Mic’d Up—What Is ALPHA?

News: Education
by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 29, 2016   

ALPHA casts a wide net — but does it catch anything?

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By Peter O'Dwyer


There has been a slew of "hip" catechetical programs that have taken the Catholic world, but none of them have attained the success of a movement known as ALPHA.

ALPHA has been introduced to thousands of Catholic parishes in 70 countries. Despite its widespread use in the Church, it turns out ALPHA isn't even Catholic; it's protestant top-to-bottom.

ALPHA has its origins in Evangelical Anglicanism, but is now widely used by many denominations. It started in the late 1970s by London curate Charles Marnham. In 1990, Anglican cleric Nicky Gumbel took over the program, and it began to grow rapidly.

ALPHA consists of a meal, a talk, and then small-group discussions. Over the course of 10 weeks, the program purports to teach the "basics of Christianity."

The program is designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and thus many of the fundamental teachings of numerous Christian groups are dropped. This leads to a vague experience. Core Catholic tenets like the sacraments, ecclesiology and the Blessed Virgin are omitted so as not to offend protestants. Being of protestant origin, ALPHA for Catholics has to include an appendix to add on all the Catholic teachings that are left out of the "basics."

ALPHA falls short particularly with regard to sin and redemption. This leaves a major weakness in its program, as Christ's purpose in coming and His death and resurrection is not adequately explained. The program has also come under fire for its charismatic slant.

With excellent Catholic catechetical programs like the Marian Catechists, it's an open question why so many dioceses prefer ALPHA. Since it's used by such a wide variety of Protestants, it has been suggested it's an ecumenical ploy.

ALPHA, interestingly enough, receives intense criticism from some protestant groups for its affiliation with the Catholic Church, which they claim damages its value as an ecumenical tool.

Although parishes are hoping ALPHA will help teach the Faith and stem the hemorrhaging of Catholics from the Faith, its watered-down, protestantized program is unlikely to do so. Rather than leading people into the depths of Catholic understanding, it is a primer to lead people into Protestant denominations. As long as the hierarchy embraces these programs and ignores the rich catechesis available, the bleeding will continue.


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