The Future Church

Bishop William McGrattan spoke about the future of the Catholic Church at Theology on Tap on January 10, 2011. Referring to John Allen's book The Future Church, he presented Pentecostalism as an important trend that will challenge and change the Church. 

Pentecostalism is the second largest subgroup of Christianity with 430 million adherents worldwide.  It teaches that each person can be divinely inspired and can and should take on pastoral responsibilities. Their zeal can be seen in their working lives and political opinions.  In contrast, within Catholicism there is a clear division between laypeople and the ordained ministry as defined by requirements of celibacy, poverty, obedience, completion of theological studies at a seminary, and the Sacrament of Holy Orders. 

Whereas Catholics value the tradition of Church teaching and unity within the communion of the faithful; Pentecostals can be more independent, forming autonomous churches wherever they find support. Pentecostalism is growing in many developing countries.  Many adherents are baptized but otherwise uncatechized Catholics who prefer what they experience as Pentecostal personalism, perfectionistic morality, technologicalism, and decentralization.

There are elements common to both Catholics and Pentacostals (reverence for scripture, emphasis on the possibility of divine inspiration, care for one another, sexual morality, sanctity of family life). It is important for Catholics and Pentecostals to work together in the service of Christ. However some elements of Pentecostal teaching, eg, the prosperity gospel, diverge from Catholic teaching which recognizes God’s special love for the poor. Catholics who know the teachings of the Church can provide explanations of core beliefs which are sometimes misunderstood by non-Catholics. Horizontal ecumenicism involving conversation amongst the laity of both groups, as well as political ecumenicism that can help solve problems on a larger scale are desireable possibilities. The rise of Pentecostalism represents an important opportunity for Catholics to work with Pentecostals in ministry to the "Nones" - people who have no religious beliefs. The success of evangelization depends upon Christian groups setting an example by being gentle and respectful towards each other as they proclaim the message of God’s love.

By a Theology on Tap Volunteer