Generica Revisited

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : July 26, 2006

suburbia.jpgI’ve been engaged in some pretty intense discussion in the Crisis in Generica post. I thought I’d bring the discussion out of the shadows of the comments section into the light of day. My debate is with CP, who is a suburban Lutheran. And in our discussion you can find tensions between Lutheran ecclesiology and anabaptistic ecclesiology, between suburban and urban. It is some pretty good stuff:

CP Says:

A couple of initial thoughts from a suburban Lutheran Christian:

This post is offensive to me in many ways. Surely you must know how self-righteous this all sounds. I?m glad that you now look at “generica” with compassion (though it certainly doesn?t sound like it) - but has it ever occurred to you, as someone who lives in an intentional community - what you call a monastic life - that you are as guilty as those you accuse of using home as a sanctuary, refuge and escape from the world? Worse, it is obvious by this post you aim to create the “us and them” - the fractured community - you say that you despise.Truth is, there are many things which distract God?s church from its primary purpose (which is to worship God). It is true that Satan is alive and well in the suburbs - but also alive and well in the city and even among those who would take pot shots at other Christians, simply because of where they live. City Christians are not immune from the sin of consumerism or from any of the other sins you mention. Luther said it - and I have quoted it recently: “We are all beggars”.
God is worshipped in truth in the suburbs, too, and God will be found wherever God is honestly sought.

Van S Says:

I?m sorry you feel that way. Sure my post doesn?t make the suburbs sound good-but that is the point. My point is that burbs are every bit as problematic and broken as everywhere else.I don?t think suburbs are worse than any other place. My post attempts to capture the frustration many emerging pastors have for the burbs…those who leave the burbs to do ministry in the city. My point is that the burbs have all the brokeness and need for missional leaders to work there…no need to flee “generica” for the urban core.

CP Says:

The problem is, you only mentioned the suburbs. So you sure made it sound like you think the suburbs are worse than any other place in the world.I am a member of a small, suburban Twin Cities ELCA parish which is ALL of the things you outline: We value social justice, we cross cultural boundaries, we challenge consumerism, and we have built authentic community amidst fracture. But we have done this via our regular gathering around Word and Sacrament - meeting God where God has promised to meet us.
My question is, who will respond to the call of the Church to be the Church - without worrying about whether we are emergent, purpose-driven, or other such agendas? In such efforts to try and be everything to everyone, to get bodies in the door and money in the coffers, we have just about lost sight of who the Church really is, the Body/Bride of Christ.

God calls us to be faithful, not to follow trends. God calls us to love one another, not beat one another up. God?s response to humankind is grace and mercy - how dare we respond in any other way?

Van S Says:

I agree. God calls us to faithfulness. That is what I am advocating. I can understand why my post offends you. But most of the folks who read my blog have adopted a certain mindset…a mindset that has encouraged folks to draw a line between missional emerging churches (the emerging church is much more than a trend…it is an attempt to recover and celebrate the very sort of things that you affirm) and “compromised” suburban churches. My post is an attempt to show the need for missional churches in the burbs. The reason I single out the suburbs is that 95% of my blog readers don?t need to be told that urban areas are in need of missional churches. They need to be reminded that the suburbs have need of the sort of churches they long to see.Having said that, I want to challenge you: is it really possible to challenge these sorts of these things in the suburbs primarily through the gathering around Word and Sacrament? I realize that our ecclesiologies come into tension here. I am anabaptistic in my pursuasion. Coming together around the table needs to move beyond symbol into a grittier reality. I think that centralized gatherings and buildings are over-rated and can even hold the church back from its missional calling. The challenge of the suburbs is that you have to work hard to meet and fellowship with people-in their own contexts and homes-across boundaries.

CP Says:

“… is it really possible to challenge these sorts of things in the suburbs primarily through the gathering around Word and Sacrament?”Answer: YesThat you think Holy Communion is merely a symbol leads me to believe that you will never understand why it is possible.

