Daily Archives: September 25, 2011

The Church Maintained in Love: Thoughts on Life a Year after Being Asked to Leave a Church

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right….” Martin Luther

It has been a year since I was asked to leave my former church.  While I choose not to rehash the events of that time now I feel a need to reflect on where I am now as a Priest and Christian living in a tumultuous time in our nation and in the world.

In the past year I have rediscovered a passion for ministry especially to and speaking out for those that are marginalized by much of the church.  Since I understand to some degree what it is to have been marginalized by the church for voicing positions that as Luther said that are “neither safe, nor politic, nor popular” but because my conscience tells me that it is right.

I am still a Christian, even though some have questioned that, after I left that church some called me an “apostate.”  Yet I believe in the God of Scripture, the Creeds and the Councils. At the same time that belief is not as rigid as it once was. I used to consider those that didn’t believe like I did in relation to Scripture, the Creeds and Councils not to be Christians.  I cannot say that now. I am much more to have the Grace and Mercy of God be my default position and let other things fall out where they may.

As far as my daily spiritual life and relationships I am still sorting things out.  When I returned fromIraqI went through an intense time of spiritual despair during the depths of depression, anxiety, grief and abandonment related to my time inIraqand my battle with the injury of PTSD.  That period left me even wondering if God existed, for all practical purposes I was an agnostic.  While faith has returned there are still many things that I struggle with and as I wrestle with this I know that part of this has nothing to do with faith but to my basic personality and personality type. I am a Myers Briggs INTJ.  This means that I am basically logical, distant and more at home dealing with theory, imagining things as they could be and solving problems rather than “staying in the lines.”  It also means that I can appear cold or or standoffish even when I am not trying to do so. If you want to see a classic INTJ watch House MD.  Likewise I need much solitude and not always the most sociable person on the planet.  In the past year I have not moved much closer than I was last year to figuring how I do the spiritual disciplines and relationships. Last fall  I did try and liked the Celtic Daily Prayer when I tried it. Perhaps I should actually go out and buy a copy and really give it a try. So after a year I am searching for a spiritual method or practice that will work for me and I will probably seek out a qualified spiritual director to help me in this process.

But not all has been difficult.  My faith in some ways, especially the theological, ethical and philosophical aspects of it is much more connected to how I live.  These aspects of my faith also inform the way that I live and relate to this world. I am Catholic and I am happy to be a priest of the Apostolic Orthodox Catholic Church which an expression of the Old Catholic Church. I am most fortunate to be part of that small but loving church. My theological and philosophic ethos is much more ecumenical and democratic than it was in the past. I remember when I tended toward a more triumphant and monarchical view of church.

I believe that the Church is a community centered on Jesus and bound together by our baptism, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of All.  I believe in this community that there are many expressions of that faith.  We maintain the faith that comes passed to us in the Gospel “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19 NLT).

The Jesus that I follow and that I believe in is present in body, soul and spirit in the Eucharist which is one of the most profound expressions of we are connected to the Trinity as individuals and as a faith community.  I believe like Hans Kung and others that this table belongs to the baptized community of faith and not to an exclusive Priestly class who dictate who can come to the table.  It is not the exclusive property of any denomination or Church organization especially those that most loudly state this to be the case.

Likewise as I have written before I do not like ecclesiastical bullies that use faith as a bludgeon to enforce their religious on others using the power of government to do so.  As such I have found much consolation and inspiration in the life and work of the German pastor, theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer wrote:

“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility, namely, real human beings, the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.”

I guess I find comfort in that because I know that I am a flawed human being.  However I gain inspiration from this statement because it makes me remember that no matter how I feel about someone that God loves them. It reminds me that love of God extends to them even if I oppose or have no respect for them, or loathe their actions against the least the lost and the lonely, those on the margins of society. Since I have had plenty of opportunity to criticize such people in recent months I need to temper my opposition to what I find repulsive in their attitudes, behavior and actions against the weak, poor and powerless in society and remember that God loves them and desires their redemption as well.  It also allows me to hear friends when they point out that my criticisms of such people might be over the top. Those were things that got me thrown out of my former church a year ago, pretty amazing actually.

So it has been an interesting year but I am somewhat conflicted.  I look forward to what is ahead because I know that in spite of all the injustice, turmoil, hatred and division that exists in our nation and the world that there is a God who loves us as we are.  At the same time I  fear the things I see occurring here and around the world.  The thing that I fear the most is evil and injustice promoted under the guise of religion, be it Moslem, Christian or Jewish. The same is true of the practical atheism of economic Darwinism practiced by government, multi-national corporations and financial institutions.  Likewise the inhuman actions of those in any nation who use the power of government violence and oppression or the terrorism promoted by political and religious radicals regardless of their ideology worries me immensely.  Those things scare me but at the same time to motivate me to speak out as men like Bonhoeffer have done in the past regardless of where it leads.

Pray for me a sinner.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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