Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Parishes or clubs?

Christ Church, Yankton. (Diocese of SD website)-->

The traditional Anglican understanding of "parish" is a local church that takes responsibility for the spiritual care of it's geographical area - including those who are not members of the church.

Julian Mann, Vicar of Outibridge in Sheffield, England, recently blogged about the need for the traditional parish model. The alternative, he points out, is small, homogenous congregations that putter along until age and attrition turn their sanctuaries into historical markers or restaurants.

He writes,

"...if these churches serving local communities proved unable to sustain themselves would be a tragedy for the spiritual welfare of our nation. Large tranches of the population would be spiritually disenfranchised, and the New Testament Gospel for all without distinction would become a gospel for some with the right financial, educational and demographic qualifications."

Obviously a Northern Plains issue, what with small, aging congregations dotting the landscape. Julian asks,

"How can such churches justify continuing to take resources from others without any recognition that they need to change their spiritual culture, remove their barriers to growth and become hospitable and mission-oriented? Complacent free-loading off others is wrong even when it is done democratically."

This is close to St. Paul's oft-abused teaching,

For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.

Paul was not laying out a platform for the culture, but a policy for the church - those who came to church only to take and not to give should not expect church help. He expected radical transformation that would have wider impact, as in

Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labour and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

Julian is echoing this as well as the quote attributed to William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-44,

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

Because the church has lost confidence in Jesus' message of the Kingdom of Heaven and the eternal destiny of the human being, it seeks to do only earthly things that can be done better or at least in greater measure by government or other entities. The fruitlessness of this leaves small, in-grown churches - warm and homey but existing for the comfort of existing members until they (and the church) inevitably cease to exist.


Scott said...

Watched a documentary on PBS about the infamous defense lawyer William Kunstler:

This may be an inept comparison, but while watching it I could not help think that this is what many of today's Episcopal priests have become (present company excepted). So focused on a singular idea that nothing else matters. "Justice" is now the goal. But, the definition of "justice" changes to fit any and all current desires or earthly needs.

They will (and are) defending Satan (sin) if it meets the current definition of "justice".

Kunstler famously responded that "good defense lawyers never ask their clients if they really did the crime". He didn't care if the person was guilty or not. All he cared about was "raging against the machine".

TLF+ said...

Man, I hadn't thought of Mr. Kunstler in ages .

You are right, of course. This current "justice" stuff in the church is a mile wide and an inch deep, and is all about entitlements for some already privleged people. And Satan does get alot of support in the process.