Catechisms

The Anglican/Episcopal Church “incubator” is ideal for the birthing of new adult Christians.  What makes it ideal is that the meeting place for Episcopalians is not doctrinal agreement but prayer.  The Book of COMMON Prayer is core.  Is there a catechism?  Yes; 20 pages near the back of the BCP.  The Lutheran Small Catechism (Book of Concord) is approximately 16 pages while the Large Catechism is approximately 114 pages.  The Catechism of the [Roman] Catholic Church has 756 pages with the number of Scripture references matched, if not exceeded by references to church documents and texts by “teachers of the church.”  The Book of Concord is explicitly written for the catechesis of children while the Large Catechism is meant to be an elaboration of the compact teaching of the Small Catechism.  The Catechism of the [Roman] Catholic Church is meant for catechist and preachers but is often used as a text in RCIA “classes.”

The Episcopalian Outline of Faith (the Catechism) is meant primarily as an OUTLINE  for instruction.  The preface also says “it may also be used to form a simple service.”  Imagine that, using a catechism as a part of a worship service.  Granted, we use the creeds this way.  We also use the Scripture texts this way.  Many of us realize that the Gospels are the earliest catechisms of the church and remain the most effective.  But the suggestion within the BCP to use the Outline of Faith in this way once again emphasizes the fact that prayer, not doctrine, is the common identifier for Anglican/Episcopal Christians.

Many catechumenate coordinators and directors as well as ordained and lay ministers are concerned about what is being “taught” within the catechumenate process.  Hopefully what is being learned is the Way of Christ.  For example, my bias is that the Christian practice of forgiveness and reconciliation is better learned from reflection on Mt 18: 21-35 than from a lecture based on Part Two, Article 4 (“The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation”) of the Catechism of the [Roman] Catholic Church.

This is not a radical perspective.  I have seen it advocated by many leaders in catechumenate ministry.  They base their position on how Jesus formed Christian disciples according to the earliest catechisms (the Gospels).  They base their position on the catechetical practices of early church catechists.  They base their position on the insight that the catechumenate is about forming Christian disciples rather than Episcopalians or Lutherans or Roman Catholics or …..

About Jerry

Catechumenate ministry is my passion. I have been involved in the catechumenate since 1980 in both the Roman Catholic and Episcopal branches of the Church. I am a "progressive," ecumenical Christian who is realistic enough to know that the Church has never been "One"; is often not "Holy"; strives to be "Catholic" and is "Apostolic" only when members respect the Tradition rather than the latest customs. I have been fortunate to be able to focus on various elements of philosophy, theology and Christian history during my studies. I am able to bring them all to bear in catechumenate ministry.
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