I’ll probably need to unpack that title a little. I was hired, as the minister, to give away the church I serve. It’s not that the congregation doesn’t want it anymore – it’s that they’ve gotten quite small in number – small enough, in fact, that “common” sense would ordinarily dictate closing down and moving in with another church. There’s only basic problem with that – this is the only church found within the community and it’s located close to the center of this particular neighborhood in Schenectady. So, I have been charged with inviting in a whole new congregation who would adopt the church as their own and, in the process be adopted by the current members as heirs of the church. The basic scenario looks like this: Continue reading ‘Any Ideas on Giving Away a Church?’
Archive for January, 2009
Several year’s ago, after finally giving my heart to Christ, I asked several people the question, “Okay, now what?” I had no idea what it meant to be a Christian, and little background from my early childhood from which to cull an answer. Almost everyone, including several clergy, suggested I read the Gospel of John, followed by Matthew, Mark and then Acts. What was it about Luke’s Gospel that prompted people to omit it from a new Christian’s reading list? Historically, Luke hasn’t been a favorite Gospel, which, for me at least, prompts the question, “What does it say that might be uncomfortable to the church hierarchy?” Luke’s Jesus, it seems, was an advocate of social justice, a vehement critic of religious authorities and a harsh judge of the people who rejected God’s “true” ministry. Continue reading ‘Luke’s Jesus’
Author Howard Friend, in his book Recovering the Sacred Center, recommends the exercise of describing the church as persons – complete with identities, stories and histories. When I was reflecting on that some time back, this scripture and poem came to mind.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone …” Continue reading ‘Reflection on Being Like a Child – Matthew 18:1-6’
Tags: bias, biblical authority, Christ, Christian, Church, conflict resolution, Ethics, Faith, Feminist theology, God, IMAGE OF GOD, inclusive, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Liberation theology, oppression, PC(USA), Progressive, Theology
I will resist the urge to recap the arguments so far. They are here, after all, to find and read in the first four parts. In this section I want to speak of why this topic is important in the first place. Nothing like waiting until the end to do that, is there? Ultimately, what I have to say on this will be based on two central beliefs.
(i) As long as it falls short of idolatry, the image that each of us has of God can serve be valuable for our faith lives. It is one thing to say, “I find an affinity with a male or female image of God that informs my personal spiritual journey,” and a whole different thing to say, “God is male – to say otherwise is blashemy, a sin or whatever.” We have a right to envision God in the way that is most comfortable to us, as long as we remain cognizant of the fact that it is just an image.
(ii) When it comes to public worship or study, however, our personal image of God needs to be left at the door. In this situation, we may be responsible not just for our own spirituality, but that of others as well. To formalize or otherwise restrict public worship and theology to that of our own is to reach the point of idolizing our own rationality, or irrationality as the case may be. Continue reading ‘God as Mother – Innocence Lost (Part 5)’
EMASCULATION OR UN-MASCULINIZATION OF GOD
Opponents of inclusive imagery and language about God often claim it is bordering on blasphemy, with a significant number of those making the case being women. Proponents cite myriad reasons for its legitimacy. For now, let’s begin by looking at the arguments for the masculine image of God, so we can determine what’s at stake in changing our approach.
Except for Mormons, many who believe there is a God-mother beside the God-father, and some non-trinitarian sects, most adherents of Christians sects believe that the totality of God is wrapped up in the trinitarian formula, “Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Spirit).” To change that formulation, many think, is to attack the very nature of God and to lead people away from the “true” God. Besides the fact that God does not need protecting, on which I hope we would all agree, then what is in need of protection is a tenet of faith – a dogma – a way of understanding God. The way in which we speak of God does not change who and what God is. The tenacity with which people hold onto specific images prompts us to ask, “What is really at stake?” Continue reading ‘God as Mother – Masculinity Lost? (Part 4)’
Pastoral care in spiritual abuse
Most of the authors, again, describe two distinct groups – those that abuse and those that are abused. While the majority discuss pastoral or secular care for the victims, little is said about the perpetrators of spiritual abuse. Arterburn and Felton, however, seemed to acknowledge the brokenness and victimization of all the participants by providing a short section, after each description, labeled “Hope for the …”. While differences can be distinguished with regard to aggression, intentionality and, to some extent morality, each of the players who stay in an errant or sick religious environment, without trying to change it, can be viewed as victims in need of recovery and redemption. Care should be taken, however, to avoid excusing aberrant behavior, since that can lead to freeing the victimizers from the obligation or duty to recognize and change their abusive patterns.
The others players in the ‘game’ of spiritual abuse
Most of the authors researched consider the remaining players to be persons addicted to a toxic or sick religious system, generally assuming that healthy members would be aware of the problems and leave to find a more nurturing environment. While not all are directly involved in the abusive behavior, all people remaining within the system and choosing not to seek change are, to varying extents, complicit in the illness of the church. Various terms were used to name these people – victims, religious addicts and scapegoats being the most common.