In recent weeks, I have met with families who have asked me this similar question…why is it important to have Catholics and Protestants meet together in an educational endeavor? Even as I met with potential ‘host’ locations for our co-op, this was a question that was asked by priests and pastors alike. I guess I don’t think about it anymore, since we have been in a similar situation for years, but if I go back nine years in time, it was a pressing question in my own mind. A VERY pressing question. You see, my family and some of our family friends, considering going to Christiana Homeschool Academy 10 years ago, were wondering what it would be like to educate with those who didn’t have similar ‘doctrinal’ thinking. I guess, if truth be told, we were afraid our children would be influenced by differing theology and doctrine.
Of course, as we began our journey there, I was ‘watchful’ for anything amiss in theology, education, doctrine, and even in Biblical interpretation. I was concerned that teachers in the classroom would try to convert my children or sway them to think about subject matter in a certain way. However, the founders of CHA (both Protestant and Catholic) had thought this through quite well. As a teacher, I had to agree to NOT try to convert children to my own denomination or to impose my theological bias in the classroom. This is fairly easy in the ‘grammar’ and ‘logic’ stages of learning in the Classical Education Model. We seek to tell the story, to provide factual information and to teach the building blocks of the subject. Where this gets tricky is in the ‘Rhetoric’ stage of learning…maybe 7th/8th grade through 12th grade. This is where students want to ask questions and argue. So, there is a delicate balance of presenting material and then helping students to have a discussion about those ideas. BUT, this can be SO exciting to see students REALLY jumping into the material. Good teachers will help students to present their ideas BUT will also help students to research them, ask good questions and appropriately debate.
Let me give you an example. As a Protestant, I never questioned the likes of Martin Luther, John Calvin and other reformers. But I had never really studied the Reformation well…what led the Reformers to the point where they wanted to break away from the established Church? Our first year at this ecumenical co-op, my son was in 11th grade (Reformation Era history) and was in a class with a Methodist preacher’s daughter, 4 Catholic students, a couple of Baptists, a Church of God member and a non-denominational Charismatic student. He was the only Presbyterian. But WOW, what amazing discussions the students had. Led by a well-trained Great Books teacher (Protestant, by the way), she made them dive into the history. What had been going on in the Catholic Church, why did Luther tack the 95 Thesis to a door, why did the church respond to him the way they did? Where did the other Reformers come into the picture? We learned a TON of church history that year. And we realized that the church that had been united for SO LONG took a major hit. You see, all of our history (Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and on and on) began in the Catholic Church and had been THE church for centuries. It is vitally important that we study ALL of church history, all the way back to Jesus telling Peter that He would lead the church, through the current day church. There is some ugly stuff in church history and we must ponder all of it. My son learned to debate that year and his faith strengthened. This kind of learning then prompted my children to study our own denomination’s history.
My other children also experienced this same kind of deep debate. But, at the end of the day, they embraced their friends, agreed there would be issues upon which they would disagree, and then went to the central piece of our faith, JESUS CHRIST, our savior and redeemer. They would praise God for what they DID agree on and rejoice in the salvation that had been given to them. So, as they have gone out into the world, they have gone, armed with knowledge, skill in debate and the ability to ‘acutely’ listen to people.
So, back to the original question? Why Catholic and Protestant believers together?
Well, if we sit in a room with like-minded people, where we rarely disagree, we may not be sharpened as much. But, if we are in a room with people who think a little differently than we do, AND we can learn how to listen and ask questions, it will push us to ‘study’ and to learn more. We come out of a situation like this better armed to have discussions with neighbors, friends and co-workers.
But a second reason to have Catholics and Protestants together is because we live in a severely divided world. We are divided on politics, education choices, gender, marriage equality, ethical issues…I could go on. It is my desire that we show the world one little place where we can come together. Can we show the world that, even though we disagree on some of our doctrine and theology, we love Jesus and we seek to make Him known? I think that this little community known as Frederick East Classical could be instrumental in showing that, even people who disagree, can come together for a purpose.
We have been at Christiana for nine years. And, in that whole time, no one has converted to the ‘other side.’ Instead, our children (and the parents!) have come out of this experience stronger in our own faith, theology and doctrine. And I have dear friends who are Catholic, and Protestant friends from many denominations. I have an appreciation and respect for these faithful women who love Jesus deeply.