Posts Tagged ‘ ecclesiology ’

emerging orthodox v2.0

Sitting with the wise replies to the Emerging Orthodox post I am impressed again with the great wisdom which comes from engaging the Holy Tradition.  The wisdom of “us” (which always includes the presence of God by the Holy Spirit) is almost always greater than the wisdom of “I.”  Thus the community decision making (councils, etc.) as part of the unfolding drama of the living church as practiced by the Eastern Church reflects the relationality of God in a way that the Roman Papacy and Protestant here-I-stand-convictions simply can’t.


My journey over the last few years allowed for increasingly influence from folks like George Dragas, David Ford, Christos Yannaras, Avery Dulles, Christopher Hall, Francis George, Susan Wood, Kenneth Tanner and Tom Oden in their (and many others) work toward developing a New Ecumenism.  Books like Nicene Christianity, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, Generous Orthodoxy, and After Our Likeness have been leading me in the direction of submitting to the living historical community of God. 


Last night in the “Church” class at Mars Hill Graduate School there was a great group presentation of the
Lutheran Church.  During the presentation one of the Lutheran church crests was displayed:

What struck me as I saw the crest this time, was the word “alone.”  Granted, there was a historical context . . . but “alone” has in so many ways been the battle cry and the heart ache associated with so much of protestant faith. 


The Orthodox churches’ emphasis on self-emptying service, stemming from its understanding of the perichoretic inner life of God stands at the center of its practice of church life.  This kind of church practice is not cool or relevant and will rarely grow the kinds of hip ministries that emergent/YS readers want read about.  And yet this kind of service marks the very life of God and thus can mark the life of God’s people.


In so many ways I am a budding student of the Eastern Church, they have lived mystery, engaged story, listened to history, pursued costly oneness, etc in ways that I and so many in the Western tradition are beginning to wake up to.  I still struggle with some Eastern practices when it comes to the praxis of incarnational theology. 


Having been influenced by the Eastern Church in recent years I am coming to describe ecclesiology as: Pneumatological, incarnational, social construction.  Emphasizing church a community socially constructed by the presence of the Holy Spirit together with the Saints of old, its current “members” and those who will be part of the church, with all the particularity of incarnation.


Having never participated in the ongoing life of an Orthodox community I can only wonder about just how Eastern an Orthodox church can be in the West.  Churches do not stand apart from culture but perichoretically embody Christ within the particularities of culture.  I can only imagine the kinds of questions American Orthodox communities must wrestle with regarding the honoring of traditions in a culture which does not, or consensus building in a culture of individualism, and consumerism.  How difficult if must be as protestant groups scavenge the Holy Traditions picking and choosing whatever “works for them” thus contributing to the commodification of Orthodox tradition.


The theology of the Eastern church is filled with the riches of mystery, relationality, paradox which seem – from my vantage point – to foster faith, hope and love, while the theologies of the West tend toward comparatively simple systems with a working assumption that one system has got to be the Right System often located in the work of an individual (Luther, Calvin, Arminius, Simons, Knox, Wesley, etc).  Though I don’t know about the East, the Western church seems to shine in aiding people within their communities to own their faith, mission, and piety. 


I have a growing sense of my need for my Eastern brothers and sisters.  I don’t know what I have to offer them, other than my person.  And please hear me, when I say “my person” I mean that as a social-self or a codividual.  As a social self I can say, “here I stand” but I am not alone. 


Peace, dwight


ps – Sky I’d love to buy you a coffee or a pint.

emerging orthodox

Sky posted a few questions in response to my March 24th entry.  He asked: “can you explain how the statement that the protestant reformation gave the bible ‘back to the people’ applies to the vast communities in the eastern church?”


This is a great question and you brought to light for me again quickly I go to a “Roman/Protestant” place in my thinking and inadvertently forget my Orthodox sisters and brothers.  Sky, you have read, studied and thought more deeply on the relationship between Orthodoxy and Protestantism than I, please continue to sharpen my thinking as time allows.  From my perspective, it seems this is at least in part, a power and authority question. 


I think it’s pretty safe to say that great East/West schism was less about filioque and more the will to power. 


The Eastern church seems to look to the Holy Spirit living through Holy Scripture, through church tradition (especially the first seven councils), with an emphasis on living into the ongoing unfolding drama that is the living church, which honors difference by encouraging the multiplicity of leaders within the church.  The impetus for constructive Biblical scholarship and theological reflection appears less important in this tradition in part because of view of theology which is more or less non-progressive.


The Church of Rome seems to look Holy Scripture and church tradition with an emphasis on the church’s need and responsibility to lead people where they don’t want to go, (which fits with the Roman Church’s role in the 4-7th centuries).  The Roman church seems to emphasize an ecclesial form of “all roads lead to
Rome” thus centralized leadership with one Pope, reflects the Roman church’s relationship with the Caesars.  When Rome was sacked the Church of Rome thought of itself as holding the “authority bag” – not just for the religious West, but the Roman church saw itself as the authority for the entire Western world, religious, political, social, etc.


I often wonder what kind of world we would have if the West had not excommunicated the East (as if it had the ability to do so) or if the Roman church had entered into the multiplicity of church leadership as was being lived and invited by the East. 


What we now look back on as the Protestant Reformation was largely an attempt to reform or deconstruct the indulgences and abuses of power being exercised by the Roman church.  The reformers’ primary strategy was to do an end-run around church tradition by going back to Holy Scripture, but in so doing they deconstructed more than they had intended.  The Reformers introduced a new way of thinking that essentially argued: one person together with the Holy Spirit and Scripture can stand in protest against any perceived injustice, poor doctrine, ecclesial structure, carpet color, personality difference, etc.


