This post is the first in the series “Getting Our Bearings.”
Our Presiding Bishop-elect, The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, says that Jesus did not come to start an organization. He started a movement, the Jesus movement.
The Church is a movement. We are a Jesus-transformed, Jesus-gathered group of people sent by that same Jesus to be his hands and feet and hearts in the world. He continues his mission through us. Through his Church Jesus continues to restore, to heal, and to reconcile a shattered world.
The key to being true to the movement is being true to Jesus. Being true to Jesus cannot be separated from being true to his followers. And being true to Jesus’ followers is among our chief challenges.
Here’s what I mean.
The Church is not a club that we can join and then quit in favor of a more comfortable or agreeable assembly. We find ourselves in the Jesus movement because Jesus chose us. And so it is with everyone else in the movement. The Church, this holy movement, is a fellowship not of our own choosing.
Jesus loves us. That is our starting point. On our best days, we love Jesus back. What complicates our ability to return Christ’s love for us is his requirement that we love him by loving those he loves. And to be honest, Jesus is frustratingly prodigal in his love.
Jesus apparently loves people whose opinions differ from our own on a variety of significant matters. We disagree about politics, but we also see things differently about theological, moral, and social justice matters.
The Church is and has always been a movement in which our unity as Christ’s beloved is at once a gift and an achievement. We are one by virtue of the gift of Christ’s love for, transformation of, and sending of us. We achieve our unity by learning again and again to focus upon what binds us together while allowing for differences that do not undermine our basic identity as the Body of Christ.
We are entering a new season as the Jesus movement. Social, cultural, political, economic, and technological changes call forth from us a new articulation of the eternal Gospel of God’s unquenchable love in Jesus Christ. To engage this mission, we have to get our bearings.
By getting our bearings, I mean in part seeing with clarity the shifting topography of our social, historical context. But more basic still is our need to understand how we as Episcopalians go about the activity of being Church.
How do we sort out what is essential and what we can peacefully disagree about? What are Scripture, Tradition, and Reason? What kind of authority do they have? How do we understand the authority of the Bible? How do we read the Bible? What is our moral theology? What is our worship and how does it relate to God’s mission?
In the days ahead I will address these and other questions by way of getting our bearings as the Jesus movement. These essays will not build one upon the other in a systematic way. They can be read separately or in any order. However, they will form a kind of web or constellation of ideas that I hope will help us to walk the road ahead together.