parish catechists wholly ignorant of or (or hostile to) the Faith being put in charge of sacramental preparation, and selling off church buildings.
PETITION UPDATE (6/29/2021):
The Pope has written a note to Fr. James Martin, SJ, praising his fellow Jesuit’s controversial pro-LGBT ministry, saying it "reflects the closeness of God" and is in the "style of God."
The Pope’s note was written in response to a communication that Martin had sent Francis earlier, informing him of an upcoming LGBT conference organized by renegade New Ways Ministry (NWM), which has been denounced as non-Catholic ministry by the U.S. bishops and whose leaders defied the Vatican’s order to cease their affiliation with NWM decades ago.
In spite of the fact that Francis has done this, the Church still teaches that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered," and "under no circumstances can they be approved." (Catechism of the Catholic Church Para. 2357)
Therefore, when a priest, like James Martin, SJ - and, New Ways Ministry - adovcate for the normalization of homosexuality and transgenderism, without calling for chastity and repentence, we know that this style is most certainly not in the style of God.
Please continue to SIGN and share this petition asking the bishops of the United States to stop Martin's LGBT advocacy.
'On eve of LGBT Catholic conference, Pope Francis praised Fr. James Martin, SJ’s pro-LGBT ministry' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/on-eve-of-lgbt-catholic-conference-pope-francis-praised-fr-james-martin-sjs-pro-lgbt-ministry
PETITION UPDATE (2/4/2020):
Fr. James Martin, SJ, can't resist telling bishops how to run their dioceses.
He recently opined that dioceses should stop firing homosexuals who are "married" by the state, saying that this is tantamount to discrimination.
But, of course, when it comes to such relationships, Bishops must discriminate between what is authentically Catholic and Christian, both under the natural law and in Revelation.
And, such people, who enter into a homosexual relationship and then have it publicly recognized by the state as something which nature and religion know can never be fruitful -- but, which conversely, can cause grave scandal to children -- cannot expect to hold positions in Catholic schools.
The two positions are contradictory, and not just in the way that other things are contradictory.
Homosexual "marriage" is a contradiction in terms, and is not only unnatural, but also confusing to young minds. And, not just about human nature, but also about the way that God has designed man and woman to be together, in marriage, in a lifelong, monogamous bond.
What Fr. Martin suggests is that bishops are free to take a sledge hammer to God's design...which, of course, is totally, totally wrong.
Bishops, please continue assert your right to protect the innocence of children as well as defend the institution of marriage.
Fr. James Martin, SJ recently issued a tweet questioning the Bible's condemnation of homosexual acts.
Fr. Martin’s tweet quotes an article from the Center for Action and Contemplation in which Fr. Richard Rohr, a priest with a long record of dissenting from established Church teachings, favorably shares a pro-homosexuality missive from his “dear friend,” Methodist minister Walter Wink. In June of 2018, Fr. Rohr declared in a speech that “historically, scientifically, culturally,” the Bible is “a mass of contradictions from beginning to end.”
This is decidedly NOT what the Catholic Church teaches.
Thankfully, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, and Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, have both responded to Fr. James Martin’s tweet highlighting an article that questions the “biblical judgment” of “same-sex sexual behavior.”
Bishop Strickland issued a response yesterday evening on his own Twitter account:
“Thank you for acknowledging that you question scripture. If we go down that road where do we stop? I know you have lots of support but you are challenging the Deposit of Faith that I promised to defend. As a bishop I’ll keep defending it.”
This morning, Cardinal Napier also took to the popular social media platform to give his response to Fr. Martin’s tweet.
“How convenient to use slavery to justify support for homosexuality, totally overlooking the fact that the Bible is overwhelmingly the story of God freeing His People from all slavery — physical & political but also slavery to idols & false gods, to moral & spiritual aberrations!”
We give thanks to God for these examples of strong leadership from the episcopate!
But, we need more Shepherds to come out against Fr. Martin's LGBT advocacy, which is a stain on the Church's teaching and on Christ's admonition to, "Go, and sin no more!"
Thank you for SIGNING!
Fr. James Martin is perhaps the most notorious pro-LGBT priest in the Catholic Church today. His public statements are opposed to the Church’s perennial teachings on sexuality, marriage, homosexuality, and transgenderism. They blind souls to the truth about human nature and the harsh reality of sin.
And, in spite of meeting with the Pope recently, which gave the veneer of respectability to his morally dangerous positions on the Church's teaching on sexuality, no-one has the authority to declare morally good or neutral, something which is actually intrinsically disordered -- not even the Pope.