Van S Says:

CP-I?m an anabaptist, so I realize we have different views of the Lord?s Table. The unity of the Lord?s Table is derivative of the unity of the Lord?s body, not the other way around. By no means is it mere symbol-the word “mere” somehow belittles the entire anabaptistic tradition. But Communion is Holy because we, the Body of Christ, are Holy. We don?t meet the presence of Christ in the bread, but in one another, and Jesus shares his meal with us.
I wrote an article about it here.

My point is this: more is required that proclaimation and sacrament. If this weren?t true, then we all wouldn?t be so enamored with St. Francis, who took Christ?s healing presence into the world around him, instead of expecting the broken in the world to come to the Table.

CP Says:

From your article:
“I?ve grown up in Low Church settings, not liturgical settings, so my perspectives on the centrality of the Eucharist and liturgy is biased.”Here?s the rub - and the reason why we won?t see eye to eye. The church has one purpose, and that is to worship God. St. Francis, a monk, would have agreed, I think.

Van S Says:

CP, this has been a very interesting conversation; thank?s for engaging me. Indeed, that IS the rub. It all comes down to definitions. When I think of worship, I turn to Romans 12:1-where our act of worship is that we are to be living sacrifices. I don?t see liturgy as the heart of worship. Not at all. In fact, if I look at the end of Matthew 25, I see serving “the least of these” as an act of worship.

On top of that, I don?t believe that the one purpose of the Church is to worship God. There is a second, complimentary purpose: to embody Christ?s presence on earth. In our humanity, we worship God. Inasmuch as we are the Body of Christ and filled with the Spirit, we also embody God?s presence in the world. By loving our neighbor, we love God. So any definition of worship that doesn?t include an external movement into the world is an incomplete definition.

for further reading . . .

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5 Responses to “Generica Revisited”

  1. CP on July 27th, 2006 9:55 am

    You forgot to include my lat post, which is crucial to this discussion, too:

    “Interesting discussion, indeed. I won?t bother with the scriptural quotes which support my premise here. Or even some words of St. Francis.

    Too often, in our attempt to “embody Jesus” to those around us, we end up embodying our own sinful and selfish selves, and not Jesus. How can this not happen? Human is what we are, and God is what Jesus is. Church, then, becomes what I think and what I do, and otherwise all about me and what is meaningful to me, and not grateful response (which includes good works) to God?s immeasurable love for us. Our knowledge of this love comes from Word and Sacrament, from being a part of the body of Christ, the Church. And it is through the Church and the Sacraments that God is made known to us.

    I read an interesting quote the other day which said (something to the effect of) “we need to worry less about saving sinners for Jesus and more about saving Jesus for sinners.” I think there?s something to that.

    Thanks for your thoughts on all this.

    A Suburban member of the Bride of Christ

  2. Van S on July 27th, 2006 9:58 am

    Thanks for adding that, CP. I posted “revisited” before you submitted this comment.

  3. CP on July 27th, 2006 1:21 pm

    Also, one thing I forgot to mention regarding this comment of yours: “Communion is Holy because we, the Body of Christ, are Holy. ”

    I disagree - we are not holy. It is God only who is holy, in and through us. There’s a big difference.

  4. Van S on July 27th, 2006 2:11 pm

    I disagree. Being called “saints” means that we are holy. It isn’t just verbal nicety. I side with the Catholic and Orthodox tradition here: the righteousness we have isn’t simply imputed but imparted, meaning that we aren’t simply declared righteous in some sort of legal sense, but are actually being made righteous as we are transformed by the Spirit. Some anabaptists are in this camp too, which is why the so-called “radical reformation” isn’t really protestant.

  5. CP on July 27th, 2006 2:18 pm

    I see what you’re saying - I just don’t think we are saints, in the true sense of the word. The righteousness we have is God’s righteousness in us. It is our job as Christians, not to claim such righteousness for ourselves, but to point to God who is righteousness.

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