There’s been some interesting talk recently that I’ve only half been able to follow: Christopher had something on the Daily Office as the core of a new way of doing Church, and on what mission could look like in his area which was a riff on what LutherPunk was talking about here in a look at the practical issues of growing a community.
Add into the mix Andrew Gern’s piece yesterday at the Cafe on the Mainlines and the recent Pew Report…
It’s clear we’ve got a problem. And by “we” I mean people in churches, people who call themselves Christians, people who care about encountering God and helping others find the same God.
I like the notion in Gerns’s piece that we have to have a sense of who we are and that we have to be open at the same time. I certainly have a vision for what that should look like—and I doubt it will be a surprise to anyone. I also get a liitle nervous when we start using marketing language because of its connotations of manipulation. Our marketing vision has to match with what others see when they encounter us; if the marketing vision doesn’t have integrity and authenticity, it will be obvious and all the work in the world won’t fix the credibility gap.
Who do I see the Episcopal Church being? I see us as a community that understands the search for God as pre-eminently rooted in the corporate liturgical cycles of Mass and Office and in the theologies of those texts.
Furthermore, I see us not just holding those boundaries but encouraging play within them. That is, we are a people who accept the scientific study of Scripture as well as the scientific study of the universe in all its splendor. We firmly believe that we need not be afraid of the answers and new questions we find, knowing that faith seeking understanding is a better path than either understanding seeking faith or faith hiding from understanding.
In many ways I think we fail on both counts. We don’t do full justice to our heritage of worshiping God in the beauty of holiness nor—as was taken up after the rant yesterday—are our clergy and people as rooted in the traditions, liturgies, and Scriptures of our church as I would wish them to be. These are the groundings that making the second part possible and fruitful. Faith must be our starting place—only then does the understanding have a framework within which to fit. Recognizing the proper place of understanding is one of our current problems–personified by Spong and his approach which is to say if there is any potential conflict between a scientific worldview and a traditional Christian worldview, the scientific wins. That’s not right either.
There’s a lot to be said for recognizing that all of our worldviews are just that—models that we use to function constructively on a day-by-day basis. What some seem to find so hard to understand is that a scientific worldview is not scientific fact, rather it is a construct based on a host of facts, theories, and assumptions that proceed from a scientific understanding of the universe. As such, I suggest we wear our models lightly and recognize that we live in the midst of several, and not require that we force resolution between them.
(I might add that when we talk about worldviews, Scripture itself contains not one but several, some that are compatible with one another and some that conflict more or less violently. Ditto for Christianity throughout the centuries…)
So that’s my vision for us. We need to be the church that worships God in the beauty of holiness and that encourages dialogue between the worlds of faith, science, and technology. To get there we need to work on our beauty, and our holiness, and our groundedness.