Saturday, 30 May 2009

2 more chapters

The next two chapters are about division within the church. Radcliffe doesn't tackle division between churches, and focuses on division within the Catholic Church, but much of what he says speaks into the situation of Anglicanism! It perhaps speaks less to other denominations because Protestantism has a tendency to split when differences become too great - each part of the split believing that they have the truth - and that truth is more important than unity. This is typified by the number one joke in the Ship of Fools religious joke poll.

Radcliffe sees the problem as the internal disagreements within a church "What young people are going to find their home in a community that is so angry?" - and what old people come to that. He does not like the exisitng terminology used to separate the different attitudes and instead suggests that the two main approaches are those of Kingdom and Communion.

See the church as "the People of God on pilgrimmage towards the Kingdom". The central doctrine is the Incarnation: "In Jesus Christ, God had embraced the whole of humanity." Liberation is the rallying call and Christ is seen as overthrowing boundaries.

See the people as "members of the institution of the Church, the communion of believers". The central doctrine is the cross: "We must dare to stand by the scandal of the crucified Lord." Truth is the rallying call, and Christ is the one who "gathers into community".

What Radcliffe doesn't articulate, but I see as implicit in what he is writing is that Communion is about modernity (although he presents them as being against it!) and Kingdom is more post modern - although he sees Post modernity (again not described as such) as the solution, the way of reconciling the two approaches.

Using the metaphor of "Root Shock" where people uprooted from their environment retreat into "communities of the likeminded" he suggests that both Kingdom and Communion are reacting against an exile, but that each feel it in a different way. Communion saw the local environment being torn up both within the church and within society and wanted that sense of familiarity back. Kingdom felt an optimism during Vatican II which they felt was disappearing and in a similar way the "utopian dreams of the 60s were not being realised".

Radcliffe asks how the Last Supper is a "sign of a home in which everyone, regardless of his or her sympathies or allegiance, may be at ease?" He answers his own question by pointing out that "the bread is given just tothe disciples" but the wine whilst also given to them is also "poured out for the many". In the Eucharist the tension between the in group and everybody is there visible and reconciled. He points out that this tension has been there from the beginnings of the church - that the disciples would have stayed, but that Paul first dispersed them through persecution and then took the gospel to the Gentiles. "If we today try to retreat inwards into any little walled Fortress Church, then we can be sure that God will demolish it".

Having determined that the solution is some form of synthesis between the two approaches Radcliffe then looks at how this may be achieved. He says that the main problem is that we are no longer free to explore faith in a way that was possible before the Thirty Years War; keeping silent and defending our doctrine, and developing questions like Mrs Thatchers "is he one of us".

He proposes that we should not build "communities of the like-minded", but listen to the stories of each others lives, trying to understand how the other has arrived where they are. And when I hear someone saying something that I believe to be wrong "my first reaction must be to see what truth they are trying to say rather than immediately condemn their error." He says that we need places where "we can speak without fear and prejudice" - wouldn't we all like a church like that?

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