The power of liturgy

Liturgy is the greatest single barrier to ecumenism. Church members look upon another tradition’s liturgy and shudder. “If I wanted to be a [Lutheran, Episcopalian, Baptist, etc.], I’d have joined a [Lutheran, Episcopal, Baptist, etc.] Church!” On the one hand, the presence of a familiar liturgy keeps men from departing, even in the face of a major shift in theology in the pulpit. The liberals in Presbyterianism and the other mainline churches could be confident that if they were careful to avoid the rhetoric of confrontation, their parishioners would rarely defect. Liturgy would keep them in their pews until death did them part. This proved to be the case. On the other hand, this very liturgical commitment has kept ecumenists from being able to consummate Church union except with other denominations with the same liturgical tradition. For example, the Presbyterians never succeeded in joining with the Episcopalians, although this was attempted. The Episcopalians would not “move down” liturgically. -Gary North, Crossed Fingers, Ch.14

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