Vigil Saturday (yes I know I left structured Christianity, but the Liturgical rhythm still speaks to me) was opened with exploring the idea of an Atheist in the pulpit of a Christian (United Church of Canada) pulpit. Gretta Vosper is a protege of John Shelby Spong and she was involved in the launching of the Canadian Centre of Progressive Christianity.
Vosper has written two decent works for spiritual formation: With or Without God and Amen. She has spent her whole life being shaped within the United Church, and yes discerned to ministry, and trained to look at the world through different lens, challenging understandings of God & scripture, and yes social justice issues.
Now the defense of belonging arises. And the United Church doesn’t exactly function like the Roman Catholic church where a defrocking can happen unilaterally. It is a church of shared ecclesiastic heritages of Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational theologies and politics that came together in a kitchen sink document of Union in 1925. Which has structures above the local congregation, but the local congregation holds quite a bit of power in choosing their direction and purpose.
So the church proper can try to remove her as no longer holding to the beliefs and creeds of the UCC. So it looks cut and dry, although several years ago, there was an article in the United Church Observer I believe that spoke of Eastern United Church working with, possibly merging with Canadian Unitarian congregations. So the UCC could removed this minister, but just as easily the congregation could choose to leave with her as well.
But why bother with all this? Out of my own geekdom because it was the UCC I looked at ordination with. It speaks Anthropologically to the idea of “Tribe” that collection where we belong, and journey through life with as we grow and transform. We may look different as we age, our view points change, but our roles in society transform along with us, so if the spiritual voice is transforming, and the congregation is journeying with them, then are they not resonating with the path the Creator has laid out?
Why is this important? Because of movements like this that are being organically networked due to this notion of community and home: Looking for a Church like West Hill?
So here is the question that resonates as we await New Life and a New Beginning… what is community? What is church? What is home? and…
How do you know when you belong?