Tag Archives: religion

10 Theses on the Office of the Keys and Today’s Church

“What keeps gnawing at me is the question, what is Christianity, or who is Christ actually for us today? The age when we could tell people that with words—whether with theological or with pious words—is past, as is the age of inwardness and of conscience, and that means the age of religion altogether. We are approaching a completely religionless age; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ aren’t really practicing that at all; they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious.’”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

1. When Bonhoeffer thought about “religionless Christianity” what he meant was a church that did not have the authority to bind.

2. Even into the 20th century, for large numbers of western people the church maintained the ability to discipline which is the ability to bind

3. That ability existed regardless of the state of one’s faith. The unbelieving libertine would face the binding authority of social stigma.

4. The upheavals of the 20th century have left the church not only unable to bind non-believers, but believers as well are unbound.

5. Believers are unbound in that the church is a personal choice. One might bind themselves but nobody is bound to pope or creed without consent.

6. The state and the family remain the only binding authorities, and the family is disintegrating fast.

7. In this religionless Christianity, the church is suffering a state of humiliation as Her Lord suffered.

8. The state of humiliation did not change the fact that Jesus was the eternal son.

9. Likewise the church’s humiliation does not change the eternal facts of the office of the keys. What is bound remains bound.

10. What it will make clear is that the motivations of binding words are love, not power.

Spiritual and Religious

122814Wordle

Biblical Text: Luke 2:22-40
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary. It is a text deeply rooted in the religion of Israel. It is also with Simeon and Anna a text populated with the advent of the Holy Spirit. What the sermon does is look at what happens when we treat the Spirit and Religion as either/or instead of both/and. From Anderson Cooper and Gwenyth Paltrow to Anna/Simeon as models for the church.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – 1 Kings 11:1-26 and 2 Corinthians 6:1-18

1 Kings 11:1-26
2 Corinthians 6:1-18
ancient religion and the community you are part of, marriage,

An Innocent Question…

I’m a pastor, I’m allowed at times to be a a slight moralistic scold, right? Well here is the question to my good readers in Iowa who will be caucusing soon.

Mr. Romney is supposed to be a “flip-flopper” or a questionable “RINO”, right? But Mr. Romney has two fewer wives and two fewer religions than the man leading the polls right now. (Unless you say the other guy’s religion has also been consistently about worshiping the world historical figure that he is.) Who has stood athwart history yelling stop more consistently by means of his life? If that Mormon thing is causing problems, there is a good Roman Catholic on the stage who could fill in that analogy as well. Got a big family too. By their fruits you shall know them…

Just an innocent question.

Pastor’s hate weddings…

I sat on this one for a few days because I know what I’m going to say will be snotty, snippy, catty or just bad.

Here is the link to the open letter/article by a Viv Groskop in the UK Guardian. Her former Vicar (Anglican Pastor) is leaving the Anglican Church for Rome, and she wishes him God-speed. (I’ve block-quoted the entire thing at the bottom because I don’t know how long the link will work.)

Here is her money quote…

I would not describe myself as a religious person but I do have some sort of faith. I grew up singing in the choir in the church where I got married (sorry, blessed). Over the years, though, any belief I once had has dwindled away to next to nothing because there is no way to express it casually or on a part-time basis. You’re not that welcome at church services unless you want to become a regular member of the congregation – and you’re not that welcome at your own wedding if the person you want to marry is divorced…I would like to see the Church of England be more inclusive not only towards women priests but towards people like me – people who rarely attend church, often question their faith, but who are, essentially, supportive of the church…That there is no room for fellow travellers, you either believe or you don’t, the church is your life or it is not. But this is completely unrealistic in modern society. In any case, the church I grew up in was about more than religion: it was about community, ritual and a sense of belonging. Where can you go for those now?

