Every Sunday we declare our belief
in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
And every Sunday I wonder if we really do.
We were in a heated conversation on Facebook. The sort which was shifting wildly from the substance of the original post. So I wanted to ground us in something real. I wanted to establish common ground: common words, understanding, and purpose.
Because we all may be different, but we share far more in common than we can see by focusing on our specific qualities.
So I stated that everybody, at the bottom of all things wants peace. In their lives, in their work, in their hearts. We just use different tactics to get there. Some want peace through eliminating all those who are different. Some want peace through active reconciliation. But we all want peace.
And he said
“No we don’t.”
I suppose division is natural and inevitable.
And right now, it’s highly visible.
It doesn’t help that we look back with rosey glasses. And we pretend those previous days were just super awesome and we all sang kumbaya around campfires.
To which a bunch of people reading this were like “for your people, maybe.” And a few more were like “It’s thoughts like singing around campfires which make me want to punch somebody.”
Which reveals my point.
We’re divided, I think because many of us refuse to agree and many of us refuse to see why.
One Church is a fantasy.
And in our hyper-individualized world, a sympathetic one. We crave and long for unity because we feel so broken and despondent.
But unity requires sacrifice and respect.
We have to sacrifice and compromise…
Which is hard. Super hard. Because we know how much we want to be right. And in a culture where half of the country thinks compromise is a dirty word, how ever can we have unity?
But we must also recognize the ways many have already compromised.
- Like those persons of color who are navigating a church built around the white experience and preference.
- Or our LGBTQ members, who have been forced to be closeted, or have seen their identities subject to congregational debate.
- Women who have fought to not only be included in ministry, but have their ministries recognized decades later.
- The disabled who often feel like a burden or inconvenience. Or worse, that the accommodation of their presence would somehow ruin everything.
- Our children who are expected to behave beyond their maturity level.
- Youth who are often given their own time and space but little opportunity to see how they fit into congregational life.
- The homebound, the sick, or those too embarrassed to come to church and are routinely missed; only ever visited by clergy.
These are sacrifices.
Many of our people start from a place of sacrifice and compromise. How often do we choose to not consider these in our public negotiations? Instead, we ask them to compromise more.
…and respect their experience.
We need to see the sacrifice. And we also need to recognize this isn’t a contest. This isn’t about me.
It is the opportunity to respect the dignity of another human being. Their background, challenges, hopes.
Sometimes, those of us on the inside need to put our own experience on the backburner and honor the difference of the other.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
We only ever focus on the first 75% of the Creed. Or on the climaxing at the relationship of the Trinity (who proceeds from whom). But it’s the end that’s the most valuable.
God speaks through prophets.
We believe in one church. It is universal and continuous from the beginning, following Christ.
We baptize once for all in forgiveness.
And we look forward to our future reconciliation.
through one church
reconciled to God
and to all creation.
All our blatant individualism and rejection of community is anathema to God’s mission. To look at the shared Christian experience through the lens of
I gotta be right.
I can’t abide by them.
I must rebuke their bad theology in the name of Jesus.
or closer to home for some of us
I’m not getting fed.
I’m not hearing what I want to from the pulpit.
I’m not getting the attention I want.
is to see not God or Christianity, but consumerism. Individualism. Or nationalism wrapped in covetous idolatry of flag, family, and individualistic ideology.
One church is real.
But building a single institution isn’t the only way to achieve unity. Just as the idea that we have ever been a single, institutional catholic church is a fiction.
Ours, from the beginning, has been a diverse experience of a common faith. It has been particularly located in our places and in our different bodies.
We experience God in our different contexts and in different ways and have since that first moment in Acts 2 when Peter had to get a hold of things and tell people to Simmer down now, we aren’t drunk.
I get how hard it is to recognize how our faith is a perpetual blending of personal and corporate faith. When so often, we define religion by an exclusively individualistic metric: personal belief.
And it’s 100 times harder in this American context. Rabid support for hyperindividualism is destroying our communities, ethics, and even the laws which build a safe and just society.
It floors me to hear a Christian even suggest we must have the right to discriminate. It reveals such a distorted view of Christian teaching, history, theology, I can’t even begin to see how such belief resembles my own.
A faith so devoted to seeing our common experience.
To showing concern for how our faith affects our neighbors.
And building up one another in love and shared economies.
Our denominations reflect diversity. They don’t need to be a source of division. But for us to truly believe in one church, we must recognize that we already have a common experience of God in our blessed diversity. And that diversity isn’t a problem; it’s a blessing.
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This is from a series on Choices. We have plenty more choices to make!