living, breathing, feeling theology

14 08 2006

I was talking to one of my colleagues at Methodist Church House today about the future of church. She mentioned new projects such as the church of saint pixels and the infamous ship of fools website. We were both alarmed at the consumerist nature and the lack of discipleship in such so-called ‘expressions’ of the Christian faith. It was her observation that when disagreements develop within ‘real’ rather than ‘virtual’ communities people are challenged to reconcile with one another as they will have to pray side by side with each other the following week.Our discussion then turned to inherited models of church and ministry. She observed the feudal nature of the Anglican Church and the modernist nature of Methodist church. Begging the question what will church look like in the twentieth century? I expressed my belief that in a world which is characterised by disposability rather than sustainability the church must be counter-cultural and draw closer together. I observed that within earliest Methodism class meetings provided this sort of togetherness (and discipleship for holiness).

My colleague picked up on my mention of the Methodist class system and commented on the tradition of itinerancy (both inherent within the local preaching system and the Methodist understanding of ministerial appointments). I expressed dismay at these systems, which I feel very often separate ministers and preachers from the local church. She did not contradict my position but made it clear that she felt much more comfortable with itinerancy than with the class system.

I was reading Stanley Hauerwas’ Sanctify Them In Truth yesterday and I realise this tied in with our conversation. In the introduction to the book, Hauerwas’ observes that sanctification and truth are very rarely linked in contemporary theology or philosophy. He then goes on to express his understanding of why sanctification and truth should be integral to one another.

Hauerwas is dismayed that theology too often seems to speak to theologians and it does not seem to be in the service of the church. He wants theologians to give up on producing the comprehensive book of abstract theology and instead produce theology that is in service of Church’s life and politics. This sort of theology is the reason for the odd shape of Hauerwas’ own writing, which appears to be part theology, part essay, part homiletics, and part ethics.

I guess that I want ministers to be steeped in the fellowship of the church. I want preachers to be held accountable for what they say by the community they are addressing. I want the community they are addressing to be held responsible for implementing the theological convictions they agree to. I want a living, breathing, feeling truth (not some cheap imitation).

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2 responses

15 08 2006
Mostly Harmless

As a practicing Congregational minister it is the hardest thing to be steeped in the fellowship of the church. Not because it is undesireable but because of the diverse nature of the church. I do seek to put my theology into practice through “ministering” to all generations and genres in the life Jesus has called me to. To live and preach a living, breathing, feeling truth. Leading by example is not just the call to ministers though. As I am sure you will agree the sustainability of Christian community is dependant on the integrity of all.

15 08 2006
James Church

I agree absolutely- and I agree that though it is not undesirable it is difficult for ministers to be ‘steeped in the fellowship of the church’ particularly when a minister may suspect members to be in rebellion against the demands of Jesus (and opposing the mission of God).

To draw near to such a person who represents a direct challenge to your ability to lead the church and to decern the will of God invites pain. I can not help imagining what it must have been like for Jesus to wash Judas feet knowing that he was planning to betray him.

Still I recognise that it is easy for me to say such things as I do not carry the demands of ministry that you do.

I am praying for you brother and for your fellowship that the Lord Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit would exhort, comfort, and guide each one of you as you seek His face.

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