Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pondering ... Adam and Shawn in Dialogue #11 ...


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To read Adam's Blog - including a recent sermon of his - click here.

Adam,

I'm left sitting on the steps, just outside of the square cast by the light from within the edifice we call "the United Church," and realizing that the heart of what you're proposing in both your most recent reply, and in your sermon is, in many respects the polar opposite to what is experienced by MANY in and around the United Church of Canada ... it is enough to make me weep ...

This past week I've had my 15 year old son come home from a memorial for a beautiful young woman who died long before her time ... her parents had taught my children over the last eight years ... I asked Noahkila how the service was and his reply was startling.

He said, "It was okay, but I'm curious dad. Why would the minister talk about sin in the middle of remembering someone like X?"

"Pardon?" I asked startled, though not surprised.

"Well ..." and he went on to give me his astute observation of the content of the service, that left him bewildered, angry and saying to me - "dad, if this is what Church is all about, it's why I don't want anything to do with it ..."

I was not at the service, and am not commenting on the content, but rather the IMPRESSION the service left on my son ... as a moment of evangelism - not as witnessing to the Gospel, but as a moment when the CONTENT of the Gospel is offered for people to consider and reflect upon, there is at least one 15 year old who is saying - "thanks but no ... this is NOT the God I chose to believe in ..." and with that he rejoins the 2.2 million - TWO MILLION and TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND Canadians who call themselves United Church, but no longer attend or support the United Church ...

My question remains - who will listen to the 2.2 MILLION United Church voices who are repeatedly offended and hurt and even repulsed by the 700 000 voices and their aging leadership IN the Church ???

This past week I've had a dozen people express their regret at seeing me OUTSIDE the Church despite their best efforts and support to have me remain ... this past week I've had contact with a dozen people who have been brutalized and hurt by the Church and who no longer feel welcome - the UNITED CHURCH ... this past week I've had a dozen people share with me the ways in which the SAME toxic dysfunction that claimed my ministry, my reputation and ultimately my life in community, have repeatedly ravaged them ...

The internet is a marvelous place ...

Yet in considering those people who have with some courage told me THEIR story, I can't help but lament the simple FACT that there is NO ONE in the United Church who cares a whit about them and their experiences ... they are no longer sitting in the light, so they no longer matter.

Oh, and it has been interesting to me, that if you go back over the comments offered here on my blog, and review the emails I've received directly, there is ONE clear consistent message and that message - one that you Adam may encounter later in your ministry as you move from one pastoral charge to another is simply this:

"You're gone now, let it go. The new minister will deal with it. It's no longer YOUR concern. Move on."

It's remarkably convenient isn't it??
The minister that was unwanted by a clear MINORITY, is sent packing so they can regain control and pretend all is well ... meanwhile the hurts and the long standing grievances remain ignored, overlooked and left to fester and BLEED ... and if one dares to say - "excuse me? what about ..." They are shut down and silenced by the wonderful procedures that have been crafted WITHIN the structure to MAINTAIN control ...

I am a firm believer in consensus. Not simple majority democracy, but consensus.

Consensus means if there is a LONE voice who remains unconvinced and hurt by the decision of the majority, a solution MUST BE SOUGHT. It means if one lesbian clergy person stands up and says - "I don't feel included or supported ..." the Church Court responds with something called PASTORAL CARE - not a majority rules vote that says - "oh, we looked at that and DECIDED that things are fine and YOU'RE wrong ..."

The majority voted to crucify a guy named Jesus ... didn't make it RIGHT.

The majority voted to stone a guy named Stephen ... didn't make it RIGHT.

The majority voted to do all manner of remarkably UN-Christlike things in the name of the Church from the Spanish Inquisition, to Salem, to the streets of Birmingham Alabama ... and it doesn't make the "official" ruling stand RIGHT.

Evangelism is at heart, the revelation of the Truth to the world.

Evangelism is about LIVING the Gospel in the world and seeking in ALL things the TRUTH!!

When we make the Gospel conditional we've failed in being evangelists, whether we are liberal or conservative ... Evangelism is indeed about inviting ALL people to partake at the table from Pope Benedict through to Bin Laden.

It's a radical and dangerous concept, and it scares those who are sitting comfortably in their pews, and extolling a milque toast message from their safe and secure pulpits ...

Evangelizing the Gospel is about celebrating the Apocalyptic Welcome that boldly proclaims a place INSIDE for the 2.2 MILLION United Church people who are no longer home ...

Evangelizing the Gospel is about celebrating the Apocalyptic Welcome that boldly proclaims a place INSIDE for the OTHER 27 MILLION Canadians who are NOT United Church ...

Evangelizing the Gospel is about celebrating the Apocalyptic Welcome that boldly proclaims a place INSIDE for EVERYONE from Bin Laden through to Bush ...

And that kind of evangelism scares the day lights out of those vested with the power and prestige, because it means a total loss of control, and it means they may well be called to task for their sins and mis-deeds ...

There is a REASON why the 2.2 million are no longer within the fold ... evangelism means hearing their story, and engaging their journey as we invite them back ...

If the United Church of Canada is to survive, it must confront its own sins and embrace the resurrection that comes with LIVING the WELCOME APOCALYPTICALLY, and with he Gospel front and centre ... at the end of the day, it's about proclaiming THE Message in a way that doesn't leave a 15 year old shaking his head and saying - "I'm outta here ..."

Anything else is simply absurd ... The Message of the Cross is about welcoming in ALL people unconditionally - you get it - I get it - but too many of our colleagues DON'T ... and that's the greatest hindrance to fulfilling our calling to evangelism as a people and a church !!

I have more ... but I'm feeling weary ... peace my friend ...

2 comments:

indigo said...

Take a big breathe in your garden, wash some beans, chase the dogs and get back to the dead count, photgraphy, silly movies, the children, all that. The dialogue you and Aaron/Adam are having would perhaps be better placed in a more meditative blog. I miss the other content. My guess is, other readers do also.

Anonymous said...

I miss the pictures and stories of the dogs and your cozy little home. Hope all is well with you.