I spend a lot of time with Church leaders on all levels. At some point in my conversations with those leaders, someone anxiously states, “I am really concerned about the future of our (the) Church.” My response is always the same, “Yes, the Church is absolutely changing,” and, “Guess what, it has been from its beginning!”
I am, however, not anxious. Two reasons. First, it’s God’s Church. It has always been God’s Church. If we are the faithful gathering who dwell in God’s word – and for us as Episcopalians being fed by the sacrament, and then sent forth to join in God’s mission in the world – then it is God’s Church. Second, the Church is unlike any other gathering.
Think about it. What other gathering are you associated with that has such a significant diversity of God’s people? A place where a full cross section of ages, genders, political leanings, and opinions are represented. And even more importantly, a gathering where, regardless of the above list (and an even much longer one), the dignity of each is respected. College professor or teenager – both are equal and called to be respected in the Church.
This has been true since the beginning of the Church, as we hear from the first letter to the faith community in Corinth:
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ…Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.” (1 Corinthians 12).
The Church is definitely changing. I believe quite possibly now, moreso than ever, God’s people – in all their marvelous diversity – need to gather.
1 thought on “The Church is changing, and it has been from the beginning…”
I appreciate your idealism for the Church, Bishop Prior, but it is unclear how identifying the Church as “God’s Church” somehow calms a person’s anxiety for its future. Pervasive brokenness in our local and global community continuously calls Christians to pay attention and to reconcile relationships — with ourselves, with one another, with the Church and with God. Many (if not most) Episcopalians on a given Sunday are not worshipping in a significantly diverse congregation, particularly from a racial lens. And while you assert that many people and opinions are represented in the Church, there are equally the same number (if not more) people and opinions who are not represented. In expressing no anxiety for the future of the Church, you showcase yourself as someone who counts on being represented and heard in the Church, which is a position of privilege; however, there are so, so many people — marginalized, abused, neglected — who do not and many never experience that kind of privilege.