(Edited on 7/6/2011-LEK)
The impetus for revamping my web presence through Priestly Goth, was realizing that I wanted to blog about my thinking and my questions about the Una Sancta, the Church. I see Ecclesial Longings as a space where I can expand upon questions I was asking in seminary in two papers: one exploring the effect of the logic of separation on the Evangelical Covenant Church’s (ECC) self understanding as a denomination, and my senior paper written as part of my internship exploring the nature of apostolicity. As I left Seminary I accepted an ambiguous Protestant Pietist Believer’s Church ecclesiology of the ECC that wanted to have a legitimate form to our ecclesiastical reality but shrank from asking the question of whether or not the Church had any particular form . So, I shelved for the time being any further questions of the Church. Or more to the point turned them toward seeking an ecclesiology through being ecumenical
Since my seminary days (I can hardly believe it but it has now been about a decade) I have explored more deeply both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claims to be the Una Sancta, the Church. to some degree I feel Caught between these two competing claims of continuity and fullness of the Body of Christ. Admittedly, I am also skeptical of these claims as phenomenological Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy act in the U.S. like denominations and not the Church. Though this is seeing with Protestant eyes.
I feel stuck between a number of things, and feel I need to work this out. Since I am a Pastor and Prior, I feel that I not only can’t ask these questions in private, but I need also to ask them in a place where others can respond comment and discuss. I am stuck between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as competing claims to be what I seek. I am stuck between the claim that the church is wherever people are living and teaching the truth of the Gospel and my sense that this Protestant definition of Church is not only inadequate but actually meaningless. Caught between a denomination that has raised me in the faith in which I believe I have felt the quickening of the Spirit, in which I have grown in faith in Christ and the love of God and feeling that what it has taught me and raised me in the Faith, has lead me beyond its teachings and into questioning its ecclesiastical reality? And this is the rub, this ecclesial longing I have seems to be what my denomination also has. We want to be church, we often find ourselves acting like Church, but we also know we aren’t. Though we can’t say that so we more often talk in vague terms about “building” the Kingdom of God, or some such rhetoric about the Kingdom of God in the world.
One thing I have come to is that both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have a greater sense of continuity through time, from the day of Pentecost to the present. My family and tradition have a sense of a spiritual heritage, but in Protestant fashion our sense of historical continuity skips over at least 100o years of history. In writing icons I have discovered the lives of the saints, the numerous examples of Christ that have existed throughout the past 2000 years. I have come to see that the Spiritual life and the continuous historical existence of the Church go hand in hand, or at least should. For me and Protestantism they are not brought together, my Protestant suspicion has been that these two are only tenuously kept together in either Catholicism or Orthodoxy. I certainly have trouble seeing the two together in their manifestations in the U.S. I admit that my judgement may be skewed and be due to a failure to recognize what the true Spiritual life of the Church is. My growing sense is that all Protestant understanding of the life of the Spirit is too moralistic and too bound up in a predetermined ethics that may or may not have anything to do with the life of Spirit. This is where Iam, feeling the failure of Protestant patterns of life and thought, unable to see my way into either Catholicism or Orthodoxy.
The challenge: I am baptized in the name of the Trinity – Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I come from a long line of faithful Christians and believe I have seen the work and the power of the Spirit in the midst of not only my family but the churches I have been in. But as Protestant communities, I have to admit that continuity with the founding event is conceptual and abstract, rather than historical and material. Perhaps this is true for any group of Christians, but in at least the case of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy there is something more claimed. So, a search is on in earnest. Is this being stuck what it means to be Church or is there something more, something I must give up, some truth I must accept? So here I begin, (though this is also a culmination). Here are my longings for the Church.