You may wonder what the “unconventional” aspects of my life are that have caused this whole discussion. I’ll give you a general overview of the things in my life that are unconventional – unconventional meaning: not the usual path. Not what’s generally considered ‘normal’. A bit ‘out of of the ordinary’.
- I’m an expat – I permanently don’t live in the country I was born in. (not excited yet?)
- I live in an intentional Christian community – and I consider this to be the equivalent of my ‘parish’. The spiritual life is deeper here and more constant than I have ever known it to be in a parish. There’s much less small talk and much greater commitment to each other and to meaningful and truthful discipleship. (okay, that’s a bit strange maybe…?)
- I choose to share my life with people who have learning disabilities. (to me that’s normal, and a gift that has made my life much more abundant – but to others?)
- I’m committed to a life in God. In every way. And I am open to all the ways in which I can be close to God – whether that be in prayer, in silence, in art or in nature. I follow what works for me and God – not what others tell me should work (ah, she’s one of those spiritual-but-not-religious types then…?)
- I am exploring the religious life. (what…?! really? …why would you do that…?! = people’s usual reaction)
- And possibly the priesthood after that as well.
- I’m a feminist. (I find there are few people, men or women, who actually get this. There seems to be a growing awareness again of the need for it though, thank God.)
- I’m gay. That’s part of what this whole search for truth has brought up as well. (“ah, so it’s just that”? No, it’s the whole list.)
And now guess which points from this list the church takes issue with – openly or in more indirect ways.
Result: I am not conventional enough. I bring up issues. And I am an issue.
So that’s the paradox of how it works: first the church sends everyone who explores vocation through a lengthy process of spiritual self-discovery so we become who we really are, and once it has become clear to us who we really are, and that we do indeed have a vocation, it turns out that some of us don’t fit into the church’s comfort zone after all. Our ‘fresh expressions’ would be a little too fresh!
The question of how relevant the church is today may have some connection to this… As long as the church does not really want to be filled by people who know the good news to be true, as long as church doors are not wide open to let everyone in on an equal footing because the good news is that God loves us as we are – what’s the point then of having churches at all? If it’s not about God’s good news – then what is it about?
I will forever insist on this: the mission of the church cannot be anything but to serve people in their search for God. It is not the task of the church to select who should be allowed in and who should be kept out. It is also not the task of the church to ‘manage’ my faith life. Does the church serve God or is this “God – under new management”?
People have tried to select who has a rightful place in the church. And God clearly said what’s what (Acts 10) in response.
If the church loses itself in power games and control obsessions, if the servants of God forget they are meant to be following God who is clearly inclusive and unconditionally loving, how can the church serve either God or God’s people?