Dr David Carr & The Recurring Fashion of Roman Catholicism

When I was a student at university, all the cool people wore flares. No, I was not at university in the 1970s, but the late 1990s. Flared trousers, briefly, came back ‘in’. Teenagers nowadays like to wear skinny jeans- just like teenagers did in the early to mid-1980s. Fashion keeps repeating itself. If you buy a suit and keep it a couple of decades, it’ll soon look cool again. Theological fashions also keep recurring: ‘There is nothing new under the sun’. Protestants' love affair with Roman Catholicism is one of these recurring trends.

In the 1500s occurred the break with Rome. We call this the Reformation. Those objecting to Catholic teachings such as purgatory, the Mass, the Pope etc, became known as Protestants. So far, so good.

In the 1630s, however, the ‘Protestant’ Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, made Catholicism fashionable again. He insisted that Anglican clergymen wear surplices like Roman priests, and made ritual and ceremony more important than preaching the Bible. The puritans resisted this, fought a civil war against his patron the king, and gave both of them the sack (in more ways than one).

You can see a clip from the 1970 film Cromwell which illustrates this time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx27wa0SpN4

In the 1830s, a movement within the Church of England called the Oxford Movement (because of where it originated) or Tractarianism (because of the ‘tracts for the times’ its members wrote) began to yearn for the good old days of medieval Christianity. One of its advocates was a bright young thing called John Henry Newman. He started off as an evangelical but spent his life trying to make Anglican worship more elaborate and ‘catholic’. Before long, he’d converted to actual Catholicism and was promoted to Cardinal for his troubles. As a result of his and his colleagues’ endeavours, Anglican churches soon resembled Roman ones, with their incense, prayers to saints, adoration of Mary and use of statues. Trendy clergymen preferred to be addressed as ‘father’ and enjoyed wearing colourful robes during worship. To this day, certain parish churches are indistinguishable from their Roman Catholic counterparts.

I would suggest that a third wave of Catholic fashion is occurring in our own generation. Benny Hinn, the famous Pentecostal evangelist, regularly trumpets his meetings with the pope, and shows a clip of it on the opening credits to his TV shows. The people behind the Alpha Course are very pleased that Catholic churches are using it for evangelism. Hope 08 and the Churches Together groups are immensely proud of their work in ‘bringing together’ Catholic and Protestant.

Closer to home, a well-known pastor has made himself a ‘bishop-abbot’ and founded a Catholic style ‘Order’. David Carr was a big shot in Pentecostal circles before applying to join the predominantly Lancashire-based Free Methodist denomination. He’d founded his own cluster of large successful churches in Solihill in the Midlands. I’d heard him preach at Fulwood Free Methodist- his style was a little brash for me, but he was clearly a skilled communicator who seemed to have a real passion for Christ. He now styles himself The Right Reverend Dr David Carr OSL, the Bishop Abbot of The Order of St Leonard and the Bishop of Wroxall Abbey. Although the office of bishop is not exclusively Roman Catholic, abbots were abolished at the reformation (combining abbot and bishop is actually rather odd- medieval Catholics would have been puzzled by this). Why an evangelical pastor would assume a Roman Catholic-sounding title complete with coloured robes is beyond my comprehension. In October 2014, he even popped over to the Vatican to have a chat with the Pope (interestingly, the photos of this meeting seem to have been removed from the Order’s website). It’s fashionable, you see, to be on good terms with Rome.

For copyright reasons, I will not show pictures of The Right Reverend Bishop-Abbot Doctor David Carr in all his finery, but here's a link to several contained on his brother's personal website: http://www.ajcarr.org/photos/gallery.php?gallery_id=2&pg=1

I have no problem with people who are Catholics. They are people of faith and I agree with much they stand for. But the claims of the Roman Church are simply wrong:

"Outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins. We declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff."

Unam Sanctum, Pope Boniface VIII

No. No. No. It may be fashionable to praise the pope, be ecumenical, and give one’s self Roman Catholic titles. But while I’ve blood in my veins and a Bible in my hand, I’ll avoid this fashion. ‘They think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation’, says Peter. The Order of St Leonard’s website cites Genesis 26 (NKJV) ‘Re-open the old wells and call them by the names that they were previously known’ as some justification for skipping the Reformation. Some wells, whose water stank and bred corruption, are not worth re-opening.