Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Spirit of Pentecost is Very Much Present and Active in the Church of Minneapolis/St. Paul

Above: “The Banquet” by Ansgar Holmberg,
which serves as the official logo for the Minneapolis/St. Paul-based
Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's 2010 Synod of the Baptized,

"Claiming Our Place at the Table."

I’ve discovered that the older I get the more I appreciate Pentecost and what it signifies, i.e., our recognition of the gift of God’s spirit of transformation within and among us. It’s a recognition that, time and again, births community, births “the church.”

It’s a rebel Spirit, to be sure, as it blows where it will. Not surprisingly, it’s also a Spirit that confounds any rigid certainties formed when – individually or communally – we’re unmindful of its presence across the spectrum of creation and thus within all manner of lives and relationships. It’s also a Spirit that, as we open ourselves to it, turns upside down attitudes, perspectives, understandings, and, yes, teachings that we once may have cherished as unchangeable. It is, in short, a Spirit that guides, liberates, and transforms. What a wondrous and beautiful gift our loving God has bestowed upon us!

Growing up in Australia, Pentecost always took place just as winter was beginning. Here in the northern hemisphere, however, it is celebrated just at the time when nature is springing forth with new life and is, quite literally, being transformed before our eyes. It’s a wonderful reminder of how the Spirit calls us to flourish; to grow and blossom (time and time again) into our very best selves by embodying and radiating God’s loving presence and action in our lives, relationships, and communities – including, of course, our church community.

One of the great challenges, however, in being part of the Roman Catholic church community is that we have to deal with men in positions of clerical leadership who are unmindful and/or unresponsive to this blossoming of God’s loving presence and action within and through certain lives, relationships, and communities. This is a great tragedy as, at a very fundamental level, it signifies a betrayal of the church’s mission* – a betrayal that for many Catholics causes much hurt, anger, and pain.

Addressing a Church Culture at Odds with the Gospel Message

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m part of the leadership of the Twin Cities-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR). Our whole existence owes itself to the fact that many in the local church of Minneapolis/St. Paul are painfully (and often frustratingly and angrily) aware of numerous disconnects between current church attitudes and practices (all of which contribute to a certain culture of the church) and the gospel message of love proclaimed and lived by Jesus.

CCCR is a coalition of lay Catholic individuals and organizations that is currently working independently of the clerical leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. (We hope one day that we can work together, but at this time the chancery office is not open to being in conversation with us.) CCCR formed in April of last year. It was at this time that we announced plans to host a “Synod of the Baptized” in 2010.

Entitled “Claiming Our Place at the Table,” this synod will be the first in a series that will take place over the next several years. It’s scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 18, 2010, at the Ramada Plaza Minneapolis Hotel. We’re anticipating 500 people to be in attendance. The goal of Synod 2010 is to inspire and prepare local Catholics to take action for church reform. Basically, we want to energize Catholics to actively engage in reform work around attitudes, structures, and practices in the church that fail to manifest the love that Jesus lived and taught.

Identifying and Responding to Areas of Disconnect

Within the local church of Minneapolis/St. Paul, this reform work is already well underway. For the past year-and-a-half, small groups of Catholics have been gathering in “work/study groups” and focusing on various areas of church practice that are experienced by many as disconnected from the gospel message of love (see here, here, here, and here). These areas of practice include Bishop Selection, Church Authority and Governance, Church as a Community of Equals, Mandatory Celibacy/Clericalism, Catholic/Christian Identity, Emerging Church, Faith Formation of Children and Youth, Catholic Spirituality, and Social Justice.

Since last May, I’ve been facilitating a work/study group on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (see
here and here). There are seven of us in the group, and we’ve been focusing on the research findings and insights concerning Catholic theological anthropology and ethics contained in Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler’s scholarly tome, The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology.

Above: Members of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform’s
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Work/Study Group,
meeting at my home in St. Paul on the evening of Pentecost Sunday 2010.
From left: Mary Beth, Ed, Joe, Henry, Phyllis, and Bob.

At CCCR’s 2010 Synod, recommended practices and actions for reform will be presented and discussed in numerous break-out sessions. These sessions will be facilitated by members of the various work/study groups who have worked hard to develop knowledge and expertise around the particular issue they’ve been focusing on, and we’re definitely looking forward to sharing our expertise and recommendations on September 18.

I should note that although Synod 2010 will be a culmination of the activities of the various work/study groups, it will also serve as a launch pad for future ongoing action. A special Action Coordinating Team (ACT) will be commissioned at the Synod and all those present will have the opportunity to be part of the action as together we take the Synod’s recommendations for reform out to our families, parishes, and communities within the local church. As you can see, we’re definitely in this for the long haul. And we trust that it is the Spirit – that wondrously transforming Spirit of Pentecost – that is leading us to be the church that Jesus envisioned: a community that welcomes and nurtures all.

Practices and Actions to Transform the Culture of the Church

I should also say a little about what CCCR is saying about this idea of best “practices” and actions” for church reform – practices and actions that each work/study group is in the process of formulating and will present in September at the Synod of the Baptized.

First, the one thing that the different actions and practices being recommended have in common is that they all aim to impact the culture of the local church in ways that facilitate collegiality, transparency, inclusiveness, respect, dialogue, and spiritual nurturance. Such qualities, we believe, will help the church better live out its mission.

Second, the CCCR board of directors has defined practices as initiatives that individuals can begin to act upon right away when they leave the Synod on September 18. Actions, on the other hand, are initiatives that the work/study groups are suggesting that CCCR and its Action Coordinating Team (ACT) undertake. Action Teams will be established to carry out these suggestions, and folks at the Synod will be given the opportunity to sign up to work on them.

The 3-5 practices and actions that each work/study group will recommend at the Synod represent their best thinking on the various issues that they’ve been studying and discussing for the past year. However, these recommendations should not be seen as done deals requiring simply a rubber stamp of approval from those attending the Synod. Rather, the recommendations of the work/study groups can be best thought of as like a starter kit, something to prime the pump of the Synod attendees’ thinking. They can, and no doubt will, be further clarified and developed by those attending the Synod. And, of course, additional recommendations may well be discussed and formulated.

I think you’d agree that, given all that I’ve described, the Spirit of Pentecost is definitely very much present and active in the church of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

* Following is how CCCR understands the mission of the church.

As a community of Jesus’ followers, we are the Church. Empowered by the
Christ Spirit, it is our mission to continue his mission of announcing the
arrival of the reign of God by recognizing and embodying God's transforming love.

To accomplish our mission we:

• Proclaim the Gospel in action and words.

• Respect the equality of all the baptized and their right of full participation in the church, according to their Spirit given gifts.

• Celebrate, in sacrament, especially in Baptism and the Eucharist, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and our call to follow him.

• Serve others, especially the poor and marginalized, with a humble and generous heart.

• Seek, together with all people of good will, peace through justice.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Catholic Coalition for Church Reform
Many Voices, One Church
“Something Joyous and Exciting”
Preparing to Claim Our Place at the Table
CCCR Responds to Censure by Chancery
An Exciting Endeavor
A New Phase

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

1 comment:

Ross Lonergan said...


I very much admire the work that you are doing for reform of your local church. Most of us just whine and criticize, while you and your people have obviously devoted a great deal of time, energy, thought, and love to your mission of bringing about real change. How did this movement begin in your area? Are there Cathlic reform groups similar to yours in other cities? Are the people involved in the organization from a wide spectrum of Catholic life?