Stability First

Unlearning Protestantism
Sustaining Christian Community in an Unstable Age
Gerald W. Schlabach
Brazos Press, $28.99, 288 pp.

The title of Gerald W. Schlabach’s new book, Unlearning Protestantism, makes it sound more provocative than it really is. In a time when it’s become common for Christians to switch from one church or denomination to another, Schlabach urges stability, understood as a dogged loyalty that “keeps us together even when we’re pissed off at each other.” He considers stability part of “the genius of the Catholic tradition.” It is, he thinks, a quality that Catholics take for granted and Protestants need to learn. He mentions more than once Dorothy Day’s famous judgment, with its echo of St. Peter’s question: “As to the church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.”

Schlabach has gradually come to agree with that judgment. As a young Mennonite, he went to Notre Dame to study theology and became a Benedictine Oblate in 1997. Later he cofounded a grassroots movement of Mennonites and Catholics called Bridgefolk. Finally, in 2004 he entered into full communion with the Catholic Church, though his wife, Joetta, remains a Mennonite (see his Commonweal article “You Converted to What?” June 1, 2007). He says he became a Catholic because it is now as possible “to be a Mennonite Catholic as it is to be a Franciscan or a Benedictine or a Salesian Catholic.”

Unlearning Protestantism...

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About the Author

William L. Portier is the Mary Ann Spearin Chair of Catholic Theology at the University of Dayton.