Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Call to End Clericalisation

This quote from Peter Leithart is an interesting (and convicting) assertion that today’s Evangelical worship is more akin to medieval worship than reformational worship.
Nearly every non-Anglican evangelical church I have worshipped in uses a form more akin to medieval Catholic worship than to Reformation worship. True, worship is conducted in the vernacular and when the Supper is served it is served to every communing member. In other ways, however, much of evangelical worship is pure medievalism, with active clergy and passive congregation. The congregation does not bow or raise its hands; the people never pray audibly, rarely if ever saying the Lord’s Prayer; the congregation frequently does not say a creed; there are no responsive readings of the Psalms or corporate readings of other portions of Scripture. On most Sundays, the congregation watches, listens, and the only active participation is singing a few hymns. Apart from singing, the only voice that is heard is the minister’s. . . .

The typical evangelical service is not Reformation worship; it is in important respects closer to the medieval abuses that the Reformers spent themselves to change. Reforming worship demands an end to the clericalisation of evangelical worship and a new emphasis on congregational participation.
Peter Leithart, “Transforming Worship,” Foundations 38:31

1 comment:

Brian Bailey said...

I think there's a lot of truth in Leithart's comments. Others in the evangelical world have made similar observations.

One of our default modes as humans seems to be the spectator role. It seems to me, therefore, that corporate worship is something that needs to be taught, and we need regular reminders about why we're there.

One of my concerns, alluded to in Scott's original post, is how little scripture is heard or used in worship in some of our evangelical churches. We should compare ourselves with the Roman Catholics and other liturgical traditions, many of whom read a passage from the OT, the Psalms (which might be sung/read corporately), a NT epistle, and the gospels every Sunday. Plus there is a lot of scripture built into the liturgy. Many evangelicals are surprised to learn that a Roman Catholic service often contains more scripture than a service at their own churches.

I agree, however, that listening to a sermon is an act of worship. And we can also worship "through" the offering of a choir, a soloist, or even of instrumental music. And to an extent, aren't we also worshipping by simply "being there," as opposed to elsewhere?

Well, enough rambling...

--Brian