Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Emerging Church

The following is excerpted from an article by Fr. Daniel O’Leary, originally published in the January 24, 2009 issue of The Tablet.


There is much talk today of the “emerging Church.” It is claimed to be the beginning of a new kind of reformation. It is happening almost in spite of us, Richard Rohr OFM claims, which means the Holy Spirit must be guiding it. “Jesus was clearly concerned,” he writes, “about the healing and transformation of real persons and human society on earth, and not just intellectual belief in doctrines and moral stances, which asks almost nothing of us in terms of real inner change.”

Among many other essential characteristics of this emergent Church, he names the following: a new global sense of Christianity that can re-assess denominational divisions, a deepening theology of non-violence, a radical critique of systems of power, a recognition of the new structures of the faith community, including recovery groups, study groups, contemplative groups, mission groups for the poor and alienated – most of these springing from lay commitment rather than from top-down ordination.

For hierarchy and laity alike, the transformation begins with the opening of each one’s heart to personal conversion. “If things go wrong in the world,” Carl Jung wrote, “this is because something is wrong with the individual because something is wrong with me. This alone makes history; here alone do the great transformations take place. In our most private lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age but also its makers. We make our own epoch.”

In a letter to the new president of the United States, author Alice Walker wrote, “It is the soul that must be preserved if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to mountain ranges, also dies. And your smile . . . can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world. We ourselves are the ones we have been waiting for.”

The emerging Church will only happen along the way of paradox. And this way must be negotiated in the light of compassion. Without those constants all efforts at a renaissance are doomed. We must first love what we critique.

Carlo Carretto wrote:

How much I must criticize you my Church, and yet how much I love you.

You have made me suffer more than anyone. I should like to see you destroyed and yet, I need your presence. You have given me much scandal and yet, you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in this world have I seen anything compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more generous or more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face and yet, every night, I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Choosing to Stay
One Gay Catholic Parent Who Isn’t Leaving the Church
Of Mustard Seeds and Walled Gardens
The “Underground Church”
Our Catholic “Stonewall Moment”
Time to Re-think the Basis and Repair the Damage
A Catholic “Crisis and Opportunity” in South Minneapolis

Image: Liedeke Buder.

1 comment:

Phillip Clark said...

Haha this is the perfect synopsis of my relationship with the Church: a love/hate one... =p