...And yet when I consider my life of faith, this world is clearly where my transformation has taken place. It is in the world that I have met the people who have changed me—some of them believers, but far more of them not—people who have loved me, fought me, shamed me, forgiven me, sanding down my edges on one side while they broke whole ragged chunks of me off the other. The world is where I have been struck dumb by beauty, by cruelty, by human invention and greed. The world is where my notions of God have been destroyed, reformed, chastened, redeemed. The world is where I have occasionally been good for something and where I have done irreparable harm.It seems to me that one of the difficulties in our current discussions regarding the Church, and specifically the Anglican Communion, is our hesitancy to fully pour ourselves into the world, because that may just require us to look death full in the face.
The reason I know this, however, is that the church has given me the eyes with which I see, as well as the words with which I speak. The church has given me a community in which to figure out what has happened to me in the world. It has given me a place to love and grieve, within a tradition far older and wiser than I. It is the church that has poured me into the world, in other words—which is counterintuitive. How can a church survive that keeps pouring itself into the world? I cannot possibly say. All I know is the gospel truth: those willing to give everything away are the ones with anything worth keeping; those willing to look death full in the face are the ones with the most abundant lives. Go figure...
We do not exist for the sake of the Church. We exist for the sake of the world. If that means we do not survive, so be it. Our faith is in the living God, not in institutions, after all. Cannot God raise up something new from the ashes of our vanquished dreams?
Make sure you read the entire article. It is quite good. I also highly recommend Barbara Brown Taylor's most recent book: Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith.
Thanks for the pointer, Ann.