14Oct03

Hey again,

I was reflecting on a discussion I’ve had lately with Dennis and Jeff (who needs a blog!) re: the article on TheOoze by Jason Zahariades. And with Spencer coming to class on Weds. i read an article by him it deals with some of the same themes as the other one, but in a bit more introspective, reflective (looking back) way.

In both articles and in much emerging church stuff, I think there is a great tension being bandied (is that a word?) about. There seems to be a great struggle, not unlike previous epochs in church history – ala 16th C. reformation, 18th C. great awakening, between reforming the existing structures of church and re-birthing church in new forms. The reality is that both happen. While the “re-birthers” tend to view that only church planting is the way to re-design the church, the “reformers” (in the grammatical sense, not the 16th C. historical sense) have also come to new ways of envisioning the church.

I find myself more in the “re-birthers” camp, I wish for the “re-forming” of the established/institutional churches, but I don’t have much hope. that’s my problem. i think of the Catholic church following the Reformation (historically-speaking) and know that there was what (we Protestants call the) Counter-Reformation. In the 18th C. the Evangelical spirit of the Wesleys and others eventually did spill over into the Church of England.

I’m still convinced that church planting is a more effective means of propagating the gospel and that we desperately need to re-envision how we “do” and “are” church in our postmodern context. Part of that re-envisioning may call for a season of Holy Saturdays (that day between Good Friday and Easter). It’s a liminal time of transition, of now and not yet, of uncertainity and ambiguity. An exile time in a way. I think that this can be an incredibly healing time of re-focus and re-formation if it is approached with a spirit of openness and grace.

At the same time, there is a sense in which we mustn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. There is a need to dig in deep with a group of believers and work out this thing called community, to experience authentic worship, the like. The question, I think, becomes where/how do we make that decision? When is it time to abandon our “standard operating procedure” and strike out for higher ground? When is it time confess that the grass is NOT greener on the other side and we committ to live out our faith (and work out our salvation), with fear and trembling, together in the place where we are planted?

To answer this tension/question requires GREAT discernment and caution. There are certain things that are, I believe, intrinsic about the American conception of church that are fundamentally flawed (individualism for example, which is, by the way, also prevalant in Jason’s article), but what church does not have flaws? I guess a follow-up question becomes, when do those flaws become such that we must discard/discredit that way of being church? That may sound harsh, but we have done it over and over again in church history. Which is part of the problem, as much as it may be part of the solution!

This is the very issue at stake presently for the Episcopal/Anglican church. Does/should homosexuality split the church? Is it an irreconcilable flaw that cannot be tolerated? I, while fully affirming the sanctity of marriage and my understanding of Scripture and God’s design to be that heterosexual unions in the context of a covenant marriage are what God prefers, am not entirely convinced that the church should split on the matter. Can we live with this ambiguity and difference of opinion in the same house? Maybe we can, maybe we can’t….. I’m don’t really know! Much to think about!

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