Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Twin Cities-based CCCR Goes Global

Well, not really.

However, our reforming work within the local church of St. Paul-Minneapolis has been noticed recently by bloggers in other countries. That’s kinda like going global, isn’t it?

The CC-what?

For the uninitiated, CCCR stands for Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. It’s a coalition of reform-minded individuals and organizations that envisions and works toward a Church - fully alive, locally and universally - that radiates Jesus’ core teaching of radical equality, unabashed inclusivity, and transforming love.

Drawing on the insights and writings of the Asian Catholic bishops, we see the church as being a “communion of communities” based upon acceptance and characterized by fundamental equality among all members. Accordingly, it is participatory and collaborative in nature, embodies a dialogical spirit, and serves as a prophetic sign.

Manifesting God’s love in the world

I’m honored to serve as one of the three co-chairs of CCCR. The coalition’s primary focus at the moment is to inspire and prepare local Catholics to participate in a September 2010 synod entitled “Claiming Our Place at the Table.”

The title for this synod stems, in part, from our understanding of ourselves as being called as the baptized to be the church and to live its mission of manifesting God’s love in the world. Yet at the same time we are deeply concerned by the numerous disconnects we see between the church’s mission of embodying God’s love (as discerned in the life and teachings of Jesus) and certain practices of the institutional component of the church. We do not see these practices fulfilling the mission, basically because they are practices that are not aligned with the gospel message, i.e., with Jesus’ example of radical equality, unabashed inclusivity, and transforming love.

Our response to all of this? Well, we’ve taken the initiative to establish a number of work/study groups – each focused on an area of disconnect, of non-alignment. These areas include: Church Authority and Governance, Bishop Selection, Clericalism, Communication in a Polarized Community, Church as a Community of Equals, Catholic/Christian Identity, Catholic Spirituality, Emerging Church, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Social justice, Faith Formation of Children and Youth.

At our 2010 Synod the work/study groups will present recommendations for church practices and policies that align with the Gospel message. Those present at the synod will also work together to develop an ongoing strategy within the local church to communicate these recommendations – recommendations for the building of a Catholic culture of . . . yes, you’ve guessed it! . . . radical equality, unabashed inclusivity, and transforming love. By changing church practices we envision transforming the culture of our local church into one that faithfully lives out its mission.

Implications for the wider church

The work of CCCR that I’ve just described has, as I mentioned earlier, been getting some coverage well beyond the local church of the Twin Cities area. The Canadian-based New Catholic Times, for instance, recently re-published CCCR co-chair Paula Ruddy’s Progressive Catholic Voice article on the second joint meeting of CCCR’s work/study groups.

Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, Terence Weldon on his excellent blogsite Queering the Church has recently written about the work of CCCR and, in particular, the work/study group on sexual orientation and gender identity that I’m facilitating. He also references Paula’s wonderful Progressive Catholic Voice article.

Terence views CCCR as a “fascinating and important process,” one that is centered on “reality-based theology” and which, accordingly, has important implications for the wider church. He then outlines the work of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Work/Study Group, noting that:

Michael’s small group is just one part of a wider programme in Minneapolis. We can now see that it is not . . . narrow in focus – but is it nevertheless parochial? Why do I suggest that it is of significance for the rest of us? Well, because it is just one model, one way of doing something that we should all be engaged in, but too few of us are. This is not, in Paula Ruddy’s words, an example of a group of laity waiting patiently and anxiously for change to be “initiated from the power positions a the top.” (In that [arch]diocese, such is most unlikely to come too soon.) Instead, they are recognising the reality on the ground, and have recognised that indeed they are themselves “in charge of the future . . . [that] every person has power; every action counts.”

Many people will be shocked at this apparent rebellion against the clerical establishment (I now longer call them the “hierarchy”), but this reaction is inappropriate – it is an expression of exactly what the Church has told us to do. It is well-known that the Vatican Council resolved there should be greater lay participation in the work of the Church – but failed to create suitable structures to provide for this increased participation. Since then, the established interests in the power structures have not displayed any intention of completing this unfinished business. Many of us of course, are quite happy, and would rather sit back and wait for priests to do the work and make all the decisions. Others are impatient and frustrated, recognising that we have unique gifts and experiences not shared by a celibate ordained clergy, and that with the critical shortage of priests, we have no alternative but to use all the talents we have. But whether we have been given the tools or not, it remains a task that was entrusted to us by the Council. If we have not been given the tools, we have no choice but to make them for ourselves.

What the CCCR have done is a good demonstration of what Len Swidler of the ARCC describes in New Catholic Times as implementing Vatican II from Below.

. . . [Swidler’s parish-based program and the work of CCCR] are two very different examples, both from within the formal bounds of the Catholic church structures. There are many more possible approaches.

By now, we have moved from a reference to a narrowly focused, local initiative to argue that as an example of what should be happening universally, it is in fact far from as parochial as it seems. It has significance for us all. In Michael’s words: “By changing church practices we envision transforming the culture of our local church into one that faithfully lives out its mission. In doing all of this we aim to model a type of participation led by a coalition of the baptized that will serve as a template for church reform within dioceses across the country.”

And who knows? With continued support by folks like Terence, who recognize the need for reform throughout the universal church, the template offered by CCCR may well become known to - and resonate with - Catholics beyond the U.S.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
An Exciting Endeavor
Many Voices, One Church
“Something Exciting and Joyous”
A Time to Re-think the Basis and Repair the Damage
The Call to Be Dialogical Catholics
Staying on Board
Clearing Away the Debris
Rosemary Haughton and the “True Catholic Enterprise”
What It Means to Be Catholic

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR)

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