In a recent post I invited agonizing Anglicans to consider again the claims of the Catholic Church, and to climb aboard the great cruise ship Queen Mary (Captain Peter at the helm) rather than their own lifeboat solution.
David Gustafson is the old friend (and very smart guy) with whom I wrote Mary–A Catholic Evangelical DebateDavid happens to be a member of the vestry at the Falls Church–one of the Episcopal Churches in suburban Washington DC who have recently voted to pull out of their Episcopal Diocese.
The clergy at Falls Church were offered a similar invitation by a fellow Catholic, and one of their number, Revd Nicholas Lubelfeld, gave a gracious reply. Mr. Lubelfeld referred his potential host to an answer given some time ago by the more well known Anglican pictured here.
The correspondence follows:
From: [A Roman Catholic]
Sent: Sunday, December 17, 2006 8:54 PM
To: John Yates; Rick Wright; Nicholas Lubelfeld; David Glade
Subject: Greetings from —
Good Evening Gentlemen,
We have not had the pleasure of meeting, so please allow me to introduce myself. My name is — and I’m an army Major from –. I sat down this evening after a very arduous week working here in –, and I could not help noticing the news articles regarding your churches making a difficult and very significant decision.
I have just returned from Sunday evening mass myself and felt compelled to write you this short note. One of my heros (yes at 35, I still have them) is a certain Fr. John Corapi. You may not have heard of him; however, I would strongly recommend you check out his story. (cf www.fathercorapi.com/) His story is an absolutely amazing tale of Gods incredible grace. A constant theme of his talks is how evil introduces itself under the guise of “the good”. I for one commend you for not falling for this all too common deception. I see the extreme of this deception every day at our camps and the incredible hatred of anything “infidel.”
With this said, may I suggest one thing (outside of constant prayer). Your courageous stance has made a wonderful statement against this attack on Christians everywhere. Jesus prayed “that all may be one” and I humbly suggest that we take this opportunity to make a step in this direction. It is a most radical suggestion, but i will make it anyway … take this opportunity to lead yourselves and your congregation home to the Catholic Church. Despite individual weakness and somtimes poor leadership, the rock of Peter still exists today and still stands against these continious attacks.
As you consider this (hopefully more then a few seconds 😉 ) you may want to check out those of similar experience. Scott Hahn is a outstanding example and has written several books. You may find his book “Rome Sweet Home” of use.
As you continue this struggle, be assured of my prayers and solidarity (gotta love those John Paul II phrases … I call them JP II-isms) now and in the future. God bless you in your work and should you wish to discuss further, I would be happy to avail myself.
From: Nicholas Lubelfeld
Subject: RE: Greetings from —
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 00:50:46 -0500
Many thanks for your kind email of encouragement and invitation. The assurance of your prayers and solidarity is encouraging, and your suggestion that we lead ourselves and our flock home to the Catholic Church is, given your heartfelt conviction, generous.
I welcome the encouragement but am unable at present to accept your invitation. In view of my opinion that I am already at home as a catholic I can however pray for that unity in faith, order, and mission of this little reformed catholic Church with your great Roman Catholic Church for which our Lord prayed and which he alone can accomplish.
In this connection I have attached below a letter dated May 9, 1945, from an Anglican of an earlier generation to a Roman Catholic inquirer. The latter was not in the end persuaded by the former, but I hope that the missive gives at least an indication of our Anglican position as well as a rationale why we profess ourselves to be biblical catholics already.
I shall remember you, Brother, with all gratitude in my prayers. I already pray for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the children of the Roman Church, a revived knowledge and love of the Scriptures and sound doctrine, the conversion of the great mass of sacramentalized but unevangelized laity, a resurgence of zeal for gospel mission, holy clergy who love Jesus and minister in his power, excellence in preaching, and nerve in the bishops.
Please remember us in your prayers for the same.
May 9, 1945
Dear Mr. Stebbins,
My position about the Churches can best be made plain by an imaginary example. Suppose I want to find out the correct interpretation of Plato’s teaching. What I am most confident in accepting is that interpretation which is common to all the Platonists down all the centuries: What Aristotle and the Renaissance scholars and Paul Elmer More agree on I take to be true Platonism. Any purely modern views which claim to have discovered for the first time what Plato meant, and say that everyone from Aristotle down has misunderstood him, I reject out of hand. But there is something else I would also reject. If there were an ancient Platonic Society still existing at Athens and claiming to be the exclusive trustees of Plato’s meaning, I should approach them with great respect. But if I found that their teaching was in many ways curiously unlike his actual text and unlike what ancient interpreters said, and in some cases could not be traced back to within 1,000 years of his time, I should reject their exclusive claims — while ready, of course, to take any particular thing they taught on its merits.
I do the same with Christianity. What is most certain is the vast mass of doctrine which I find agreed on by Scripture, the Fathers, the Middle Ages, modern Roman Catholics, modern Protestants. That is true “catholic” doctrine. Mere “modernism” I reject at once. The Roman Church where it differs from this universal tradition and specially from apostolic Christianity I reject. Thus their theology about the Blessed Virgin Mary I reject because it seems utterly foreign to the New Testament; where indeed the words “Blessed is the womb that bore thee” receive a rejoinder pointing in exactly the opposite direction. Their papalism seems equally foreign to the attitude of St. Paul toward St. Peter in the epistles. The doctrine of Transubstantiation insists on defining in a way which the New Testament seems to me not to countenance. In a word, the whole set-up of modern Romanism seems to me to be as much a provincial or local variation from the central, ancient tradition as any particular Protestant sect is. I must therefore reject their claim: though this, of course, does not mean rejecting particular things they say. I’m afraid I haven’t read any modern books of Roman-Anglican controversy. Hooker (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity) is to me the great formulation of Anglicanism. But the great point is that, in one sense, there is no such thing as Anglicanism. What we are committed to believing is whatever can be proved from Scripture. On that subject there is room for endless progress. However you decide, good wishes. Mention me in your prayers.
Father, I was wondering if you could provide a bibliography for that letter Lewis wrote to Mr. Stebbins. I would be interested in the context of such a correspondence; I find it very out of character from Lewis’s other writings, and have difficulty reconciling the content with the rest of Lewis’s works.
I think it is in the collection of Lewis’ letters edited by Walter Hooper. For a complete study on this subject do read Joseph Pearce’s excellent book mentioned in a later post.