Those of you who bother to read the comments on this blog will know that Ross recently flagged up this article and asked me what I thought about the claims that only the Catholic Church is the "proper church". So, let the debate begin.
My first reaction was that this is a bit of a pointless argument, and yet another distraction from the important, but simple truth of the Christian faith.
In essence, the Christian faith is based around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the acceptance of that as the way in which we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. As I have said many times before, belief in Jesus Christ is the key factor. We've all fallen short of God's standards, no matter how much of a 'good life' you arrogantly or otherwise believe yourself to lead. No amount of 'good deeds' can compensate for this. Equally, if you're prepared to turn back to God nothing is too bad to prevent you from being restored in a relationship with Him - consider the thief on the cross next to Jesus or the Parable of the Prodigal (Lost) Son.
Now of course, what you do and how you choose to live your life is still important. Christians generally try to live up to God's standards in the way in which we conduct or lives; partially out of love for God, and partially because faith without action doesn't say anything.
Does going to church, therefore, have a bearing here? I think going to church is vital - not because you'll burn in hell if you don't - but because it is important to meet and spend time with other Christians, and because it provides a good environment in which to worship God, to learn and be challenged and to pray, for the world and for others. Does it matter which church you go to, though? It's often been said that there is no such thing as a perfect church, and that is probably true. The important thing is that a church teaches and adheres to the Christian Gospel, and to God's teachings. Without such a baseline, it is - dare I say it - pointless. How are Christians meant to support one another in living out and sharing their faith if the church is not clear on what that faith is? Beyond that, whether you prefer to worship God in silence, with hymns, in an ornate building, in a 1960s hall, with incense or otherwise is really a case of personal preference.
What strikes me is that variations in style (and to a certain extent, teaching) are cross denomination. One might not always find every extreme in both Protestant and Anglican churches, but there is certainly a good cross-over. As alluded to in the article from The Times therefore, the issue raised by the document about the "proper church" really boils down to recognition of the authority of the Pope. Now maybe I'm wrong, but I thought Jesus said "I am The Way, The Truth and The Life" and "Believe in Him who sent me and you shall have eternal life". He didn't say "Believe in me and accept the authority of the Pope", so, in terms of what the Christian Gospel is really all about, it's a moot point.
So, there we go. A lengthy, but hopefully useful response.
If you want a further take on it, I thought this post from Dave Walker was brilliant.