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A church in constant conflict

A church in constant conflict

Rachel Held Evans tweeted this morning about her response to the World Vision controversy. What she wrote struck a chord with me, even though I wasn’t involved in this particular issues. Here’s what she wrote:

The Episcopal Church seems to me to be in a state of perpetual conflict. Just as we seem to be making progress on LGBT issues, we find ourselves in the midst of an effort to re-organize the church that could, if the chips fall a certain way, reduce the authority of elected lay and clergy leaders in the governance of the church, and increase the authority of the office of the Presiding Bishop. As someone who went straight from one of these struggles into the midst of the other, I find that I am worn out by them. I am wondering if anybody else feels that way, and if you’ve figured out how best to act on your feelings.


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Jim Naughton

David, that is definitely some of what I am thinking about. Although I think there is another element, which is that there is a professional class of church folks (clergy and staff) and an amateur class. And some of what is coming from TREC–not all of it–feels like an attempt to solidify the standing of the professional class at the expense of the amateur class. And I don’t know that we are hearing from the amateur class of younger generations. So I don’t know how this plays out in that regard. (I realize that the professional and amateur categories are not theologically sound, but they are a convenient shorthand.)

To expand on my first paragraph, what we’re going through now is what other American generations have gone though before us. An idealist generation questions the assumptions of the civic generation before them. Then as they age, they mentor the civic generation coming after them while giving over their power to that generation. The current civic generation we call the Millennials. And we baby boomers may need to accept that the best we can do now is to advise them, and trust them. Perhaps after this, I’ll go watch John Legend and Alicia Keys blow away “Let It Be” on the Ed Sullivan Beatles tribute.

David P. Kendrick

Jim Naughton

Thanks, Jim Pratt. Those are encouraging words.

Jim Pratt

One of the oft-repeated pieces of advice from my seminary professors was choose very carefully the cross you want to die on.

A colleague was the anti-gay candidate for bishop in a very divisive election. After a deadlock, a compromise candidate was put forward, and he was put into a plum parish as a consolation prize. Worn out by the fight, he decided to drop the issue (never changing his mind, and always expressing his opinion if asked, but just no longer bringing it up unless someone asked). Within a couple years, he had doubled the size of the parish, and helped other parishes in the diocese grow as well by sharing what he had learned. “THE ISSUE” was not a burning issue for most people, and was a distraction from mission and ministry.

In my own current parish, there is deep conflict from a number of underlying causes. I have kept my sanity by not allowing myself to get too caught up in the conflicts, unless something had to be addressed directly, and instead focusing on mission and ministry. We are moving in new directions, and seeing some growth, and a few who left because of conflict have come back.

Jim Naughton

David, for me the current issue isn’t just about policy, it’s about identity. The church faces an enormous multi-faceted challenge and the best thing we’ve been offered so far is: let’s try to solve this by limiting the number of people who can participate in our decision-making processes and the issues on which they can legislate, and the time they have for legislation.

“Streamlining” which is a worthy goal, has become a euphemism for limiting lay influence and lay participation. I am hoping enough lay people will sendTREC and the leaders at 815 who are pushing to disenfranchise us a strong message. But I seem not to want to have this conflict as part of my daily life. So I am trying to figure out what to do with that.

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