Monday, May 11, 2009

what if church was not a verb

I have read a number of ordination papers over the past years, and a recurring theme is present in them: candidates are often good at talking about the mission of the church, but they are less skilled in discussing the nature of the church. The origin of this tendency is in our Discipline, which gives more attention to the former than the latter, and perhaps in our dna: we began as a missional sect within a larger church.

There is, however a theological problem here, and it leads to a kind of "ecclesial works righteousness": the church is defined...further, the church is valued not by what it "is", but by what it "does". All of which resurfaced for me when I came across the question of how the church might be understood as a verb at rethink church.

And so, a gentle suggestion, one that I often write on ordination papers, that we take some time to reflect on "who we are" before focusing on "what we do", on "being". We do often grasp, in some way an individual level, that God loves us for who we are, and not for what we do for God or others, but we do not often translate this to the congregational or denominational level. This is important, because congregations and denominations are sinful, they have flaws, and those who inhabit them will become disillusioned.

Can we extend the the grace of God to the church that we give to the individual? What if church was not a verb?


3 Comments:

Blogger John Meunier said...

Great question. If anything, the church is a verb idea has become conventional wisdom. Good to raise questions about that.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Peter Wallace said...

I think you're right. It can be both/and, but there is a proper order to thinking through the process!

6:58 PM  
Blogger David said...

It will be good to continue this conversation as the Committee on Faith and Order does its thinking on the nature of the church.

11:27 AM  

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