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John Zamkhomang Munluo wrote:

Hi Mike,

There is a Protestant Fellowship, though they also refer to themselves as interdenominational, called New Life Fellowship branch in Gurgaon where I stay. They gather for worship service on Saturday and Sunday evenings and Sunday mornings in a hotel hall since they don't have a church building yet.

I have attended a few of their services, enjoy it, and get spiritually inspired from the Praise and Worship and from good sermons preached by different pastors. The pastor in charge and his wife are very friendly to me.

Now my questions are:

  • Can I continue going to the fellowship service while fulfilling my self-appointed choirmaster's job in my parish church?
  • Should I inform my parish priest about my new-found fellowship?

Please help me and advice me.

God bless you.

Yours in Christ,

John Zamkhomang Munluo

  { Can I continue going to the Protestant fellowship service while attending my Catholic parish? }

Mike replied:

Hi John,

I would be concerned about two things:

  • the message you are sending and
  • the teaching you are receiving.

You said:

  • Can I continue going to the fellowship service while fulfilling my self-appointed choirmaster's job in my parish church.

Not if you believe in the teachings of the Church you are attending as a choirmaster. Either you are in a Common Union with the Catholic Church and Catholic teachings or you aren't.

As my colleague Eric said in another posting:

It's all tied up in unity. St. Paul says that the Eucharist makes us one body.
(1 Corinthians 10:17) In a sense it is a sacred family bond; it both expresses and makes us family with one another.

Historically, the Eucharist has been the way that churches expressed such a deep union with one another that they could be considered one church. To separate a group of churches (or people) from the Church due to heresy or disobedience was called excommunication, denying them communion. To be in communion with one another means that two churches are so united that they acknowledge the same essential beliefs and the same leadership. This is the way the Church worked from its inception up to the Protestant Reformation. The word communion has the word union in it which implies a unity between the person and the Church. If you do not believe what we believe, you are not in full union with us, and have no right to receive communion.

So, for a Christian to come into a Catholic Church and receive communion would be like going into someone's house and helping oneself to what's in the refrigerator, or inviting oneself to the dinner table. Unless you're part of the family (or have permission), it's not done. When you enter someone's house, you follow their rules. If they invite you to share in the life of their family in a certain way, then great. If not, you respect their desires.

You said:

  • Should I inform my parish priest about my new-found fellowship?

Sure! I would also share with your pastor what you find appealing about their group and ask if it is possible to start your own Catholic Bible Study in your parish.

If you truly believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church, I would make it clear to your New Life Fellowship friends that although you feel blessed to have a good friendship with them, because their group was not founded by Jesus, like the Catholic Church was, you have to question whether the pastors that preach there aren't the false teachers Jesus and St. Paul warned us about. (Matthew 24:24, Galatians 1:6-10, 2 Peter 2:1-3)

We do acknowledge and praise their efforts to spread the Gospel, in those areas where they agree with the Church, but to go further than that would be to give praise for a unity that doesn't exist.

Nevertheless, share with them your interest in faith-sharing and discussing with them:

  1. faith areas you agree on and
  2. faith areas you disagree on, in but hope you can better understand each other over time.

These similar postings address how I have replied to the general topic of going to Protestant Bible Studies — something I don't recommend Catholics do.

Take care,

Mike

Eric replied:

Hi, John —

Consistently attending a non-denominational church is not advisable, especially if you are not super well grounded in your faith. Your Catholic faith will be challenged, and appeals will be made to Scripture in favor of doctrines that contradict Catholicism. Now, Catholicism can withstand those charges and hold its own, but if you are not well equipped to answer them, you will find yourself slipping steadily away from the Catholic faith.

It's entirely possible you will respond well and be motivated to look into these things and learn to defend the Catholic faith and become a better Catholic for it. That is what happened to me when
I hung out in the Evangelical world but typically these things come out badly.

People end up leaving the Church because they find something that's so much more appealing than what they find in Catholicism. What we have to remember is that what matters is the Truth, not whether we feel good in a worship service.

Non-denominational Protestant churches are very appealing, I will grant you that.

I know: I attended one as a Catholic for several years. The fellowship is far better than you see in a Catholic Church. The service feels good. You see a lot more genuine Christian love, and have more opportunities to practice it. All of that makes it very tempting to leave the Catholic Church, or at least to imbibe Protestant doctrine.

Spend enough time around them and unconsciously you may start to think and believe like them. Then you may be led astray and abandon the Catholic faith entirely. Already it seems your heart is drawn to this group.

For these reasons, participating is not advisable, however, if you do opt to continue going,
do yourself a favor and study the Biblical basis for Catholicism. Study the history of the early Church, and remember what Venerable Cardinal Newman said:

To be immersed in history is to cease to be Protestant.

What these people believe was manifestly not believed by the early Christians (the first three centuries). These movements are of recent origin, and do not reflect historical Christianity, nor the Christianity of the Apostles. They claim to be based on New Testament Christianity, but they are mistaken.

What we believe, to a very large extent, can be proven to have been believed:

  • within the first three centuries of the Church
  • before Christianity was legalized
  • before the debates over whether Jesus was God
  • even before the contents of the Bible were settled.

People will tell you it was invented in the Middle Ages, but history shows differently.

Do yourself a favor and read some books about Catholic converts. Books such as:

Another good book to read is Catholic and Christian by Alan Schreck.

This explains why it is not at all contradictory to be both Catholic and Christian (contrary to what many Evangelicals will claim), and will give you a bit of introduction to the early Church Fathers (essential for understanding early Church history and doctrine).

Remember: Don't accept their doctrines, or what they say about Catholicism:

  • without challenging them
  • without investigating the Catholic side (use our site has as a help), or
  • looking within the context of history.

I took a significant detour myself into Evangelicalism, and after much study of the Bible and early Church writings, determined that Catholicism was the most Biblical faith, and returned to the faith.

I hope you don't go, but be prepared if you do, and Godspeed.

Eric Ewanco

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