A New Adventure
hen I first read Francis Schaffer’s book The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century, I was so excited that I think my insides trembled. Actually I found it to be more about the future church than about the church at the end of the twentieth century as its title suggested – about a coming spiritual, religious, and ecclesiastical revolution that was already here. And to me that was unimaginably exciting. And, over the many years since I have continued to find that thought, that invitation, that seminal call, or whatever it was a passion that simply will not let go. I sometimes find it rather ironical that it was Schaffer, who was a rather conservative Presbyterian pastor, that helped me to grasp the possibility of the 1st Century Church speaking postmodern as its native dialect.
I guess what I saw was how genuinely revolutionary the 21st Century Church would and could be if it practiced the simple but profound teachings of Jesus. It was more than obvious, as Schaffer pointed out, that such a church would not be overly anxious about the size of its membership, average Sunday attendance, its building, its budget, or in impressing anyone; but, that it would have a kind of simplicity about it while at the same time exhibiting an uncommon spiritual depth and intellectual integrity. Its leaders if they followed the style of Jesus at all would be less concerned with status and resemble servants more than CEOs. And, certainly, it would be a loving community rather than an anonymous association or a pleasant club gathering and welcoming people of similar tastes and status. And I also began to see that the deeper we go spiritually the broader and more comprehensive our compassion for wounded humanity becomes – that is, the more intense our communion with Christ the stronger our identification with the purposes and concerns of God.
For several decades now I have, then, considered this to be a divine calling. In response I have accepted the call of one struggling and troubled cure after another, believing that such parishes and congregations, like individual men and women, were more likely to be open to this sort of transformative passion than larger and more affluent congregations. After all, as Watchman Nee once said, “It is often at the point of desperation that God meets us.” Although I have had good success in this over the years, in the last eighteen months I have been wondering more and more about the wisdom, suggested by a number of people, of working a fallow field. This reflection along with events in my Episcopal Diocese has brought me to a pivotal moment.
So this is what I am working on right now – or maybe better what I am continuing to work on. To be as direct and as specific as I can possibly be, I am taking the first difficult and rudimentary steps of planting a new community of faith. My hope and intention is to be aligned in this new adventure with the Ecumenical Catholic Community. Among the reasons for this are the following:
- It provides continuity and consistency with ancient Christian tradition, orthodoxy, liturgy and Scripture as interpreted in the light of reason, tradition, and experience; that is, in heart and mind it is both orthodox and progressive.
- The polity of the ECC is based on the conciliar theory that neither popes, nor bishops, nor priests are imbued with coercive powers, but that the body of Christ must as a body discern the way of wisdom.
- I have a real appreciation for the apparent simplicity, the genuineness, and the ability of the ECC to maintain this unity of orthodoxy and rationality.
- And it seems important to me on a personal level to have an ecclesiastical connection beyond the local community of faith which, while requiring accountability, allows for the freedom of creative action at the local level
If you have an interest in this effort or would like to be supportive of it, I would, obviously, love to hear from you.
Forward Movement has recently announced its intention to publish my new pamphlet, Becoming Christian: Six Beginning Steps. My hope is that this pamphlet will be helpful to people exploring the spiritual dimensions of how one becomes a Christian, and how to begin practicing the faith.
Work in Progress
For over a year and a half I have been researching and writing on the question of how we can best go about the work of evangelization in the postmodern world, as well as developing a new apologetic for the 21st century. As a part of this project I attended, in September/October of 2014, The School of the Annunciation at Buckfast Abbey in England to study The New Evangelization as envisioned by the Roman Catholic Church. Whether this work will ever be published or not I have no idea. I am, unfortunately, one of those who never submits a book proposal until after the manuscript is written – how anyone can know what they are going to write before they write it is a great puzzle to me.
Work on the film Conversations While on a Journey which explores Christianity from a little more of a contemplative view is making considerable headway lately after having been stalled for three years. My hope is to get it completed this next year.