Thursday, April 7, 2011

What church did you join?

A few months ago I was having a conversation with a gentleman from Fort Worth.An Episcopalian,he remained in one of the conservative congregations that rejects womens'ordination,gay rights etc.He told me that he had joined the church about 15 years ago.We talked for awhile and ruminated about the world of institutions and denominations.Then he shared something that really got my attention"My pastor once told me,"he said,"that you belong to the church you joined".You belong to the church you joined.That makes sense.Even if you were born into a denomination or a certain congregation,somewhere along the line you must make a decision to join a church.It got me thinking about the church I joined.Of course the label I have on my back is United Methodist.I was raised Roman Catholic.But the church I joined,the place I seem to really call home,is the church of change.If I had to slap a sign on the front of the building,it might be: The Church of Sacred Transformation.When I was young ,the church I was being raised in was the pre-Vatican II Catholic church.In the early 1960s along came The Second Vatican Council.Pope John XXIII opened the windows to let the Spirit blow in.Dramatic,Historical changes were made that had not been imagined in centuries.This is the church I joined.A church of change and transformation.A church of continual reformation.It gave me the wherewith all to eventually leave the Catholic Institution and seek grace in the Methodist tradition.I suppose one of the great theological pulls of Methodism for me was seeing Wesley as a kindred soul.He,too,embraced the church of sacred transformation.What I have found,though,in my years of ministry, is that most folks did not join the same church I joined.Change,to many,is most threatening.They will expend a lot  of energy in resisting almost any change.Peter L. Steinke in his new book,A Door Set Open:Grounding Change in Mission and Hope,states that change is the C word in many congregations.It is seen as a cancer inflicted on the faithful.It is denied and resisted in all kinds of ways,mostly in systems of denial and controlling  behaviors.The Church is in a time of what some call"deep change".I agree: we are in a time of great reformation and transformation.If this is so,then we would be wise to recognize the behaviors that accompany deep change:denial,chaos,control,anxiety,fear,etc.It would help,then,to step back and ask the question:What church did I join?How does the church I joined envision change?How does it deal with conflict?Is change the cancer with the big "C"?Might be good to dance with this for awhile..........

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