Saturday, May 5, 2012

Where Charity and Love Prevail, there the Church is never found...

I have been reflecting a great deal lately on  the idea of church as a "big tent." It is true that we do not often get along. Theological issues, social issues, our own issues, and a whole host of other things divide us. Yet, paradoxically, we believe in a faith that says "so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." How did we get to this state?

Well, Christianity does not have a stellar history of inclusion and welcoming. We frequently find even the most minute reasons to hate each other. This rant is directed more at social issues than theological ones. Let me be clear: there are some unique theological issues that should and will divide us. A dear friend of mine, a Presbyterian pastor, said something to the effect of "our dialogue with each other in my denomination is now about such basic and long-accepted issues that it has become an interfaith dialogue." Depending on the severity of the issues, at this point we should likely part ways as friends and Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

No, my rant here is more devoted towards social issues. The first schisms were mainly the conservatives of many denominations. At the ordination of women, the inclusion of gays and lesbians,  and even interracial issues some people parted ways. This is most unfortunate, as they still had a story to tell and things to contribute. They left often hegemonic groups that had little or no diversity--what challenges and growth can come when you surround yourself with those that are just like you?

However, the conservatives are not completely to blame. The more liberal camp then made things intolerable. Without a strong voice against some of their plans, they began to steamroll over the opinions and thoughts of others. You must accept women's ordination or you must accept gay marriage... This, too, is as uncompromising as the views of their opponents. They alienated those that were left and made them out to be neo-conservative fanatics. This is especially unfortunate.

This author, for one, celebrates alternative episcopal oversight, societies devoted to a certain liturgy, etc. It allows individuals who feel called to a particular direction to band together as a group and maintain their beliefs at which they arrived with a well-formed conscience. They should not be made to accept a woman priest or forced to celebrate a gay marriage. However, they should also respect if another group decides that this is their wish. Oh, but in a perfect world...