“In my experience, there are at least two things essential to any viable community that the vast majority of Americans find completely unacceptable. The first is an accepted principle of authority; the second is a definite boundary between members and nonmembers.” John Michael Greer on great form.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a very great deal recently – and is likely to form a big part of my talk at the conference next month – and I see it as the legacy of cultural Protestantism, ie the emphasis upon private judgement. There are very great positive aspects to this – nobody should come between the believer and God – but there are also very great downsides. It underlies the ‘ten thousand things’ which is the modern Western church; it is the theology which undergirds world-raping consumerism; it is why the church can teach all it likes about how bad the world has become but will never be able to act as a coherent body and do something about it.
As JMG points out, nothing will change because people don’t want it to change. They don’t want it to change because that is how their value system has been structured – and that value system is one reproduced every week in our western church, reproduced, for example, whenever there are arguments about worship and people ‘getting something’ from it. It is why my teaching about Tesco has been the most controversial (and practically repudiated) thing I’ve ever said in church. It is part of what needs to die – what God will destroy – in order that our hearts of stone might be replaced by flesh.
I keep thinking of Moses in the desert. One aspect of the ten commandments isn’t their specific content, but simply the fact that a community accepted them as their boundary and identity. We have far more equivalents of the 10 commandments than we need – I even came up with my own one here – but what is missing is any sense that a community can be bound over by such a structure. Which is one reason why I’m thinking about getting the church to study the Rule of St Benedict for a while…
See also his follow-on post: “The reality is that the erstwhile ‘vicar’ is increasingly exercising an ‘episcopal’ role. But that being the case, the vicar needs episcopal authority. In short, we need to get back to something nearer what is generally acknowledged by scholars (and was recognized by the English Reformers), namely seeing the local presbyter as also the local bishop. Indeed, if the need is for more ministers and ministry, why shouldn’t there be more bishops? I would guess that a typical rural dean today probably overseas a population as large as that of some medieval bishops. Why not go the whole way and make them into bishops who can ordain local ministers accordingly?”
I haven’t done a TBTM for quite some time. I think I’ll be getting back into the habit over the coming weeks.
For the last several years in my marriage classes I say to the couples ‘the world doesn’t care if your marriage succeeds’ (and the church does, and we can help it succeed etc). Now there is graphic evidence:
I’m doing a new sequence of Learning Supper talks from this Sunday night looking at women bishops/gay bishops/ the future of the Anglican Communion. They will be drawing on some talks I have done before, although updated in the light of all that’s happened in the Anglican Communion since then. Here, however, is a talk I did in 2007 covering some of this material.