What Mrs. Groskop wants is a religious social club. I can recommend one, the masons. They are usually a fine and upstanding group that does good things. They have some rituals, especially at funerals. They like to get together and support each other business wise. The masons are everything that Ms. Groskop wants. What they are not is the church of Jesus Christ whose founder said things like: everyone who has, more will be given, but the one who has nothing, even that will be taken away (Luke 19:26), and whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matt 10:38), and destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:19). Jesus was an all or nothing kinda guy who didn’t take to kindly to pious ritualistic religion.

Now, you can say that her Vicar seems to have been a little overbearing. Maybe a two word phrase rhyming with lompus lass might be in order. But he told the truth. Ultimately we are all asked to answer the question Jesus put to everyone – “who do you say that I am?” If you are going to say Lord, can you at the same time say, but I don’t want to see you except for that cute Christmas Eve fire service and for a blessing, excuse me a wedding or two or three…

On our wedding day we virtually ran back down the aisle the second the ceremony ended. “I thought you were going to trip up, you were in a such a hurry,” I remember one guest saying. Why the rush? Because it wasn’t really a wedding at all, but a blessing – and throughout the ceremony the vicar had not let us forget it.

My husband had been married before and, in the Church of England, remarriage is at the vicar’s discretion. Our vicar had decided against it. Throughout the ceremony he referred repeatedly and pointedly to “new beginnings” as opposed to just “beginnings”. He insisted that there be no exchange of rings, because we were, technically, already man and wife. (We went to a registry office five days earlier.) I spent most of the ceremony fiddling with my headdress because I had been told that I shouldn’t be wearing a veil (too bridal for a blessing). It was only at the last minute that the vicar relented and allowed my father to walk me down the aisle. And did I mention that it was not a beginning but a new beginning? I can still remember seeing, out of the corner of my eye, friends and family in the congregation cringing.

It did not come as a huge shock, then, to discover this week that the same vicar who married us is now seeking to defect wholesale – with his parish – to Rome. Father Stephen Bould of St Peter on the East Cliff in Folkestone may be the first to leave the Church of England following Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of “safe harbour” to disaffected Anglicans.

The irony wasn’t lost on me. In the 10 years since I married – in Bould’s previous parish in Somerset, where I grew up – I too have become disaffected by the church. But I’m not exactly rushing headlong to Rome. Instead, I’m more likely to consider signing up for a meditation course. Which is, I think, sad, but fairly typical of people like me.

I would not describe myself as a religious person but I do have some sort of faith. I grew up singing in the choir in the church where I got married (sorry, blessed). Over the years, though, any belief I once had has dwindled away to next to nothing because there is no way to express it casually or on a part-time basis. You’re not that welcome at church services unless you want to become a regular member of the congregation – and you’re not that welcome at your own wedding if the person you want to marry is divorced.

Around the time I got married I convinced myself that the Church of England’s stance on remarriage was impressive: I told myself that I approved of the fact that my husband’s first marriage wasn’t going to be swept under the carpet; that the church had more respect for marriage than to pretend it doesn’t matter how many times you do it. But over time I’ve changed my mind.

Ten years on I’m disillusioned for the opposite reasons to the angry Anglicans. I would like to see the Church of England be more inclusive not only towards women priests but towards people like me – people who rarely attend church, often question their faith, but who are, essentially, supportive of the church. It’s not as if you’d ever be turned away from a service, but there is a clear message on high days and holidays. Always the hopeful raised eyebrow: are you coming back on a regular basis or not? How serious are you? In today’s Christian Britain you are either atheist or God Squad. There’s no inbetween.

Those, like Bould, who look to Rome would say this is right. That if you want to marry in our church, you follow our rules. That there is no room for fellow travellers, you either believe or you don’t, the church is your life or it is not. But this is completely unrealistic in modern society. In any case, the church I grew up in was about more than religion: it was about community, ritual and a sense of belonging. Where can you go for those now?

Perhaps if more take the road to Rome it will help. Anyone who wants a doggedly principled stance towards the Christian faith knows where to go. But while parish priests bicker about who is more biblically correct, they should beware. A whole new generation is heading to the nearest yoga class.