We will soon enter the season of Advent culminating in the 12 days of Christmas leading to Epiphany. Like Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, our devotion is to Jesus Christ who we believe to be part of the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Unlike Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, we, as Protestants, give little devotion to who they call the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. As important as Jesus is, being the center of Christian faith, His mother takes a role second only to Him with most Christians in the world.

Why does Mary take an almost subservient role in Protestant Christianity (with 647 million members worldwide), when the overwhelmingly dominate Roman Catholic Church (1.1 billion members) and Christian Orthodox churches (300 million members), venerate her as the Blessed Virgin Mary?

According to the Rev. Dr. Donald Charles Lacy of Muncie, a retired Indiana United Methodist pastor and scholar about Mary, she continued to be the second most prominent person in Christianity at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation (begun 1517). The Virgin Mary as the Mother of God was part of Martin Luther’s (1483-1546), John Calvin’s (1509-1564) and many other reformation leaders’ faith.

“As Protestant faith gained strength and moved away from Catholicism, second and third generation Protestant leaders moved away from devotion to Mary. Yes, she is the mother of Jesus, but for the vast majority of Christians in the world, she also is venerated and called the Mother of God.”

For Lacy, if we, as Protestants in general and United Methodists in particular, would renew our historic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, such a move could act as a bridge to ecumenical union with the rest of the “one holy catholic (universal) and apostolic church” (referred to in the Nicene Creed found in the United Methodist Hymnal on page 880).

Even as far back as 1983, Lacy wrote, “It is devotion to the Blessed Mother that helps unite us as Christians. When Protestants lose their widespread hang-up that Roman Catholics have worshipped and do worship her, they can perceive by the power of the Holy Spirit an authentic ecumenism that calls us to be one.”

In a recent interview with Together, Lacy said, “United Methodists and Protestant Christians need to join their Catholic and Orthodox siblings in paying devotion to her – not worshipping her, but giving her the rightful place as second only to her Son.”


Lacy says and has said for four decades, “with the primacy of these two historic groups (Catholic and Orthodox), because of them coming directly from the wellsprings of the ancient Church of Christ and the Apostles and their special emphasis on the Blessed Virgin Mary for centuries, we have an ecumenical barrier to overcome.”

How important is it to overcome this barrier?

Lacy says, “To fulfill the ‘call to be one’ in the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel, we must look humbly and sincerely at her place among all those who profess the name of her Son. This is an imperative issue needing resolution for the sake of Christian unity in a world that desperately needs for us to be united to confront those who would destroy us and have the means to do so.”

When asked if we pay more attention to Mary, will our behavior strengthen our ecumenical ties to Catholicism and Orthodoxy? – Lacy said, “Yes.” He further said fragmented Christian faith is a concern in order to deal with other ideologies and theologies such as radical Islamic groups who are especially anti-Christian. That’s a compelling reason why Lacy believes this is an imperative issue.

Essays about Mary

In order to bring action to his desire for Christian unity through a more common practice of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Lacy has outlined seven areas he believes will go a long way in helping United Methodists achieve this imperative. These seven are listed in his chapter “Making the Blessed Virgin Mary an Imperative in Our Protestant Church: A Reflection by a Methodist,” chapter seven in the book Mary for the Love & Glory of God: Essays on Mary and Ecumenism edited by Maura Hearden and Virginia M. Kimball (AuthorHouse, Bloomington, Ind. 2011).

Those seven actions include:

  1. Putting aside wearisome academia and dull theology,
  2. Opening the door for mainline Protestants to catch a glimpse of Mary’s importance,
  3. Bringing Anglicans, Catholics and Orthodox Christians into our churches for presentations about Mary,
  4. Bringing the strongest female personage to the stage for Christ’s people,
  5. Elevating “our Blessed Mother’s” significance in Protestant churches,
  6. Bringing presentations about the Virgin Mary to civic groups, and
  7. Bringing Mary into partnership in the Faith as one leading others to her Son.

Lacy says, “Mary is a necessary and integral part of our theology and has nothing to do with worshipping her… She is part of our Christian faith, is a strong image of feminism and is only second to Jesus Christ in power and influence – her power comes from her holiness.”

For more information, visit www.esbvm.org. Readers can contact Dr. Lacy at DLacy33@msn.com. The book Mary for the Love & Glory of God is available at www.amazon.com.

“It is devotion to the Blessed Mother that helps unite us as Christians.”

– Donald Lacy