We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Good Thing Is Happening

In a perceptive and controversial blog posting entitled, "It’s You, Not Me: Why More & More Ministers Are Leaving Churches of Christ", Sean Palmer argues that an increasing number of Churches of Christ ministers, especially younger ministers, are leaving their churches for pastoral ministry in denominations outside of the Church of Christ circle of congregations.  Palmer identifies three key reasons why they are leaving: (1) because women's roles are usually limited in Church of Christ congregations; (2) the churches are resistant to change; and (3) the churches tend to place more value on inherited traditions than on Christ or the scriptures.  Churches of Christ congregations, that is, are evidently mostly stuck firmly in the nineteenth century and can't escape.  This posting generated a great deal of heat, which prompted Palmer to write a follow up entitled, "Was It Something I Said?"  There he observes that there a good deal of division, conflict, and judgmental attitudes within the Churches of Christ circle of churches.

In some quarters on the Christian Right, there is a growing realization that traditional churches are drifting away from the vital center of American culture and society.  Many of them still limit the role of women and consider homosexuality a sin, while our society is racing at an almost astonishing pace away from  the injustices explicit in these views.   "Out here" in society we are learning to think at least somewhat less dualistically and less in terms of absolutes.  Apparently, meanwhile, the use of musical instruments in worship is still a controversial issue in many Churches of Christ congregations.  "Out here" in a the real world, such issues that seem to be so important to traditional church insiders are massively trivial, and it is not difficult to see why capable, creative leaders and esp. younger leaders are searching for some place else to do ministry.

My personal take on all of this is that something very good is happening to all of us.  We are being shoved rudely into the real world where we are called to be.  Churches are intended to be vessels of the Spirit, and where the vessel is broken the Spirit simply can't move with power.  In a rapidly changing world, traditionalism and resistance to change are spiritual death to churches no matter how meaningful or important they are to their insiders.  Only to the degree that we are able to come out of our shells and live with the rest of society in the real world are we able to remain God's agents of peace, love, and justice.