Saturday, October 24, 2009

A foot in both camps...

It seems to me that the emerging church is emerging because people are finding the ability to have a grateful foot in both camps - one in the Tradition (the mother church) along with another foot inside of a support group that parallels, deepens, broadens, grounds, and personalizes the traditional message. But you don't throw out the traditional message, or you have to keep rebuilding the infrastructure or creating a superstructure all over again.

The emerging church becomes an accountability system for the Tradition, which is needed to keep us honest and not just lost in words. This is a new kind of reformation in which we don't react, we don't rebel, we don't start from zero again. You can't start a spiritual reformation by spinning wheels, particularly not angry wheels. You have to be for something - totally - or it is not religion.

And so the appropriate questions are: What are you in love with? What do you believe in? What is the heaven that you have already discovered? What good thing do you need to share? This is the only work of soul.

Richard Rohr, adapted from the CAC webcast, Nov. 8, 2008: “What is The Emerging Church?

This is a deeply Franciscan point of view that Rohr is expressing. St. Francis himself, born into a period when the church of his day was not in a good state, wasted no time in criticising either its leadership or its laity, but simply got on with following the Christ he loved as closely as he possibly could, collecting around him those who caught his vision of a truly radical life according to the actual Biblical teachings of Jesus, and lived in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, he did far more to rebuild the church than any of its critics and rebels like Frederick II.

In our day most of us cannot, or do not, aspire to Francis' purity of vision - but we can be faithful to the leading of the Holy Spirit; we can go back to the Gospels and fall in love again with the Son of the Living God who died to save us, and by whose mercy we have been set free; and we can try our honest best to live in the Light of Christ regardless of what may be said of us by those who are embarrassed by the truth.

I love this sense of having a foot in both camps. I simply cannot live any other way myself. I know there are plenty of friends of mine who find this habit slightly difficult. Some of my evangelical / charismatic friends find my devotion to our Lady, my (very) high view of the Eucharist, and so forth, deeply peculiar if not downright suspect. On the other hand, I have Anglo-Catholic friends who not only cannot understand my taste in worship music, but who find my (very) high view of the role of the Holy Spirit in the church in general and in prayer ministry in particular, deeply peculiar if not downright suspect. I don't think either group of friends readily understands the depth of my devotion to God's Word.

I can't help that. Here I stand, as Martin Luther is reported to have once said, and I can do no other. Actually I think it is terribly important that, like Brother Francis before us, we adamantly refuse to be recruited by any camp in opposition to any other. We have good precedent. Throughout the four Gospels we can find accounts of Jesus refusing to be recruited by the Pharisees, the Zealots, or anyone else who would gladly have called him "one of us", slipping away through the crowd anytime anyone tried to make him king (John 6:15).

We must keep a foot firmly, I'm coming to believe, in both camps - and we must, gently but firmly, resist anyone who tells us that our views are internally contradictory, mutually incompatible, or any of that. We must go our own way, or rather Jesus' way, even when it costs us, as it cost him, dearly.

1 comment:

  1. A big fat, juicy Amen to that, Mike. I do find myself with a foot in two camps and, to a small extent perhaps, maligned for that. The important thing, as you point out, is to focus on Christ, on the Gospel. Now, I run out of feet with two camps, so may have to draw the line somewhere. ;)