Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Some More Thoughts on Today's Conversation

As I have processed some more the conversation I had this morning, I want to say that I feel a great deal of tension, and am a little astounded at my own responses, and what this reveals of the changes Reconciler has brought about in me.

I appreciate the concern for particular denominational identity: When I left seminary I was very seriously thinking that the Covenant should attempt shore up its Lutheran Pietist origins. Though the founding of the Community of the Holy Trinity had already directed my energies and thoughts elsewhere and towards more ecumenical and seeking after the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic church, which had been the subject of my senior paper in seminary. But even when I started this blog and Reconciler was in its final planning stages, I was self identifying as a Lutheran Pietist in the Covenant, and it was based on this identity that I entered the work of starting an ecumenical congregation. Those of you who may have followed this blog from its beginning may recall that the "Lutheran Pietist Goth" was once part of the title. I think I even argues much as Rev. Canon Scott argued today about needing a strong particular identity to enter into ecumenical work and dialog. I might have even so argued right here in this blog.

Now when I think back to it we were asserting perhaps two somewhat contradictory things: one that we needed strong particular denominational identities and two that we needed to hold these identities lightly because they were a barrier to people hearing the claims of the Gospel and the Church. We also affirmed that something particular was being articulated in such documents as Baptism Eucharist and Ministry and could form a sufficient Christian identity for those who came to faith or for Christians who did not have a strong denominational identity. I wonder if our original vision tried to say two different and possibly contradictory things: our identities as members of particular Christian traditions was necessary and important and that they were problematic and useful to some degree but completely optional. I think we all felt this tension in ourselves, we had been trained were being trained to serve in particular Christian traditions, and wanted to be faithful members of those traditions, we also had begun to see the cracks in denominationalism even for our own sense of identity, but especially for the emerging situation both as the culture shifts in the US, but also due to 50 years of intense ecumenical bilateral and multilateral dialog between various Christian groups.

So, my responses both that i spoke in our meeting and in myself that were unspoken at the time, some of which were articulated in my earlier post, are revealing to me how much Reconciler has changed me, and how I no longer have a strong identity as a Lutheran Pietist or as being part of the Evangelical Covenant church. This identity certainly is part of my Christian identity, but seeking after the mind of Christ and the One Church in this church plant has brought me to feel the weakness of denominational identity and that it is deeply problematic. Some of this has been listening to those who have actually come to Reconciler and their interest in Reconciler as an Ecumenical work that is seeking to embody the faith and tradition of the church and seeking the One Church, but completely uninterested in the three Traditions of the pastors who started Reconciler. These people were one of the two main demographics we had said we were seeking to meet with this church start: Christians who could not find a home in established churches whether of the traditional denominations or the denomination like post-denominational networks of churches or non-denominational evangelical.

This means that to a part of me that held similar views is not really all that surprised by today's conversation, the one who immersed himself in this emerging reality that is Reconciler and is still emerging finds himself somewhere he did not foresee, and is a little surprised not only by the Canon's responses and assertions but that he finds himself so far on the edge of most things as even the Emergent Movement and New Monasticism, and that he no longer sees denominational identity as terribly important let alone essential for a strong Christian identity.