Thursday, December 08, 2011

a broken body: or why I'm very sad about the church today

What seems like a lifetime ago Matt and I took the astounding and miraculous opportunity to go to Jerusalem to participate in the GAFCON meeting. I'm still living off that brief stunning visual landscape--off just standing on the Mount of Olives looking at the Dome of the Rock, off our one day driving around the Sea of Galilee and hungrily sucking down every word of our guide as he unfolded the Scriptures before us, off sitting in front of the huge great stones of the temple, flung down.

But there was a great and shocking grief for me, when we visited the Holy Sepulcher which I wrote about here and here. I know others who visit are generally overwhelmed by holiness and love for Jesus and other wonderful things. And its not that I didn't get a little of that as we walked through the cavernous structure. But my over-abiding thoughts and emotions were of shock at the decay, at the blackness of the whole thing, at the weird gaudy ornate gold around the place of the cross, the pale and bizarre representation of Mary in some sort of glass box. Which Narnia book is it where they find the Stone Table and it doesn't resemble itself at all?

Looking back, part of the reason I was so struck by this particular visual, I think, is because of what was going on in the GAFCON meeting itself. Not being important at all, I was not privy to any politicking or anything. I attended the general lectures and seminars and my small group--all of which were excellent--but it felt like something was in the air and it filtered down to my dim consciousness in a phrase that stuck in my head as a freaky little irritating refrain

"when sin enters in."

And I came home with it in my head. And as ACNA became a thing, and AMiA became a thing and we lost our lawsuit and engaged on varying levels with Anglican politics the refrain and the broken decaying sepulcher joined to be the filter through which I have always been seeing the Anglican Church in America.

Its so broken. And it goes on being broken.
And there's not really any thing we can do about it. The church in every age and at every time is full to the brim of sin. When you stand on something and say 'you can go over there but I'm not going to go with you' its easy to imagine that all the sin has gone on over there and you are standing in a pool of purifying and holy light. It may be that sometimes ACNA and other leaving bodies have tried to say that, or not. Its possible any of us say it at any moment. But the key is to stop saying it. We are in the light, and it does purify and make us holy. But it does that because we're standing in a dark cavernous ruin of a church, a church that the moment Jesus ascended to the Father started crowding itself into the darkness, breaking things and sinning. And its going to go on doing this for the foreseeable future. And it will be Jesus, really and finally, who comes and says Enough! to the weird Mary in the glass box and the broken pavement and the black walls, and Enough! to all of us who can't pull it together to do his will in all that we do and say. Until then,
Lord have Mercy
Christ have Mercy
Lord have Mercy.


Anonymous said...

I became a Christian when we lived in Jerusalem (I was 11) and I remember going into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (thinking what IS a suplechre anyway?) and seeing all these groups doing their own thing in their own corner-- like bunch of children that put masking tape on the carpet and walls to divide a bedroom into halves so that SHE won't touch MY stuff like a Brady Bunch episode-- and was so sad.
It still breaks my heart, but I hold to the hope that in HIM one day we will be WHOLE. And Holy.
Until then, it's not heaven... it's just church.

Anonymous said...

yes, what you say is true.

I remember Peggy Noonan writing that when she joined the church someone came up to her and said something like, "Welcome to the church, it's awful."


Sarah Boyle Webber said...

I am so sorry.

Anonymous said...

As an AMiA parishioner currently living in Asia, I am so sad this week over the brokenness and sin in our little corner of the church. Praying fervently that this whole mess leads to greater unity with ACNA and the wider Anglican communion, which is what many of us have always wanted.


At A Hen's Pace said...

Yes, I second the last comment, that many of us have been disappointed with AMIA's position of remaining separate from ACNA. I'm excited and hopeful about this new development--that it may allow many of us to become fully part of ACNA now.


Julie said...

These 45 years as a Christian, 35 in the RCC and 10 as an Anglican, I have become insular. As I've watched just incredibly vile things swirling about that the various church STRUCTURES have created, I've come to the conclusion that these very human enterprises are all very flawed, no matter what they claim. With the RCC, there were various doctrines that I simply could not believe so I had no choice but to leave that church.

Not so with Anglicanism. It's trickier. This isn't a doctrinal thing, a sacramental thing, or a worship style thing. It's a "some of the leaders want to do their own thing" thing on both sides of the equation. Meanwhile, my own parish is lovely, the leadership is sound, and I am fed there. What to do?

Become the best Anglican Christian that I can be, I think. The structure that I am "officially" under matters not, when you get down to it. People encounter me, not the structure and, hopefully, Jesus through me. Perhaps if all Anglican believers simply concentrated on becoming the best followers of Christ as individuals and didn't concern ourselves with structure and labels, then our larger church would be transformed, the politics and activism would seem out of place, and the egos would dissipate.

Just a thought. And a dream.