Thankfully, however, there are some pastors of the Catholic Church who continue to place the constant teaching of the Church on faith and morals, and on sexuality, above human respect.
This petition, therefore, asks the Bishops of the Catholic Church to stop bowing to human respect, and ban Fr. James Martin from spreading his spiritual poison in their dioceses..."spiritual poison", because encouraging someone to continue in mortal sin is like giving poison to someone's soul, no matter how well-intentioned one may be.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia released a statement noting that Fr. Martin’s “statements and activities” have caused confusion.
- “A pattern of ambiguity in his teachings tends to undermine his stated aims, alienating people from the very support they need for authentic human flourishing,” Chaput wrote. “Due to the confusion caused by his statements and activities regarding same-sex related (LGBT) issues, I find it necessary to emphasize that Father Martin does not speak with authority on behalf of the Church, and to caution the faithful about some of his claims.”
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois quickly issued a statement supporting Chaput, saying that aspects of Martin’s teachings are “deeply scandalous,” and his “messages create confusion among the faithful and disrupt the unity of the Church.”
Bishop Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee has also opposed some of Martin’s statements.
And, in the Fall of 2018, Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland asked his fellow bishops to discern whether or not fraternal correction demands they ban from their dioceses Fr. James Martin and his pro-gay "marriage" message.
- Strickland said of Martin: “There’s a priest that travels around now basically saying that he doesn’t [believe the doctrine of the Church on marriage], and he seems to be very well promoted in various places.”
- “Brothers, I think part of the fraternal correction...we offer each other is to say, 'Can that be presented in our diocese? That same-sex ‘marriage’ is just fine, and the Church will one day grow to understand that.'”
- “That’s not what we teach,” he stated. “And I think we really have to ask those serious questions.”
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has called Fr. Martin “one of the most outspoken critics of the church’s message with regard to sexuality.”
And, Cardinal Raymond Burke has called Martin’s teaching “not coherent with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.”
Over the years, Fr. Martin has made numerous remarks that indicate open hostility towards and deep opposition to unchangeable doctrine on matters related to men, women, and sexuality. Bishops need to stop allowing him to spread his un-Christ-like message in their dioceses. Below is an extensive list of things he has said or done. For instance, Fr. Martin...
- Wants active homosexuals to be “invited into parish ministries” like eucharistic ministers.
- Once claimed “some” saints were “probably gay.”
- Told a gay Catholic journalist that he hopes that during the exchange of peace at mass “you will be able to kiss your partner or soon to be your husband. Why not? What’s the terrible thing?”
- Tweeted support for transgender bathrooms, claiming that “It doesn't hurt anybody" which bathroom "they" choose to use.
- Believes God made “LGBTQ people…who they are.”
- Wants the Catechism’s use of the term “intrinsically disordered” scrapped. He believes it is “needlessly hurtful" to homosexuals and thinks “differently ordered” is preferable because it is more “pastoral.”
- Has said a Catholic attending a same-sex “wedding” is just as acceptable as a Catholic attending a Jewish wedding.
- Claims to have discovered a "very high correlation between people who are against [same-sex marriage] and people who are in fact homophobic."
- Received an award from a pro-homosexual group for his “lasting contributions to the safety and/or equality of people who are LGBTQ, their families, and allies.”
- Thinks the Church should recognize the “special gifts” homosexuals bring to the Church because of their sexual attractions.
- Claims the Bible has been taken out of "context” in its condemnation of homosexual acts.
- Urged homosexual priests to “come out” as “LGBT” in order to facilitate “dialogue” with bishops.
- Praised the “fidelity” of a “married” transgender couple and wondered what the Church can “learn” from them.
- Retweeted a liberal journalist who complained priests can’t bless “committed gay couples.”
- Was given the “Bridge Building Award” at the 2016 gathering of the pro-gay New Ways Ministry, a dissident group censure by the Vatican and the U.S. Bishops Conference.
In Britain and North America alike, the Church today is living off what it inherited from the great program of establishing or re-establishing the parish and school system, from practically nothing, in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries. These buildings, now being flogged off, were mainly funded by the ordinary Catholics of the day, people who suffered real, not relative, poverty, and real, not imaginary, discrimination and hostility. It was common for building contracts to specify that the parishioners would be digging out the foundations by hand.
They built with confidence, because they believed in the power of the Church’s sacraments and doctrines to transform individuals, and ultimately society itself. The reason we are wasting our energy debating the merits of a Church with as few priests as possible, and which says as little about doctrine as possible, is that this power is no longer taken seriously. There can, however, be no evangelization without it.