Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Looking Forwards ... Looking Backwards

One of the phrases that Karen Ward uses that has greatly influenced the way I think is the idea of 'ancient future'. This phrase for me is a hopeful way of looking forward. I was really interested and surprised on returning to the UK - where this simple phrase really seems to trouble some. For example - my Bishop prefers the phrase 'ancient fresh'. I know why he takes this view - a high regard to to scripture, reason and tradition. With the focus on tradition - believe me - I think there is a strong place for this. But I am troubled. Troubled because for me - Christ looked forward - not backwards.

The road to Emmaus story is a classic example - in that story - symbolically - Jesus unpacked the hebrew scriptures to enable the two co-travellers to understand tradition and scripture in the context of what was being revealed in Jesus on the way. They were walking forwards - searching forwards - awaiting the Kingdom - and the eschaton and consumation of all things.

Taking the concept of 'Scripture, Reason and Tradition' - where does Justice fit? Justice matters to God - in both Old and New Testament it is a key theme. So is there a tension between Scripture, Reason and Tradition and Justice - is the former about looking backwards and the latter about looking forwards? I am beginning to think there is a huge paradigm shift between these two. Why is the church always so resistant to change? Why are so many churches such unhealthy and dysfunction places? Why are some America Christian so-called satirical magazine (I stop short of giving its title) full of hate dressed up as cynicism and clever chat. I found a so-called-article on the emerging church in this magazine utterly offensive, intolerant and unloving. Why - because basically it was strongly conservative whilst pretending it wasn't.... looking back in cynicism at a whole movement that seeks God in todays culture. It goes deep!

What impressed me about the Diocese of California in San Francisco - was how they managed to do 'both And' more than most places I have seen. The ability to hold to Scripture, Reason and Tradition as well as justice and hope in the future and the importance of change - the reception of the Holy Spirit - to change - is important......

When it comes to the emerging church - I wish people would cut it more slack - that we are called to seek mission and community. We do this because we believe that in time - God will build church out of this, and in time it will develop forms of worship and sacramentality. These emerge - hence our understanding of the emerging church.


Makeesha said...

very few people truly enjoy the state of flux, of chaos, of process. we, most of us, tend to rush through the chaos as quickly as possible so we can come to some sort of end place where we can plant our tent pegs.

even as an emerging Jesus follower, the chaos of change can be painfully overwhelming.

I share your wish that some would cut us some slack but my attempts and experiences with bridge building have fallen short...at best. My hopes are not high.

Stephen, London said...

I suppose that the scripture-tradition-reason formula was an early outcome of a struggle for identity of an emerging church – the Church of England – serving at one level to distance it from “old” Roman Catholicism and “new” Calvinism. And it could be argued that Christian regard for justice runs like a thread through all three elements, although it might sometimes take a bit of finding.

Given that it grew from a particular (16th century) historical situation, STR might well present itself as a sort of “back to the future” notion. But instinctively, I feel it still holds good, to the extent that the over-emphasis of one of the three elements to the virtual exclusion of the other two, tends to lead us away from truth. If you measure current events against that yardstick, it’s surprising how often it seems right.