One area I have spent a great deal of time studying over the past 10-12 years is that of the differences, and the originations, of various Christian denominations. Why? Well, first off I desired to select the Church I wanted to attend and be a part of- and I wanted to see what exactly different groups believed, and why. The other reason (since then) is that I believe learning about different churches combats ignorance, and this ignorance is rampant throughout much of the universal church here in the USA. There are so many generalizations and falsehoods that certain people, and denominations, believe about others. Much of it is because they do not actually know what is taught within those “other” church walls.
Is this prayer from your own Church?
On that note, here is a small test. The following prayer comes directly from an official publication and worship guide from one fairly large denomination. It is written in more of the Olde English vernacular and style, but nonetheless- I’d like to see if you can guess which denomination it is (the answer will be at the end of this column):
“O Gracious Father, we humbly beseech Thee for Thy Holy Catholic Church, that Thou wouldst be pleased to fill it with all truth in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Him who died and rose again and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord. Amen.”
Thoughts? Could it be from the Roman Catholic Church? Or maybe an Orthodox church? Or Methodist? Lutheran? Episcopalian?
Certainly Jesus did not want there to be dozens and dozens of “brands” or divisions of his true Church. But, I am certain that he knew that this would eventually be the case- for many reasons. Sometimes greed or the hunger for power can trap a man into believing certain things. Sometimes people just interpret the Scriptures incorrectly. There are many portions of the Bible which are not fully clear; they are somewhat of a mystery. Given this, it is up to us, followers of Christ, to determine what a verse or a doctrine truly means. In many cases that can lead to trouble. In some cases certain verses of the Bible are taken completely out of context and are used to put down and persecute a particular group of people. Some churches look to a high official, like a bishop, or a college of bishops or elders, to make those decisions and do the interpretations for them. In other denominations, more personal interpretations are encouraged. Who is right?
In the end, once you analyze the various denominations you will see that 90-95% of all of the critical beliefs are the same throughout. Over centuries, people have split over that remaining 5-10%. And of course in some cases there is power and money at stake as well. That is the human condition.
And the answer is….
The preceeding (formal) prayer is from the 1956 printing of the Book of Common Worship, from….. the (USA) Presbyterian Church- approved by their General Assembly. Was that your first choice? Is it odd that they reference the “Holy Catholic Church”, given that this Church- spawned from the Church of Scotland- was one of the very first reformed Churches upon the Protestant Reformation? It actually is not- as of course the Catholic Church is a reference to the “universal church”, and not specifically the Roman Catholic Church.
The point of this execise is to show that essentially any denomination could have published this prayer (and many other prayers and hymns). To that end, we Christian brothers and sisters are much more alike than often times we acknowledge.