I Believe in the Church
I believe in the church; I believe in the church in America.
Yet, I also believe that Stanley Hauerwas is correct to claim that “God is killing the mainline church in America, and we g$%d*#n well deserve it. I believe he is right about non-mainline churches as well.
I believe in the church though we have little more than a few glimmers of it here. You have to look hard to find it.
Yet I believe in the church, even here in America, because I believe God raised Jesus from the dead. And some have already surrendered to the death of church as we have known it opening themselves to resurrection and new life.
For God will not leave himself without a witness.
And that witness shines most genuinely when a people of God live in simple solidarity with the desperate and downtrodden, those who hunger and thirst for the bread of life and the word of God, those who are fearful of and hopeless in this world.
When cathedrals become shelters and feeding centers for the poor, our liturgy after the liturgy of worship, there is the church.
When we relocate among the neighborhoods of poor and working class people, to befriend and be friended by them, share the joys and struggles of life with them, to pray together with them, holding them always in God's gracious presence, resisting the injustices and inhumanities the powers that be foist upon us because we seem powerless to resist, and our lives take on cruciform shape, there is the church.
When outcasts and those bearing (holy) stigmata that leave them beyond the pale of social respectability and acceptance find a home with and among us, there is the church.
“Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.” Thus David Brooks describes a hopeful future for social conservatives in the U.S. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/30/opinion/david-brooks-the-next-culture-war.html?_r=0). This too is a call the church-to-come in America embraces with all the diversity of its people and their gifts for ministry.
Yes, God is killing the church in North America. And we do well deserve it. But beyond death lies resurrrection and therein the hope for a (very different) future than it has heretofore known on this continent.