Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Faith Convergence

There seems to be something in the air that's leading many people of faith to say, "This is ridiculous, the things we have in common are more important than our differences. How are you, anyway?"

Brenda recently sent me some stuff around the Draft National Statement on Religious Diversity. The statement itself is fairly bland, as you might expect - apparently a horse designed by a basically liberal committee, with wide consultation, isn't a camel; it's an amoeba. But I was amazed at the, um, diversity - no, the multiplicity of interfaith initiatives that are going on. It's a hive of activity. Perhaps a relatively small number of people are involved in a large number of initiatives, but it seems too many for a small group to sustain.

At the same time, I've heard several people reflecting aloud that maybe it's time that Christians started to coalesce back into a new grouping that reflects recent changes. The first to say this to me was Nicky Jenkins, who works as a community celebrant and is a graduate of the same celebrants' course as me. The most recent is this guy who visited Cityside earlier this year and said:

"Since CrossWalk America walked across the U.S. in 2006, we have been insisting that there is a more inclusive, compassionate form of Christian faith emerging at the grassroots in America that is almost entirely overlooked in the popular media.... While this emerging faith is not homogenous, and cannot easily be labeled as “liberal,” “moderate,” or “conservative,” certain characteristics tend to cluster in these communities:
  • openness to other faiths
  • care for the earth and its ecosystems
  • valuing artistic expression in all its forms
  • authentic inclusiveness of all people - including God’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (lgbt) community
  • opposing the commingling of Church and State
  • promoting the values of rest and recreation, prayer and reflection
  • embracing both faith and science in the pursuit of truth".
It makes me want to revise my "future history" for the fictional World of Biddy and May's so that rather than Pope Gregory XVII opening up the Roman Catholic Church, instead a new unified church coalesces more or less spontaneously and in a non-hierarchical, ground-up manner.

It also makes me think that something like my fictional White Star Order is likely, almost inevitable.

One thing I have to say, though, is that I hope we don't go the path indicated by Matthew Fox's new 95 Theses (posted at Wittenburg in imitation of Luther). I agree more or less with many of his formulations, and I know that "theses," in the original Luther context, are questions for debate rather than articles of faith (does Matthew Fox know this?). However, I think he's taken the wrong direction in proposing specific theological formulations, including an explicit Christology (nothing is more guaranteed to divide Christians than Christology):

"15. Christians must distinguish between Jesus (an historical figure) and Christ (the experience of God-in-all-things)."

Must we? I don't make a sharp distinction between them, because I'm not a classical Liberal drawing from the 19th and 20th-century debates about "the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith". This isn't an essential distinction for me to make in order to make my faith work. If it is for Matthew Fox, then good for him; but I think that the way forward for faith convergence is not this. Rather, as he says later:

"38. A diversity of interpretation of the Jesus event and the Christ experience is altogether expected and welcomed as it was in the earliest days of the church."

Now, that I can get alongside (apart from the pretentious wording).

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