Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ouch of the day.

The Church is dying. Its structure and theology make no sense today and haven't for decades. Far from being innocuous, their outdated uselessness goes beyond a nostalgic irrelevance to purposeful insidiousness, not just taking up space, but monolithically standing in the way of the spirit. The dying Church impedes God's various attempts at theological and liturgical progress, obviates meaningful spiritual communication and change, and squanders the precious time of people desperately seeking nurture, affirmation, and God. (Chuck Meyer: Dying Church, Living God)

Someone posted this on a preaching list I subscribe to - and it made my blood run cold. Is this really where we are, do you think? Though I know Meyer's name, I've not read any of his writing and wonder where he comes from in the debate.

When I was clearing assorted diocesan hurdles en route to ordination, one of my interviewers asked me how I felt about signing up to work for a moribund institution...and I said, then, that I wasn't that fussed, as what mattered was that people were enabled to encounter and engage with God - and if the church had ceased to facilitate this, then it no longer had meaning, was indeed no longer truly church.
I'd still say that, but I wonder what declarations like Meyer's say for the faithful ministry of thousands of priests and ministers across the world.To my mind, our best efforts are expended on ministering to those "seeking nurture, affirmation and God" - whether they are part of our congregations or (almost more often) outside them. In my experience the church has largely provided an enabling structure for that ministry...it's clearly a long long way from being the whole answer, but is the church really more part of the problem than the solution?

5 comments:

marcella said...

People have been saying similar things almost since the Church as an institution began. Of course there's a lot of truth in what is said in the quote for now, just as there was in the quotes of the 1930s and 60s (I'm SURE I've read much the same as a quote in a Susan Howatch book), just as there was in the criticism of the Church during the Reformation, just as there was in Chaucer's time when he wrote about the good parson implying that there were plenty of bad ones, just as there were when St Paul found so much to comment on in the Church of his day. The institution isn't perfect, never was, never will be, but Jesus can work with the imperfect - he's used to it.

Songbird said...

I don't believe we're done for, but I do believe it's never a bad idea to do a little re-forming.

Mary Sue said...

Ok, so he says the Church is dying.

That's nice.

What's he doing to revive it?

Oh, nothing but whining about it? Ok, well then, he's not a real prophet. Real prophets always, always offer a way out, real prophets preach revival and renewal with the ruin. cf. Isaiah, Amos, even Hezekiah.

Wasn't there some Roman guy in Acts who was all, "Oh, don't worry about those followers of Christ, they'll be gone here in a generation or so."?

Sally said...

why are we so good at being critical- we speak too often of "The Church" as if we were not a part of it...let's be positive, Kathyrn like you I believe there is hope- if not I wouldn't be spending hours at lectures in Cambridge... ( I believe I'm following in your footsteps there!).
Peace and blessings...

Happy said...

There is definitely hope. As I read your post today, I asked God, "Is it true? Is she dying, your Bride?" And He said absolutely not.

I'm reminded of this time when I heard a prophet/missionary teach at a Vineyard church in Indiana, over 12 years ago, I think - he had actually prayed for someone to be raised from the dead - but it took about 6 hours of fervent prayer before it happened. (I'm not sure I would keep praying past the 1st hour, but he was in high stakes circumstances - the witch doctor in the village basically told him to prove God existed or die, and the proof he asked for was the resurrection of the dead.)

Now I'm sure the guy was actually dead and that God did raise him, and I KNOW that He did that with Jesus, so even IF the Church was dying (which some say she is) God can certainly do something about it. HE'S not apt to show up to the marriage feast without His Bride, I don't think.

So what remains, maybe, is simply that the organization we call the church is in need of, as usual, re-forming - and that those parts of the Bride that ARE exhibiting signs of death, rather than being symptomatic of the whole Church dying, are simply the branches Christ talked about in the parable of the vine and the branches. Those that don't bear fruit aren't ultimately going to be kept - but those that DO - oh! :)

I am also reminded of a scene from one of my generation's most popular movies on this side of the Pond - "The Princess Bride." They bring the main character to Miracle Max, thinking he's dead, and Max says, "He's not dead. He's only mostly dead. And mostly dead is slightly alive."

I think the Church is more than slightly alive. There are people added to her number every single day around the world. There is HOPE. And she has a King who is madly in love with her, and would fight - DID fight - to the death for her. And He won.