Posted March 25, 2019
This editorial is written by Prof. Barry Gritters and will be published in the March 15, 2019 issue of the Standard Bearer.
How could any Protestant go ‘home’ to Rome?
One year ago, I reported that many Protestants are ready to “cross the Tiber” into Roman Catholicism. The expression “crossing the Tiber” refers to fording the river that runs alongside Rome, symbolic of the barrier between Rome and Protestants. With grief, I had to report that even leaders in our mother church are talking about making the crossing.1 Some church leaders are sending not-so-subtle messages to members: It is permissible, and probably time, to unite with the Catholic Church. One Calvin Seminary faculty member wrote that Protestants and Catholics are “pilgrims on the same journey, serving one Lord with one faith” who “will come nearer to their goal if they walk together than if they walk separately.” If I had not read his words with my own eyes, I would have been disbelieving of such a report.
The campaign to bring Protestants (‘Evangelicals’) into Rome gained momentum from a 1995 project called ECT—Evangelicals and Catholics Together. ECT is an ad hoc committee that in 1995 published a major document, signed by influential Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders, expressing agreement in fundamental areas of doctrine and voicing commitment not to proselytize one another’s members. Since 1995, ECT has published at least nine more statements of unity in faith. Protestantism’s friendliness with Rome, however, has far deeper roots (down to the early 1900s) and a much wider reach than ECT (extending broadly into Protestantism).
In the year since I wrote that editorial, no other alarms have been raised about this movement. The silence in church magazines of conservative Protestantism is grievous. The original pushback in a few good books has seemed to end. A smattering of Internet articles speak out against it, but even these are not from the sources we would hope—Reformed and Presbyterian churches.2
Members of denominations whose leaders support this move to Rome ought to be up in arms. In churches that are silent, Christians ought to ask their leaders why no warnings are issued. Readers who have relatives and friends in denominations that lean toward Rome should equip them with good information, so they can take the action God requires of them: protest the leanings or leave those churches, for the salvation of their generations. Those inclined to join such a denomination where the children are not inoculated against false doctrine may be warned.
This is their warning, given in love for their souls: To go to Rome is to lose the gospel. There is no good news in Rome. In order to join Rome, those churches that call themselves Protestant must abandon the truth for which our fathers died and on account of which they left Rome. By definition, Protestants protest. Their protest was against Rome. By courting Rome, these Protestants abandon Protestantism.
How could it happen that churches so radically different historically could consider each other of the same faith and on the same journey?