Emmy Kegler, a soon-to-be-ordained pastor in the ELCA, and Eric Worringer, an ordained pastor, have written a blog post that asks an important question: Do we have a ‘Nadia Problem?’
They refer to Nadia Boltz-Weber, the founding pastor of the House for All Saints and Sinners, whom they are quick to praise and hold up as exactly what the institutional church needs at this time and place.
However, they argue, the church does Nadia and itself a disservice by being quick to claim Nadia’s ministry as its own, and then doing very little to emulate it anywhere else: hence, the “Nadia problem.”
She has been raised up and celebrated as a voice, particularly before our youth and young adults, as “a new way of doing church,” putting the “evangelical” in “Evangelical”, and so on. Then we send kids home from Youth Gatherings and college weekends and seminary visits to places where church continues in much the same way it always has. We love that Pastor Nadia speaks of a church without committees, where anyone is invited to help craft their celebration of Lent and Holy Week — but most of our churches are still maintained and guided by specific people and rigid time commitments. Pastor Nadia offers up the voices of her LGBTQ members in a compelling and moving video about their experiences in church, while a good part of the ELCA is still wrestling with “the 2009 vote”. “The Nadia Problem” is that she is being promoted as an example without churchwide acknowledgement that she is actually an exception, and that the Spirit-led and community-based construction of House for All Sinners and Saints has not even begun to move into the churches now fretting about the loss of their “All-Star Team.”
Our concern… is that because Nadia has become an example, it allows the institution to use her image and ministry while still largely continuing on its own path, rife with institutional anxiety and attitudes of scarcity, and bemoaning the loss of a generation of institutional pastors. We continue to produce leaders equipped to explain what it means to be Lutheran (using our institutional memory), when what the world hungers for is a real and meaningful experience of a God worthy of worship and service. What we pray and yearn for is not an institution with one Nadia as an example, but a transformational generation of leaders of all ages that are able to cope and proclaim the Gospel as well as she has.
Are there places in the Episcopal Church where we have this same tendency to hold up one example of successful ministry rather than to do the hard work of systematic change ourselves?