Monday, February 20, 2017

Hopes for a great Emergence

According to Phyllis Tickle (et al) we are in the middle of an unsettling, seismic transition in church - and culture.

Tickle (hee hee!) relies heavily on Bishop Mark Dyer's theory that "about every 500 years the empowered structures ... become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal ... may occur".*

A symptom of all this is that we no longer know where authority lies. This unnerves us: we seek out guidance in new, untested places and / or cling desperately to ageing structures we silently fear are old wineskins.

Battles over and confusion about authority have certainly characterised my time in church institutions. If the Reformation wrestled down popes and corrupt institutions with Sola Scriptura and the priesthood of all believers, many of us now wrestle with the idolisation of the bible, the confines of denominational rules and the unrealised equality of every worshipper.

It seems to me very promising that the general direction here is of people daring to take more personal responsibility for their faith. Of frustrating attempts to palm off choices on our leaders, the bible, culture at large or any other authority external to ourselves.

I am not suggesting any woman is an island. Of course, we are social creatures. But taking responsibility for oneself seems, today, to be a rare and valuable gift. We blame:
  • immigrants for our joblessness
  • our circumstances and personality for our bad behaviour
  • those who think differently for our anger
  • new-fangled ways for our obsolescence
  • the bible for our inhumanity.

If Tickle is right, surely in spite of all the dispiriting immediate evidence, mankind is steadily moving towards a rejection of authoritative structures that allow us to evade personal responsiblity?

(Possibly, I am optimistic. Possibly, it is simply the case that in moments of transition, we fall back on taking personal responsibility because a new authority has not yet emerged!)

It seems to me that accepting personal responsibility for our universe is to accept the gift Christ offers us and offered us four chapters ago, when he showed us how to make choices, live a life and accept all its consequences. All to the beat of a very different drum from those followed by frightened clerics, politicians and peers.

* So, going backwards from 2017, there was the Reformation, the Schism, Gregory The Great / the Fall of Rome, Christ. Currently, we are the middle of the Great Emergence.

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