30 April 2006

Believers who do not belong

Andrew the Tall Skinny Kiwi has written a post called Adventures in Hybridity in which he observes:

... In my annual "Postmodern Church Time Capsule" for 2001, I listed churchless believers as one of the significant trends. ...
the fact for many western, post-christian countries is that about half or more than half of the believers DO NOT attend a church service on Sunday. As these people find new ways to connect to each other and share spiritual gifts, a new form of complex church is arising that is more complex than "emerging church" [as presented to us by MSM] We cannot therefore talk in binaries. ...

I am suggesting that the new hybrid of church for millions of Jesus followers is a complex aggregation of many occasions and meetings and meals and projects and happenings. It is a modular fashion of living out church in community but it is not a pure singular model. It does not resemble the inherited model but neither does it resemble what most people think of when they say "emerging church". It is a hybrid of both that can only be viewed correctly with this in mind.
I'm certainly one of the number. I have a full, active devotional life, nourished by community, taught by good pastors, and yet, for many reasons, I do not venture into any of the local churches. Besides my paid employment, my nattering here on occasion has been of value to my readers... it is one of my spiritual gifts to write the way I do. Do you think there would be a place for me in a local church? Of course not! I do not fall easily into any particular variety of Christian church today. I've studied most mainline denominations, and have some knowledge of those which are, um, a bit smaller (I am thinking of the Two Seed In the Spirit Predestinarian Baptists; while I do not subscribe to the distinctives of their confession, I just can't let go of that marvelous name!). But what brings me back to Jesus is Jesus, his words, his work, his presence in my heart and life and soul. I accept John 6 and all its implications; I will cheerfully and charitably go to the mat with anyone who wishes to debate the outrageous things Jesus said about himself in those passages. That belief led me to the Roman Catholic church in my youth. I learned a tremendous amount as I discovered its truth and history and teaching, but that was long before I actually joined it. The whole long sad saga of what transpired has been documented in previous posts. So, today, I love Benedict XVI and admire him beyond all words, and think he is God's gift to the world ... but I will not put myself in the spiritual care of the man he has permitted to preside over some of the most shameful behaviour ...

[deep cleansing breaths.]

In my immediate family, I share the Christian infusion of thought and learning and music and goodness from Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Roman Catholics and Christian Scientists, all devout, all thinkers, and all cooperating to make a family. Perhaps it is this mélange of faith expressions which has led to the emerging church phenomenon. Whatever it is, it is wonderful for me, because it has saved me from bitterness and loss and isolation, giving me instead a vibrant experience of knowing Jesus, learning and interacting with others who know and love him too.

In a way, it astonishes me that Andrew is writing about what I'd perceived in myself for some time... and, in another way, it doesn't. The Holy Spirit is weaving us Christians, who've been separated from one another, back together again.

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