When William Butler Yeats penned Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold in “The Second Coming” (1919), he could not have had in mind what would  be happening to The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the early years of the 21st Century.  Not only has TEC, one of the 27 autonomous Provinces of the world-wide Anglican Communion. begun to ordain homosexuals, lesbians and transgendered people to the ministry, it is now considering inviting the unbaptized to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  As one put it, we now live in a post-Christian culture where we have more visitors who are unbaptized.


There is something incoherent here which is parti-cularly unsettling, inasmuch as the statement came from the academic dean of a Seminary.


It is well within the memories of the living that only the Baptized and Confirmed were admitted to Com-munion, and some recall having to actually memorize the Catechism in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.  The current 1979 Prayer Book’s Catechism was deliberately written not to be memorized but dis-cussed.  Rote memorization was discredited by the educator John Dewey, with the result that while students applauded, a generation has grown up devoid of the satisfaction and pleasure of being able to summon up in one’s mature years those nuggets of beauty and wisdom that abide in the old Catechism and in the Literature that was embedded in our minds once upon a time.  But the “experts” tell us that education must be fun, pleasurable.  And so, apparently, must be the experience of unbaptized people who may wander into Episcopal churches. 


The nature of the Christian faith demands that the parish church be a friendly and welcoming place.  After all, the Church is a called out community – called out, that is, from a skeptical and unbelieving world, into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.


Yes, let the parish church be a fun place, but let it not be forgotten that its primary activities are the worship of Almighty God through Jesus Christ, as well as the instruction of the laity by way of Sermons and formal teaching.  Even the revisionist 1979 discussion-based Catechism might be used.  The laity is far from stupid and often highly trained in their respective fields, but in many cases only superficially educated in the essentials of the Christian faith.  Happily, they are eager to learn. 



  1. What’s worth learning by heart these days? « Fourcultures Says:

    […] worth learning by heart these days? I came across a recent blog post lamenting the loss of rote learning of the Catechism in the Episcopalian Church. It seemed a fairly […]

  2. fourcultures Says:

    I was provoked to comment on this issue of rote learning in my blog. Thanks!

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