Is the label "Church" forbidden for Protestants?


#1

BXVI, shortly after his election to the papacy:

Dear Delegates of the Orthodox Churches, of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and of the Ecclesial Communities of the West, I greet you with joy a few days after my election. I particularly appreciated your presence in St Peter’s Square yesterday, after we had lived together the sorrowful moments of the farewell to our late Pope John Paul II.

Now, I understand that in the technical language of the Latin theological system, the Protestant ‘churches’ are not actually ‘Churches’, but ‘ecclesial communities’.

But one would think that, when speaking to said Protestants, that Catholics (and the Pope) would refer to them as (at least lower-case ‘c’) ‘churches’. That does not seem to be the case, as seen in the quote from the Pope above.

So, it is forbidden for Catholics to say that Protestants ‘churches’ are ‘churches’, under any circumstances, even if you’re, say, watching the football game with a bunch of Protestant buddies, and want to ask an informal question about the sort of religious life they lead? Must Catholics not ask them, “Hey, what church do you go to?” and instead ask, “Hey, what ecclesial community do you go to?”:smiley:


#2

I would imagine that it is quite alright to talk about the Methodist Church or the Anglican Church in casual conversation.

And it would be alright to refer to something like the “First Baptist Church of Springfield” or the “Church of the SubGenius”.


#3

We’re not forbidden to use that term, but they don’t apply in any theological sense. To use it at a major gathering, especially alongside the Orthodox, would be very confusing IMO.

Also, when addressing a specific body that goes by the name “… Church” we would likely use it, like in the case of the Church of England. We wouldn’t include them as “Churches” when speaking of a general meeting of Churches, however, (as in the example above) since they technically aren’t.

Peace and God bless!


#4

I think it should be noted that, whatever the word was in the Aramaic that Jesus actually spoke, the gospels, which were recorded in greek, have Jesus using the word “ekklesia” where we english speakers say “Church”.

Eytmologically, the word “church” actually descends from the germanic “kirk”, which refers to the “circles” that pagan religions used to gather in. Of course our present use of the word translates directly from the biblical “ekklesia.”

When the pope refers to “ecclesial communities,” this is actually closer in language to the “Church” that Jesus spoke of than when we speak of the “Church.”

“Ecclesial” means “Church.” I don’t think it could be seen as a dis’ by the Pope, that he didn’t use the word “Church” there.


#5

No, it is not forbidden. It has not been decreed a matter of dogma for Catholics to use this terminology.


#6

Everything the pope says is examined and torn apart either by the media or some group that opposes the Vatican. I am sure he was very specifically setting the tone for the beliefs not only of himself, but of the Church by referring to ecclesiastical communities. There is nothing forbidding him from using churches with a small c, but then somebody would jump on it and say he recognized them as an official church.


#7

Laudatur Iesus Christus.

Since the word “church” does not honestly apply to Protestant or “Evangelical” groups, it should not be used. It is misleading for everyone, including the separated brethren. Given this, the prohibition is: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” Ex 20:16; Dt 5:20. (The fact that the mis-usage is common is not a sufficient reason to adopt it; “Thou shalt not follow the multitude to do evil: neither shalt thou yield in judgment, to the opinion of the most part, to stray from the truth” Ex 23:2.)

The recent reminder from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith might prompt a review and reconsideration of the meaning of the word “Ecclesia” and the ideas behind it. The treatments that try to reduce “Ecclesia” or its English equivalent, “Church,” it to “community” or “community of faith” do not seem fair. Outside of the Scriptures the word is often translated as “senate,” when referring to the “ecclesia” of a particular city. The definition in the Perseus dictionary is “assembly duly summoned, less general than “sullogos.” Within the Scriptures the word is used in the Old Testament (Septuagint translation) to refer to the assembled tribes of Israel marshaled by Moses (Dt 31:30).

These considerations make it clear that the import of the word “ecclesia” is inherently structured and is not equivalent to “assembly” or “community” in the loose senses. The word itself implies discipline and hierarchical, governmental structure.

Given this, the word “ecclesial” means “related to the Church.” Communities which form around an element or elements belonging to the Catholic Church, like those which form around the Bible – or parts of it – are therefore properly called “ecclesial communities” because they are groups formed around something that belongs to the Church. These communities or groups are not “churches,” because they do not have the authority or the structure to be “duly summoned” or “marshaled.” This is why Apostolic succession is necessary to a church.

The Holy Spirit, speaking with the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council referred to the Catholic Church as the “universal sacrament of salvation,” Lumen Gentium, 48; Ad Gentes, 1 & 5. If this is to be honored, we must be careful about the integrity of the sacrament, as it is needed to convey invisible grace (the very “life of God”) under visible signs. Without Apostolic succession, the minister needed to effect the sacrament is lacking – that is there is no validly ordained Bishop around which a church can be called.

To confuse an ontologically real church with a group of people who merely acts as though they were a church would be to allow materialistic or pragmatic standards to obscure the supernatural order. Ultimately, this would be to confuse what is done for Christ, or in imitation of Him, with things done by Him. This would easily lead to losing one’s grasp of who Christ Jesus is – which would be a tragedy for all who rely on the Church, the Body of Christ on earth, to save them; that is, it would be a tragedy for everyone who hopes to be saved at all.

If anyone outside of the Church has hope of being saved, it relies on the Church continuing to do her work in effecting Christ’s salvation of the world.

Spiritus Sapientiae nobiscum.

John Hiner


#8

It is possible to learn to break the habit and start using the correct terms, “So your a member of the Lutheran Faith.”, instead of “So your a member of the Lutheran church.” You can ask where do you worship? Where do you attend Sunday services? Instead of “Where do you go to church?”


#9

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