Friday, October 20, 2006

Seeing Properly ... Rowan Williams on the Church

In his 2004 essay on "The Christian Priest Today," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams offers a vision of the church where we can "see properly"...which meshes interestingly with Bonhoeffer's claim that the church is where we can listen and hear properly. You can read his excellent essay here. He claims that many people have:

"a view of the Church that is very seductive and very damaging – and very popular. This is the view that the Church is essentially a lot of people who have something in common called Christian faith and get together to share it with each other and communicate it to other people ‘outside’. It looks a harmless enough view at first, but it is a good way from what the New Testament encourages us to think about the Church – which is that the Church is first of all a kind of space cleared by God through Jesus in which people may become what God made them to be (God’s sons and daughters), and that what we have to do about the Church is not first to organise it as a society but to inhabit it as a climate or a landscape. It is a place where we can see properly – God, God’s creation, ourselves. It is a place or dimension in the universe that is in some way growing towards being the universe itself in restored relation to God. It is a place we are invited to enter, the place occupied by Christ, who is himself the climate and atmosphere of a renewed universe.” Rowan Williams in The Christian Priest Today

So, in this statement we hear that the Church is the “place where we can see properly – God, God’s creation, ourselves. It is a place or dimension in the universe that in some way growing towards being the universe itself in restored relation to God.” Yes, Yes, Yes, I say. This is what the church is called to be, and what the church is, and this is quite an adventure, yes, this “life of a Christian is, indeed, a vast adventure!” However, this statement is a challenge to church structure, practice, and a "personality" that does not lift up the church as the place where we can really “see properly.”

But, I feel we need a reality check here...is the church a place where we can SEE, or LISTEN properly, or is it more about holding onto the status quo, and clinging tightly to old wine in old wineskins? Is this dynamic and changing church the one that we see, or is this picture far far too idealistic?

On a related note... one of my professors at VTS, Dr. Stephen Cook, has an excellent reflection on Amos in which he discovers an interesting dichotomy between "seeking" and "clinging" and you can see it here.


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