Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Wild Geese


I realize there are certain obstacles in place, including doctrinal differences, but this is the guy I would like to have as my Conference Minister (UCC equivalent, roughly, of a bishop):

"The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don't even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing."
Your Holiness, I say, it is largely a political and economic problem for states, governments, political parties, trade unions."Yes, you are right, but it also concerns the Church, in fact, particularly the Church because this situation does not hurt only bodies but also souls. The Church must feel responsible for both souls and bodies."

Your Holiness, you say that the Church must feel responsible. Should I conclude that the Church is not aware of this problem and that you will steer it in this direction?"To a large extent that awareness is there, but not sufficiently. I want it to be more so. It is not the only problem that we face, but it is the most urgent and the most dramatic."
But go read the article before I quote the entire thing.  The phone call arranging the interview, the comments on proselytism; almost everything he says.  We would disagree on matters of church governance, on matters of doctrine, but how important is that?  I've seen congregations split up over the decision to re-carpet their worship space;  is my disagreement with the Pope over matters such as transubstantiation or the ordination of women any more serious?  It would keep us from being subject to the same church judicatory, but what does that matter?  This man says what I wish I could say; he is the pastoral example I wish I could follow, I wish I could at least have upheld to my congregations and to myself.

I had a very good Conference Minister, and a very, very bad Conference Minister (he came to my Church Council, a pre-arranged meeting I had no idea had been arranged, and told them that he wouldn't want to have me as his pastor.  It was the last nail in my coffin there, and he made sure to drive it in deeply, because that church was one of the largest contributors to the Conference fund, i.e., his salary, in the Conference).  I might have been a better pastor if I had this Pope's words to instruct me.  This is a man who waters the dry ground of my soul; which means, to me at least, his words come from the God we both know.

Thanks be to God for such witnesses.


  1. "transubstantiation or the ordination of women"

    I'm kind of disturbed you rate these two of similar weight. One is an (impossible-to-know) fine point of theology, the other, the (sinful-to-ignore) equal dignity&call of God's Image Made Female.

  2. Transubstantiation has been a division between Rome and the Protestants for nearly 500 years. It was even a split (on the question of, if not quite in these terms, homoousias v. homoiousias) between Lutherans and Reformed. Only the German Evangelical church in the 19th century began to heal that one, with the merger of Lutheran and Reformed traditions into one church.

    The issue is now one upon which Rome and the Protestants (most of them, the ones who don't still call the Roman church the "whore of Babylon") have agreed to disagree.

    And even the Anglican communion doesn't agree on the ordination of women. Should I break faith with them, too?

    I prefer to agree to disagree, and find common ground where it exists; even with the members of my own denomination who think me (as some of my parish members did) too "Roman."

    And all points of theology are "fine points" which it can be said are ultimately "impossible to know." Take the example of the congregation I mentioned: was it the will of God that the money for new carpet be spent on mission? Or on new carpet?

    Not all theological conundrums are delightful intellectual puzzles, or clear-cut issues with only one side to them.

  3. Sorry, JCF; it's morning, and I'm feeling waspish.

    I know better than to post the first draft of my thoughts....

    My apologies for being brusque.

  4. I don't know if so much "brusque", as "read into my brief comment all kinds of things that weren't there".

    Yes, all theology IS impossible to know . . . which is why I believe, in weighting these two very different issues, we rely on 1 John 4:20 [para.] "If you do not love your [sister!], whom you can see, how do you expect to love God, whom you cannot!?"

    When it came to the ordination of women (in that same plane conversation where he said of gays "Who am I to judge?"), Pope Francis just flat-out Blew It Off: [para.] "That's settled, Next!"

    The UNsettling of that issue in Rome (Eastern Orthodoxy . . . fewer and fewer of my recalcitrant fellow Anglicans ;-/) is a HECK of a lot more important *to me*, than is Transubstantiation (which I don't have a problem with---nor Consubstantiation, nor my own personal preference, the deliciously vague "Real Presence". Per Good Queen Bess

    Christ was the word that spake it.
    He took the bread and break it;
    And what his words did make it
    That I believe and take it.