As I began to write these ponderings I was listening to Pope Francis speak to Catholic bishops in St. Matthews Catholic Cathedral in Washington D.C. The Roman Catholic Church appears to make decisions from the top down.
The Catholic church is fortunate to have a wise pope. He is moving it in a thoughtful and generally progressive direction. I like him because he seems to seek the welfare of all peoples and embraces a catholicism much more inclusive than the Roman Catholic Church which he heads. I like Pope Francis and his message, but I am not going to join his institutional church. (To hear excerpts of the Pope’s speech to Congress and to read the text you may click here.)
I am inclined to continue to follow the Anabaptists who broke from the Pope’s church by rejecting infant baptism. Anabaptists reserved that rite only for those who were able to repent, believe and make knowledgeable decisions.
Ideally, every baptized person may participate in the decision making process of the church by giving and receiving counsel. The Old Fool has been pondering the practical meaning of those words. What is expected of the individual member? How is counsel given and received?
As I write and revise, Pope Francis is about to give counsel to the Congress of the United States. None of us have the platform from which to give counsel that he has. Only a few of us are privileged to give counsel through a sermon from a pulpit. So how may the ordinary person fulfil the obligation to give counsel to the church?
Anabaptists do not have a pope. They have a process that sets the direction for the church. Ideally, Anabaptists trust decision making, not to a pope, but to a small group process. Insights that give direction to the future of the church are generated within each small group that gathers around the Bible in the Spirit of Jesus to give and receive counsel to one another.
To be Continued