It is in this way the Protestant turn gave the Bible back to the people.  People no longer needed the church to tell them what the Holy Narrative said but they could read it for themselves, in their own vernacular.  Of course the Bible we got through the Protestant Reformation was virtually a contextless text.  And this was more of a response to the Western Church than to the Eastern Church.  


The Protestant church is largely responsible for furthering the development of Biblical studies.  In fact about two years ago at Holy Cross (Greek Orthodox) seminary in Boston a mini Orthodox council-like-event was held to consider Orthodox Biblical scholarship.  Part of the stated reason for the gathering was a sense among Orthodox leaders that the Orthodox voice was being drowned out in Biblical studies.  Orthodox studies have tended to focus more on patristics than on Biblical studies. 


One of the things I appreciate about the emerging church for those in the Western tradition is that Scripture is being given a context, a location, a people, a history, a tradition, etc. in a way that was lost during the height of modern epistemological project.


Part of the gift that the Orthodox tradition offers to the Roman, Protestant and especially the emerging church is a theo-praxis of an incarnational ecclesiology which renders cultural relevance irrelevant.  Sometimes the Orthodox church is criticized for not being more socially active but such criticism fails to appreciate yeast-like function the church has within the world; the Western church (Roman and Protestant) tries to make the church the loaf.


I don’t understand what appears as a virtually non-developmental methodology which seems to undergrid Orthodox theology and praxis, while at the same time such an emphasis on the Spirit’s work in creation.  At times there is a sense that God ceased working within the church after the early church councils.  By contrast the emerging church appears willing to drop almost everything on a dime.  And the emerging church is quick to commodify faith traditions and practices which, in its desire to recover certain practices, often strip those practices of their meanings. 


The jury is still out on what the ultramodern church (which is I would say is the emerging church) has to offer our Roman and Eastern brothers and sisters, my hunch is that that the emerging church is a conversational move reforming the Protestant church from protesting to conversing, or relating.  I take the “emerging” movement in direction of a more robust pneumatology, incarnation, narrative, mystery, holistic/sensory worship to be encouraging signs.  In many ways the emerging church seems to be moving the Western church East.  But I will not likely be converting to Orthodoxy anytime soon.  Possibly the most “Orthodox” thing Westerners could do is discourage easy conversions while encouraging owning one’s own traditions, and tracing those traditions way back; to live life and quit trying to sell our hipper versions of the church.    


I meant to offer a quick response to some really thoughtful questions, I see I have neither answered the questions nor offered a quick response.  I don’t know if this made any sense but I’ll post it anyway.


Peace, dwight

stone soup

I enjoy making soup.  I literally have a pot of soup on right now.  So see a few months back Lynette and I made a ham.  And in my mind, any ham meal has a soup chaser.  I put the ham bone in the freezer for a rainy day.  Guess what – its raining!  

And speaking of soup – Pascal brought a DVD home from the library with a collection of children’s fables and myths.  One of the stories on the DVD is, “Stone Soup.” 

“Stone Soup” may well be among my favorite metaphors of church or worship.  In some ways modern church has made worship a veritable banquet – a sensory feast.  I want to foster ownership of the soup – I want to make the meal unique as the people gathering – each one bringing the cabbage, the carrot, the potato as they are able.  The banquet looks better, it may even taste better, certainly it gets more attention.  But that is not my calling.

In the end it may not matter whether we “Stone soup’ed” or “Banqueted.”  It seems a  more important question might be: are those hungering and thirsting finding nourishment?   And are they finding someone to eat with?

peace, dwight

community mapping

Bill Wallenbeck of Jacob’s Well just preached a sermon called Scale-Free Networks and the Kingdom using some concepts of Scale-free networks, he even drew on some of my research. Check it out.  Tim Samoff posted some photos of a community-mapping exercise Jacob’s Well engaged in this past Sunday. Here’s one image. Peace, dwight

church faces death

“Depend upon it, Sir,
when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight,
it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

– Samuel Johnson, Sept 19, 1777

Michael Jinkins begins his book, “The Church faces Death” with this quote from Samuel Johnson.  If there is any truth to it, than it’s little wonder those of us in the church are struggling to gain fresh and deeper understand of the church. We see the hand writing on the wall and it is “concentrating our thinking wonderfully.”

Though little more than 100 pages this book is no quick read – Jinkins draws heavily from Derrida, Heidegger, and Kierkegaard in inviting the church to embrace its death (as best as we can) to experience resurrection which we can’t create but is an act of God. He “de-scribes” the church in semiotic dialogue (a great chapter). Deals with ecclesial taxonomies in such a way that honors paradox and plurality and speaking hope to the church. Tackles the question, “what does it mean when we use the word ‘church’?”

Peace, dwight


Thoughts regarding ordination: I understand ordination to be a human recognition of God’s calling on a person’s life.

My calling is to pastor; to shepherd; to lay down my life before Christ by serving a faith community. I highly value the fact that my fellow bother and sisters have recognized God’s call on my life to this kind of service. So I value ordination on that level. It is important that the body of Christ recognize and celebrate unique “God callings”.

On the other hand, I don’t define myself by that title. I was not called to a title or a position. I was called to serve and to become the least. I am simply, as best as I can, and by the grace of God, trying to live as the servant, Christ is inviting me to be.

My concern with Ordination is not that we recognize God’s calling on people’s lives, but that we limit ordination to clergy or religious professionals. For instance a film maker friend of mine has demonstrated a consistent, humble, Christocentric calling for redemptive film making. His calling is obvious – he has been ordained to communicate the gospel. But the church can not-or would not ordain him.

peace, dwight