By David Dombrowski
Chief Editor of Lighthouse Trails Publishing
As one of the editors of Chris Lawson’s new book, Taizé—A Community and Worship: An Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?, I was asked if I would write the foreword because I have a very curious history with Taizé in France. No, I have never been there, and what little I knew of it had nearly been forgotten when Chris Lawson’s book came across my desk. And yet, in an indirect way, Taizé has had a major impact on my life.
Before I explain all this, let me use an analogy of what transpired. In some ways, my life as a Christian has been like a battleground, but in my younger years, I was never too anxious to fight. Often, I was one of many who stood on the sidelines and just observed. But I’ve learned that this is not really a safe place to be; and when it comes to Taizé, I got caught in the crossfire.
Yes, I am a casualty to Taizé, but at the time, I did not realize from whence that flaming missile came. After reading this book by Chris, I now understand.
Let me share some memories of what happened. Having been raised Roman Catholic and entering my twenties, I was very familiar with what I would later realize as the bondage of Roman Catholicism—bondage to guilt, bondage to sinful habits and attitudes, but most especially, bondage to a false gospel of salvation (i.e., through participation of sacraments and good works).
When I was drafted into the U.S. Army at twenty years old, I experienced a spiritual crisis, and through meeting a born-again Christian fellow soldier and reading the Bible, I came to understand justification by grace through faith and of being born of God’s Spirit. I surrendered my life to the Lord as He captivated my heart and my life.
After this, I had a burning desire to serve the Lord for the rest of my life—in no matter what capacity God called me to. After my time in the service ended, an opportunity arose for me to join a Christian community composed of a group of Christians who served the Lord together. I wanted this because I felt I could serve the Lord better by working with other Christians rather than trying to serve the Lord alone.
I became an integral part of this community after getting to know the elder (second only to the senior elder) and meeting one of the members who had just returned from spending a year in France at a place called Taizé. He was very excited about his experience; but when he shared with me some of the “insights” he gained at Taizé (notably that doctrine was not important as long as there was unity), I expressed my concern that doctrine should be very important. He seemed offended with this and henceforth always distanced himself from me, but he and the elder I mentioned spent much time together in private discussions.
Fast-forward six years, for I had been with this Christian community for that length of time. The senior elder (who was also the founder) of the community had just been booted out. The other elder called it “discipline,” but as it turned out, he was never to come back. The elder, who largely headed up the disciplinary action, told the expelled senior elder he could return after he “repented,” but the fact is, our senior elder had nothing to repent of. You see, most of the leadership of the community had secretly conspired that all of us should become Catholic. Since the senior elder would not endorse such a move, they removed him. Eventually, they got rid of me too because I could not in good conscience go back to the Catholic Church.
During this time, a lot of upheaval took place whereby two of the married men were also kicked out of the community; in each case the wife and children stayed behind, the husbands never to see their wives again. The senior pastor (who had been expelled) had a married daughter with children, whom he never saw again; he died with a broken heart because of the estrangement from his daughter and grandchildren. Basically, this community had become a cult that had deceptively transformed itself from a loving Christian ministry into a Roman Catholic cloister.
Not long before I left the community, the elder, who had been conferring with the member who had been to Taizé, confided in me that becoming Catholic had been discussed privately years earlier. But the elder had told him and other members, “it’s not time yet!” As I read and helped edit this book on Taizé, I realized for the first time that Taizé had been perhaps the biggest catalyst in propelling the community I had once so dearly loved into Catholicism. When I learned that tens of thousands of young people go to Taizé every year, I knew we had no choice but to publish this warning.