I understand the attraction of looking for the perfect church that suits you. I also looked into this search. But as much as I understand this drive, I have resisted it from my own thoughts and growing convictions. If we engage in this kind of search for the church that is “just right for me”, we are changing ourselves, we are changing the local church we are not participating in, and we are distorting the wider church.
The local church is said to be the gathering of local Christians, and problems can arise if we take advantage of the fact that it is a small world and seek out a church from our local church because it suits us better. I have commented in the past that the General Synod, the highest decision-making meeting of the Anglican Church in New Zealand (the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia or ACANZP), has a liberal offset. Somehow, I thought, a more liberal or progressive voice was amplified in the proverbial power halls, so that the General Synod was more liberal than the Church. I have noticed the same thing at the level of the local (diocesan) synod, but I am not sure whether it is equally true there. But how could that be? When I raised this concern once, the answer was that representatives are elected democratically. So how could representation at the Synod not be representative of the state of the Church in general?
I’m not claiming to know all the options, but I got a glimpse of how this could happen at a Synod meeting a few years ago (I think it was, but it could be something different a few years ago. I spoke to a colleague about which community he was a member of, St. Peter on WIllis Street in downtown Wellington, a community with a reputation for being a mouthpiece for progressive purposes, especially when it comes to LGBTI I didn’t comment on that at the time, but shortly afterwards he made a comment that revealed that he lived in a suburb that wasn’t close to the center of Wellington, so I asked him in an inspired (maybe!) Moment : “But you go all the way into town to the church. Isn’t there an Anglican church near where you live?” His answer: “Yes, but we’re proud to be a very progressive church.” In other words, yes, there are churches that are more local than me, but people (including me) travel from all over the world to get to that particular church because they represent and promote particularly progressive views.
In case I’m too subtle in my translation, here’s another one: Yes, there are more local churches, but if we all went to local churches, there wouldn’t be parishes like this with a clearly progressive perspective, because in every part Wellington’s church is not like that. We create and preserve a church from this point of view by not going to the church we live in, but all traveling to the same church so that we can have a church that is not the natural formation of Christians in an area life that worships together but is one that we have designed.
If the synod were made up of parish representatives who naturally form in a geographic area because Anglicans who live in that area are visiting their local church, we would have a synod representative that is more of an “ordinary” Anglicanism than activists .
And there it is. If the synod were made up of parish representatives who naturally form in a geographic area because Anglicans living in that area visit their local church, we would have a synod representative who is a fairly “ordinary” Anglicanism (now some people think there is a slippery word I know) instead of activists. Pronounced liberal voices are much less prominent in this environment than in a technical church like St. Peter, so that they end up less often as representatives of their local body. Because of this technical effort to select and support a church for ideological reasons, the Synod now has a representation of churches that are shaped into what we might call artificially Communities, communities that did not arise because they were the church that lives in one place, but were built and maintained because these communities distort the faith exactly in the direction that church members want. Part of what enables the creation of such parishes and why their existence is such a late phenomenon on the timeline of history is the ease of travel in the developed world of the 20th and 21st centuries. Of course, such mobility is easiest for privileged people, which is also a very (very, very) partial explanation for why such parishes are almost always fairly monocultural – white and economically privileged. The poorest worship in their local church where they should meet you (although of course you could be one of them). The presence of such “designer churches” in our Anglican diocese distorts the functioning of representation at the synod level. In this case, it means creating a far louder liberal voice than if we were to allow church communities to be more natural by choosing to belong to local churches.
The church in which you worship is an instrument of Christ, with all the warts associated with a church made up of people who happen to live where you live.
My comments here will surely fall on the deaf ears of most people involved in this type of engineering and community building. Because no one in this subcommunity will have a flash of consciousness in which they recognize that they have this effect. Such parishes are activist parishes, and it is more intentional to distort representation at the synod level than accidental secession. But if it is up to you in any way, dear reader, I urge you to discourage this type of gerrymandering (I call it because it is a practice to put yourself in a local body, more of a partisan cause promote than belonging to a more natural body). The church in which you worship is an instrument of Christ, with all the warts associated with a church made up of people who happen to live where you live. Christ should change you through the church. We will get it backwards if we make every effort to found a church that fits our own interests.
Here’s one of the reasons why the local church doesn’t have these things: you’re not there.
Here’s another reason to support your local church. You could be someone who says, “We don’t go to our local church because they don’t have / many …” Next, a number of things could come up: young people, children, young married couples, older people, good musicians, educated people People and so on. And here’s one of the reasons why the local church doesn’t have these things: you’re not there. Instead, take these assets from the local church to another church, just like everyone else who leaves their local church, to visit this large, popular downtown church that has it all. Yes, if you are the only person who is dissatisfied with the local church and therefore decides to change their approach and invest there instead of going elsewhere, you may have a hard road ahead of you. But someone has to be the first to start the wheels of change. Do it and be an evangelist for change towards others who do not support your local church. I don’t know how best to do it. What we need to do is find a way to give people a vision of what the best version of the local church will look like when the local Christian people worship there.
One of the concerns you might have about belonging to the church you live in is that you simply never know what you will end up with. What if it turns out to be a group of people you disagree with? What if it turned out to be a natural community of Christians and not an ideologically constructed one? is a strong presence of people who do not submit to ecclesiastical teaching and want to keep the church up to date in order to adapt it to the values of their surrounding culture without being offended? Part of it is just that you have to soak it up and accept that not everyone is exactly like you, and even if you are right, other equally sincere Christians, even within the same church, may not always see it that way. Part of this (especially the latter) is a question of church structure. Yes, if the church is completely independent and was founded when some people decided to start a church twenty years ago, this could be a problem. You may think – but it is a problem for the Anglican Church and for you to do have an authority structure that is said to deal with such things. Good argument. If (as here in New Zealand in the Anglican Church) the leadership (in the form of bishops) does not see it as part of their role to exercise teaching authority and to maintain or change belief in the face of efforts to water down them, or change all sorts of things remain unchecked. This is a difficult problem that I have no good ideas about to find a solution. But in principle, in the best version of the church, in a church that has a historical conscience and fits in with the movement that was founded by Jesus and is governed from the start by a number of ordained leaders is really To maintain the faith and integrity of the church, the degree of autonomy of a local church is checked. So you should be able to visit your local church without any such fears. However, the reality is that visiting your local church instead of your ideal church is a powerful antidote to the local church, which is commanded by people with an ideological agenda. This is because most Christians sitting on a bench are not liberal ideologues. They come up with the idea of being followers.
There may be other romantic-sounding reasons for belonging to your local church than the church that is “right” for you. And they can be good reasons. And maybe I’m just cynical and they’re not really “romantic” at all, even if they sound like that to me. Something about the organic beauty of a church growing where it was founded, or the gospel as light that pulls members of the local church out of the darkness / cold or the like. What ever. Could be. But for reasons like the above, I’m sentenced. That’s because I shouldn’t be looking for a church that suits my taste. I’m supposed to take my presents to the local church to build them up. I shouldn’t seek and create an artificial community based on a designer belief. We should all come together and change together through the faith that the saints had long ago. It is because I have to be changed and challenged just as much – actually more – than I have to be satisfied and confirmed, and hopefully God will use me to challenge and to those around me in the church I live in grow whatever i find there.
These beliefs will oblige me to act, and I may do so with some reluctance – you will eventually be tied to your worship community (we still visit the church in the area where we once lived, and we do not visit any of them multiple churches, who are now with us). But with beliefs comes a certain amount of trust and determination, maybe even excitement about what obedience could do.
Consider it too.
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