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OUR FORGOTTEN CATECHISM

What do Episcopalians believe? The cynical answer is we believe in good taste and progressive politics, or perhaps conservative politics. When a bishop, priest or deacon takes an oath to be faithful to doctrine, where may we find a convenient summery of what that means? When a lay person wants to know what a Christian should believe, where is that to be found?  Well yes, the Bible, the Creeds, the writings of the Fathers, the General Councils, but what does that all mean? None of us, even a theologian, has time to mine the teachings contained in those authorities. Our Catechism is bound up in the Prayer Book to give us an authoritative summery.

 

Yes, the Catechism has authority. It forms part of the ‘teaching law’ of the Episcopal Church. It should form the backbone of all instruction in enquirers’ classes and confirmation courses. However in my experience, our Catechism is largely forgotten or ignored. To some, as with all doctrinal formularies, its contents form a challenge to be argued with or dismissed. Such hubris makes Republican individualism sound tame.

 

If we believe we have progressed beyond accepting doctrine on faith, then perhaps we should be honest and drop all the oaths to abide by doctrine? To so do would transform what Anglicans have been. Our Prayer Books would be cheaper and smaller without the Catechism and Historical Documents. However until and unless we transform ourself into a religious organization in which every person is free to make up their own ‘personal faith’, we need to resurrect our neglected Catechism and take that which it teaches seriously.