Presbyterian pastor Paul Andresen originally posted this entry in his blog There’s a Fat Man in the Bathtub with the Blues on April 3, 2012.
He allowed me to re-post it to my blog on the same day.
I am currently rereading the Rev. Ken Howard‘s Paradoxy, Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them. I am enjoying this read because it deals with what it means to persevere as a church during a time of schism. The second part of the book draws heavily on Howard’s experience as Rector of St. Nicholas Church since it became a parish (a permanent congregation) of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington in 2003. According to his page on the St. Nick’s website, “this book examines the dead-end conflict between conservative and liberal Christianity and proposes a new paradigm of Christian community intended to help church’s survive and thrive in the coming religious realiagmment. This new “Middle Way” is based in large part on the experiences of the St. Nicholas community.”
What strikes me today is what he writes about his experience at St. Nick’s, a congregation that he describes as “members who in terms of theology, run the gamut from those who gamely call themselves near-fundamentalists to those who would label themselves radically liberal.”
If we were to have any success with our exploration, we will have to be open-minded yet rigorous, confident yet self-critical, creative yet provisional. We will have to be open to the possibility that we all might be a little wrong, that our adversaries may be a little right, and that there will likely be surprises out there for all of us. We will need to open our hearts and minds to a newer and more expansive reality, and to what our friend C. S. Lewis called a “deeper magic.
“He then invites the reader to “enter the wardrobe” to see what we will “find on the other side.” To earnestly seek this “deeper magic” we need to go together.
Does this frustrate me that not everyone agrees with me? From time to time, it does. I imagine what others might consider “my personal heresies” frustrates them too. But what do I learn if the the church was filled with nothing but “Mini-Me?” Speaking for myself, I don’t need a church of people who think like me. I need people who do not think like I do so I can learn from them, and hopefully they from me.The greater truth is that what we share is more than what divides us. Let me say that again, what we share is more than what divides us.
As for my personal experience, one of my best friends from seminary and I deeply disagree on one of the touchstones of separation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), allowing congregations and Presbyteries the ability to consider gays and lesbians for ordination to the offices of Deacon and Elder. We disagree and we know it. We have tried to sway the other to no avail. We have even stopped trying because we know it is to no avail. So what keeps our personal and professional relationship in tact? Two things, a deep personal love and relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and love for one another as friends and colleagues.
This who I need in God’s Church–Christians, people who in the words of Luke 10:27 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” I need people who put this above all else.
In a time of schism, one part of the church chooses not to associate with another part of the church. It’s an ugly word, but then again it should be because of the pain and sorrow that are inseparable from it. In this time of schism, I hope that we will all take a moment before taking the last steps before separation. I hope we can all put our relationships with our Lord and with one another above all else. Let us put love of God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, before love of dogma. Let’s remember this begins at home and not with a mythical dreaded “them.”
Let us remember what it says in Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The day approaches, let us meet it together.
Quotes from “Paradoxy” are taken from page 100 of the print version.