Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Dying In Increments
I just became aware of a couple of major changes in exegesis exams of the Presbyterian Church (USA).I read this and I cannot help but reflect on the vehicular accident that happened to my parents last year. It killed both of them, just in very different ways. My dad died in a matter of days from the massive injuries he suffered. My mother has been dying ever since, slowly, incrementally, and for those of us that love her, painfully. As her state of confusion grows (e.g. She recognizes me and knows my name, but I think she thinks I am her brother, not her son) she grows less and less recognizable, and her independent functioning lessens on a daily basis. Someday, who know how soon, there will be a person there, but that which was my mother will be gone. She will be dead, even though the shell that housed her will continue to function.
But my unhappiness with the changes in the exegesis exam has less to do with my seminary teaching experience and more to do with what the changes imply about the PC(USA)’s understanding of Scripture, its authority and interpretation.
The PC(USA) seems to be dying in a manner entirely analogous to my mother, slowly, incrementally. Someday, who knows how soon, there will be a functioning institution there, but for all practical purposes the church I grew up in and love, the church whose founding documents and beliefs hold what I believe to be the closest approximation of God's intention, order and truth at which we have ever been able to arrive, will be gone - unrecognizable. The institution will no longer function in any role for which it was built to fill.
At what point do we stop trying to bring healing to this? I have struggled for the last year to bring hope for recovery to my mother. But she is increasingly surrounded by a cloud of "caregivers" all there with the best of intentions and to "help" so that my voice becomes increasingly diluted, and as she worsens, what I can do for her becomes less and less effective.
So it is with my church. Here Mark has revealed another step, one completely off my radar, towards that unrecognizable church. The authority and interpretation of scripture lies at the very deepest heart of the crisis my church now faces. I have nothing to offer here, no help to bring. And, were I to succeed in the areas where I can be effective, this area would continue to undermine that effort.
At what point does one end the struggle? I refuse to believe it is the point of hopelessness, for Christ can bring hope to the hopeless. But is there a point where the church has become so unrecognizable, so alien, that it simply is NOT? - Where the thing that I hope for, or have lost hope for, simply no longer exists, despite the external functioning of the institution? Is there a point where the church becomes the walking dead? And then, do I hope for resurrection, or do I aid rebirth in a new place?
Death in increments - it is no fun.
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