This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

PCUSA General Assembly - Day Four.1

I stopped in to the Presbyterians for Earth Care luncheon. Rick Ufford-Chase was the featured speaker. His talk was very loosely based on Leviticus 26:3-6.

Eco-justice and peace are the big issues of the future, he predicts. (Even Southern Baptists are getting on board.) We are in the beginnings of a movement. Social movements are like waves: they build their energy during the down times, getting ready for the wave to crest. Now the wave is about to crest, and we are ready. We've done our homework.

The approach now is to see that the local is entirely global. Now we intensify our work in local communities and churches. Rick gave several examples of churches addressing eco-justice in very concrete ways: one church is going geo-thermal, another features a new array of solar panels, another is organizing community gardens, and so on. (I am reminded of the work of GreenFaith with churches, including Christ Church in Martinsville.)

Rick put forward four principles to keep in mind in the coming days: 1) commit to a specific place and community; 2) do some bold, imaginative dreaming; 3) break every taboo about crossing barriers; and 4) defy all conventional wisdom about what is possible.

Reflection: It occurs to me that the conventional wisdom is bankrupt, the barriers are coming down, and that God might actually be waiting for us to catch up to a radical vision of what the church could be. We need to move beyond being caught, domesticated, boxed-in, locked-up, and sewn shut in our procedures, traditions, habits, and thinking. The Spirit is wild and uncontrolled (John 3:8), and so are God's people.

At this lunch I sat with someone who shared the story of a church which had been quite literally destroyed by a member (and a session that must have gone along with this) who decided to make it a memorial to his father, bankrupting the congregation in the process of restoring the building to its look in the "glory days." In attempting to build a lasting memorial to the past, the result is a building literally falling down into uselessness. Which is a fitting parable for what is going on in too many of our churches.

Reflection: What we need are feral Christians, and a Christianity that has rediscovered the wildness of the Spirit who gave it birth.

Can this happen in huge convention centers, fancy hotels, under Roberts' Rules? The Holy Spirit can do anything.

This luncheon and the PHEWA awards reception last night reminded me of how many wonderful, Spirit-filled, powerful, amazing, and transformative things are happening in our midst... almost all under the radar, along the margins, and out of institutional control, often in spite of institutional resistance.


M. Granzen said...

I largely agree-- though how does one unmask and resist moral evil hidden in our church and society? Sometimes that which claims to be new is the same old song (old wine in new wineskins)of self glory and will to power. As Tillich said the historical kairos of Christ is always accompanied by that which is directly opposed to the will of God, i.e., the demonic.

In our time, moral humility and courage, countervailing institutions and constitutional checks are necessary to save us from our narcissistic selves and communities (Romans 7)-- even as we boldly claim the kairos.

John Edward Harris said...

I love the theology and imagery of your centance "What we need are feral Christians, and a Christianity that has rediscovered the wildness of the Spirit who gave it birth."