Some of the hoped for response from my post about my standing for Moderator came from Jim Berkley. I have met Jim a few times, but we have mostly interacted via online conversations. Jim is extremely thorough and while it is safe to say that we may land in different places theologically, I have appreciated his willingness to stay in conversations and be bold in what he believes.
One of questions back to me from my post, Adventures in Moderation, PC(USA) Style , was this.
Case #1. You say that "tradition must be embraced and valued, while at the same time radical transformation encouraged and unleashed." What does it mean to embrace and value tradition if what one really wants to do is unleash radical transformation that would wipe out the heritage of tradition? Does that mean to tip one’s hat toward ancient but now outmoded customs–kind of a kicky but momentary nostalgia for funny old things (perhaps like boys wearing knickers or playing by rolling hoops down the street?)–while discarding the value of the past in a headlong rush to do something new and supposedly more exciting and relevant? A "conservative" is one who wants to conserve a valuable heritage and sees its worth. A "progressive" is one who seeks "progress" in what is current, new, different, and supposedly superior. It seems to me that you can’t claim to be both, and it may be a little disingenuous to imply being both. Or have I missed something?
First sorry for those of you that can’t stand neologisms, but I love them. Sure are a little too "cute" after a while like mixing xxxxxxmergent with everything, but on the whole, who doesn’t love "ginormous" as a descriptive word?
But I digress . . .
Jim brings up some great questions and will be ongoing touch points for the church. Can one REALLY blend tradition and progress? I say yes! One of my core beliefs about the shift in church existence from modernity to postmodernity is that the postmodern manifestation of the church cannot be seen as birthed out of nothing. Post means to flow out of something, so the postmodern church by definition flows from modernity. In this case the church of the future should not be based on a posture of blanket rejection from all thing past/traditional, but should flow from these realities. Sure, some churches are built radical destruction of all things past or on "What we are not" but I think those churches will soon find their realities to be that of the seed cast on the shallow soil that grew fast, but were soon withered because they had no roots. It is my deepest yearning that this is NOT the future of the church I am hoping us to become.
A few very brief responses to concerns raised . . .
- Not all who seek radical transformation also seek the destruction of all that has been in terms of heritage and tradition. I think most of us are actually more interested in engaging in a more intentional approach to discerning what of our tradition/heritage must be kept and lifted up. We should discard those things have become the object/god/idol of our worship and hold on to those things that are genuine vehicles through which we worship and meet God?
- Most folks are not simply one or the other. I believe most of us live somewhere on the spectrum between the "change nothing" conservative and the "change everything" progressive. While there is a role for extremes to play in the defining of community, I think most of us live in the gray and actually do live in both worlds. The hard part is confronting the realities of living together when looking across the vast middle and attempting to appreciate the other who may lean more towards one side than the other.
- Our common heritage and traditions that are held onto are most often done with great reverence and respect. Some traditions may be done with a contextual flavor, style and/or language but in the end I believe most folks honor those faithful movements of the past. In our particular congregation, when we do join for Confessions, Laying on Hands, Baptisms, Communion, etc. all are done with more than a "tip of the hat" but with a great respect for what has come before and how that builds us up for what may come next.
I cannot stress enough that the church I see in the future is NOT one that is solely based on what is new and the haphazard destruction of what has come before. At the same time, the church of the future, must be able to discern new ways in which we live out and manifest those aspects of our faith that must be held onto. A faithful integration of our past is what allows us to best connect with God individually and communally in the future.
New life in Christ is about a realization and acceptance of radical transformation of one’s whole self. When we commit ourself/selves to Christ this does not mean that we simply throw away everything that we were. Rather we allow ourselves to be rooted in who God has created us to be until that point, grounded in the deep complexities of each of our faith and cultural experiences. This grounding then gives us solid footing to continuing experience the transformation that is offered in a sustained life in and commitment to Christ. I would posit that the new church must think about itself in the same way if we hope to be that seed that falls on solid ground. For I truly believe that if we as a denomination can embrace the best of who have been we will be those seeds who experience new
growth, new flowers and new life firmly rooted, grounded and nourished by
the soil of our past.