Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Reading Buehrens/Parker - Ecclesiology - what is the purpose of church and how does it best do its work?

In the second chapter, Buehrens and Parker promise to discuss ecclesiology which refers to the gathering together, assembly, congregation, the religious community. Using their house metaphor, Buehrens and Parker call this the "sheltering walls" of the house. They write, "And how can we approach religious community in ways that promote not competitive parochialism but authentic interfaith engagement and cooperation.?" p xii

While I think inclusivity and not exclusivity is a good thing I also am sensitive to the idea of integrity and the need for boundaries which creates an identification with a meaning jointly shared. As the bumper sticker says "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." UUs do believe in the 7 principles which they covenant to affirm and promote when they sign the book and join a congregation.

The governance of the church is very decentralized and supposedly democratic, and what this means in practice is unclear. Whether this local control is a good thing for the whole denomination can be an issue for debate, but how we, as a people, come together and relate with one another and the external world is an ongoing experiment. The question which goes unspoken is whether there is a corporate respect for a Higher Power which works through the church or whether the church is merely a secular organization similar to a civic club like Rotary or the Kiwanis?

Part of my faith is that there is a Higher Power working through the church and is manifested in the actions and mutual recognition of the faithful. I am not sure how many UUs think and feel the same way. However, if most of the faithful see the church is nothing more than a civic club devoted to social change and the amelioration of society, the church loses what is special about it as a societal organization and than is its mythic dimension of mystery, awe, and reverence.

Does God or a Higher Power, Spirit of Life, work through the UU Church or is the church similar to a secular organization working for the betterment of humanity and providing social support to meet people's social needs?

Does the church work primarily for social justice and positive change or is it also a vehicle for spiritual nourishment to help people become their better selves through a transforming grace?

8 comments:

  1. "Using their house metaphor, Buehrens and Parker call this the "sheltering walls" of the house. They write, "And how can we approach religious community in ways that promote not competitive parochialism but authentic interfaith engagement and cooperation.?" p xii"

    Right. . .

    Is this the same Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens who saw absolutely nothing wrong with Rev. Ray Drennan of the Unitarian Church Of Montreal falsely and maliciously slandering an inter-religious celebration of Creation that I had successfully organized as "your cult"? The Rev. John Buehrens whose negligent and complicit UUA administration's Ministerial Fellowship Committee director ruled that it was "within the appropriate guidelines of ministerial leadership" for Rev. Ray Drennan to belittle and deride my monotheistic aka *unitarian* religious beliefs as being nothing but "silliness and fantasy" and even intolerantly and abusively label the revelatory religious experience that I was trying to explain to him as "your psychotic experience"? Is this the same John Buehrens who angrily threatened to have the "secular authorities" aka the police remove me from the not so "sheltering walls" of the Unitarian Church of Montreal for doing nothing more than calmly and briefly sharing my concerns about Rev. Ray Drennan's intolerant and abusive "conduct unbecoming a minister" during the Joys & Concerns segment of a Sunday service?

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    1. Dear Robin:

      Glad to see you still in there fighting the hypocrisy. If the UUs had more people with your passion and concern we would be a far more vibrant and growing denomination.

      I think we all can be hypocrites from time to time. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to always live up to what one professes to value. You have done a lot in your efforts to raise awareness. I am the better for it and thank you for your efforts. I continue to work on better managing the disappointment and anger I feel when people don't meet my expectations and let me down. It is hard to stay engaged when we are angry and grieving.

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    2. As a rule David I don't get angry I just get even. . . ;-)

      And, as you will see if you freely and responsibly search for the Truth and meaning of what I link to above, I have quite a bit of fun getting even. :-)

      I agree that we all can be hypocrites "from time to time", and that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to *always* live up to what one professes to value, however it is quite another thing to be repeatedly, and consistently, and indeed quite outrageously hypocritical for years and decades as the UUA and certain "less than perfect" U*U clergy have proven themselves to be.

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    3. Oh and you might get a chuckle out of this U*UTube video of a very recent interaction with those "secular authorities" that Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens was talking about. It references earlier interactions with Montreal's "secular authorities" called to intervene in my "alternative spiritual practice" of engaging in peaceful public protest against U*U injustices, abuses, and indeed quite outrageous hypocrisy outside the Unitarian Church of Montreal such as this one, and this one and this one.

      Never a dull moment for The Emerson Avenger. ;-)

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  2. "Does God or a Higher Power, Spirit of Life, work through the UU Church or is the church similar to a secular organization working for the betterment of humanity and providing social support to meet people's social needs?"

    I don't think those are the only two alternatives. I think the church can provide the community, atmosphere, message, and ritual that helps us become better individuals, and better in relation to others and the broader environment. I see that as quite distinct from "working for the betterment of humanity", although such betterment might stem from us striving to become a better person, and I see this striving to become better individuals as going well beyond meeting "social needs".

    "Does the church work primarily for social justice and positive change or is it also a vehicle for spiritual nourishment to help people become their better selves through a transforming grace?"

    I think this question is more to the point. Although I wouldn't use this exact phrasing, I think the church must be center on nourishment to help people become their better selves. What we label this nourishment and process is less important to me.

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    1. Tim I often hear the phase "to be spiritually nourished" and I wonder what it means. Do you have any ideas about this?

      Sincerely,

      David Markham

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  3. I really like your idea of an online book discussion group. I read A House For Hope last year when it first came out and found it very interesting. I gave me a deeper appreciation of liberal theology in general and helped me understand UU more deeply. I look forward to following the articles and discussions and hope to participate more in the coming days and weeks.

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  4. Church is about community and relationship. Jesus said where two or more are gathered together, there I will be. Two heads are better than one usually. No man is an island.

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