Fragmentation and dissent: church

There's an article in the Tribune Review referncing the decision of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church congregation to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in favor of joining the North American Lutheran Church.

The Evangelical Lutherans approve of ordaining gay ministers.  Guess who doesn't?  If you aren't familiar with the Scriptural battles over this issues, read the article.  I, for one, am tired of media spotlight every time a community of faith acts in bigotry.  Even if the media quotes the wonderful Reverend Janet Edwards at some length. 

“As far as I know myself, the source of my commitment to LGBT equality within the church arises out of my faith,” she said. “One way to look at it is to ask the fundamental question, 'What would Jesus do?'

“When I see Jesus embrace the outcasts of his day, for me to follow Jesus means I will do the same

The interesting twist in this piece is looking at how dissenting opinions rips communities of faith, congregations apart.

When we attended Allegheny Unitarian-Universalist church this morning, Reverend Dave spoke about the concept of community, a term that implies sameness or unity.  He rebels against the command that people of faith come together in unity as if the in-between that fills our dissenting opinions is a scary space where angels fear to tread.  The great unknown or perhaps more accurately, the great differently experienced and differently known. 

He reminded us that community can exist without people being in lockstep.  The Unitarian-Universalist concept of community strikes me as both transcending and including people who differ.  There is unity in the “in between spaces;” it just takes effort to work through those spaces to find one another and lift one another up.

I'm not sure if this is what Reverend Dave was saying, but it is what I took away from the service.  I, a wanna-be evangelical, can build community with a person who does not identify as Christian within the same congregation.  That's pretty darn radical when you consider how many Pittsburgh congregations vote themselves off their denomination island over the ordination of gays and women. 

In the Trib article, one interviewee admits he fled to the Catholic church because he liked the idea of one church.  As a former Catholic, I do not look at it that way at all.  It never made sense to me that there was one path to God and certainly one way to be Catholic.

Reverend Dave seems to believe that our disunity can be a creative place which brings forth new understanding on both parts. 

Does that make sense? I know, it is so unfamiliar to us.  I think there's a parallel in the LGBTQ community where we experience the world very differently, yet insist that our identity transcends factors such as gender, race, socioeconomoic status, ethnicity, faith and so forth.  We don't always (most times) pull it off, but the struggle to find the common ground itself generates the communal vibe that seems so elusive.

Some people in our community vote themselves off the island and I'm must more sympathetic to them than these churches, something I need to explore for myself.  If our community is a catalyst for so much disunity in the churches, perhaps we should all rethink how we build our own community.

Just some random thoughts.  I'm tired of simply reporting on yet another defecting church without questioning why I care. 


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