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Darling you gotta let me know...

Should I stay or should I go?

Back to the Olbricht passage.

What I won’t allow him is his allegorical reading of Israel as the CoC… in fact, to the extent that he allows other denominations to be a part of the Church he does not allow this himself. If he wants to establish a relationship between Israel and Christianity, I will let him do this… but leaving one’s denomination is not the same thing as Samson cavorting with Delilah, Isaiah not naming his kids Shear-Jashub and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, nor Jeremiah deciding that he won’t weep for Jerusalem.

It seems that Olbricht’s response, or the way he characterizes those who leave, the egotistical “my needs aren’t being met… God’s not about leaving but about staying and working,” is meant to dismiss the reasons why people leave as petty selfishness. And, there is a grain of truth to this… and, I have said this to people who have left the CoC and the DoC. And, I’ve quoted a version of JFK’s inaugural speach to them: “Church isn’t about your needs being met but about you meeting other people’s needs… maybe you just weren’t involved enough.” But it seems that it is a way of closing down discussion. Not all have left because their needs weren’t being met. (See in which needs not being met had nothing to do with our leaving.) (In fact, despite our needs not being met where we are, we have stayed and have gotten involved and teach a Sunday School class… and wonder on a weekly basis, is this all there is? is this all there is my friend?)

Not all stories are the same, not all reasons for leaving are the same. And, many stories of persons who depart, I would venture to say, are and can be instructive.

My last year or so at the alma mater there was all this talk about the Story. Have you heard the Story? What’s your story? Do you own your story? Where does your story fit into the Story? And I got sick and tired of the story… the solution to all our problems was knowing our story and weaving our story into the Story.

Sometimes we don’t know our story… and the very nature of stories is that as they unfold you don’t know where you will go. Of course, thanks to John the Revelator, we all know how The Story is going to end.

Albrecht Dürer The APOCALYPSE of ST. JOHN 1496-98 The Adoration of the Lamb

What we don’t know, however, is how our story is going to end up woven into The Story... and, no matter how much we name it, claim it, own it, stand on the promises, say we believe it and sing it again, we don’t know the topography of the land between here and there, and the god of travelers and story tellers is also the god of the crossroads and a notorious trickster to boot.

It seems, as well, that Olbricht’s reading of the early Church is much more uniform than it was. Not that I don’t think he isn’t aware of the divisions, but his argument, or allegory, begs for a less messy picture. Instead, there were schisms; there were party politics, petty differences, in-fighting, and factions. What Paul did was call them all back to Christ. In this, on this we agree… we will do the work of Christ. This might mean that at a given moment Paul and Barnabas will separate, Priscilla and Aquila will teach Apollo the way more perfectly, but all are doing the work. This might mean that Jews won’t eat blood and Gentiles will, that some in Corinth will eat meat sacrificed to idols and others won’t, but all are doing the work. The same in modern American Christianity… it’s messy, but there are a number of groups doing the work.

Olbricht’s response seems to be institutional… how do we save the CoC as an institution? And this bothers me… because it assumes straight up that our work, the portion of the task given to CoCers is that of saving the CoC, rather than the work of redemption. Now, he does say that [God desires us to] bring people into an enhanced relationship with him. However, this is prefaced by staying. We are called to stay and do this. And by stay he means, not stay in the Church catholic and universal, but in the CoC…

Not only this, it seems that he assumes that the only dialogue that should be had is an intramural one. Which I know he doesn’t strictly believe, but still he writes: [God] may be calling most of us to bring those of our religious heritage to a new appreciation and legitimate perception of him. I say this regarding whatever heritage it is in which one finds oneself. If you have new insight regarding God from his word, stay it out and share it with those with whom you are associated. Each group working out their competing views of God within themselves. When, as G pointed out, the stories of those who have left might be instructive.

The Church is a house of many mansions. And in moving from the formal living room to the library, one has left the room but not the building.



You punk! (And I mean that word entirely in its 16th-century definition, not in its euphemized, 20th-century musical manifestation.)

That was the title I was going to use.


Yes, and yes, and yes, and yes, and yes.

This is what I was getting at, and it is why Tom O’s exhortation, which at first intake is imposing and impossible to counter, in the end becomes a frustrating elision and damming (perhaps, even, a damning) of the real problem. I do think there are real institutional concerns to be understood; however, they can’t even be broached if those who should be working them out are dismissing the voices of those who depart. On the part of those who depart, there are also real questions to be addressed to question their sense of individual and community, and this working-out needs to be part of their stories. How such catholicity as you build here constructs one’s relations to institutions & small communities is its own set of questions. But it’s good to start here. Or to start in the CoC, as the case may be. This is something on which good, positive reasons can be built.

And I applaud your stab at a non-corporal metaphor for the church, although, isn’t “house of many mansions” a bit moebius?

well, maybe i should’ve said is a mansion of many houses… or a compound with many family units (that one, though taken from Jesus, might seem too FLDS…

One reason why it seems so formidable is because leaving is personal and highly personal… and emotions get wrapped up and tangled up and tied up with it… yet, he has subsumed all most reasons for leaving to needs being met or not

well, we are not doing it nearly as thoughtfully as you are, but one way or another, we’re leaving the church we’ve been attending the past 1.25 years. the only other options in our town are higher-church ones (though not much higher—the episcopalian one went out of business years ago), so it will be interesting to see where we end up.

Thing is, for J, this all post ecclesium. This wallowing in the stay/leave business is pure nostalgia. ;)

I, on the other hand, am with you, M, on the relative level of thougtfulness and firm decisions involved with packing up and going.

and, as someone who has read leibniz, moebius isn’t all that bad… :)

ah, too bad so sad for the episcopalians. you will be in our prayers.

and, it is nostalgic, yes…but to the extent that where we are is not meeting our needs it’s very present…and i may get to that soon.

don’t know if i will take a hiatus on the ecclesial post and return to the acadmic, i’ll have to wait and see.

Oh, I too feel the not meeting my needs problem, too, and it is very difficult to separate (and I do not nessa believe it nessa to separate) my emotional withdrawal on these lines from my reasons for deciding to leave the CoC. (However, I want to make that separation because I want to say it is possible to articulate reason for leaving outside of the language of immediate, personal needs.)

Sometimes I think it would help if I had any good idea of what my needs were. For me, for the church I am at, much of it comes in terms of what I need to hear, what messages I know ought to be affirmed—many (tho not all) of which correspond well with K’s rant of yesterday. Instead, yesterday I heard (yet another) talk about the importance of 2 Ti 3.16. (With only a gloss, not a discussion, of theories of inspiration.) Sigh. That’s something to be written another day.

As much as I’ve been asserting the importance of stories of leaving, I’d be curious to hear C&M’s story of where they are and where they are going—if it’s possible to tell without biographically yet without gossip. Does this from C’s question about core teachings?

Anyway, J, hiatus away. I am of distractible mind these days.

currently in (what seemed to be but is not actually progressive) so. baptist church. leaving b/c 1. backward ideas about women, 2. they don’t accept c’s baptism, 3. assorted minor issues that on their own wouldn’t merit leaving (among them, increasing cheesiness of praise songs, to point that i no longer even move my lips).

going to try the presbys and maybe re-try the methodists with the boring preacher. not sure if there are any others left in town we haven’t tried…there is a catholic one but i have heard it is not great, plus we are not really going to venture that far out of our comfort zone (though i would like to for purely scholarly reasons, this is probably not rationale enough).

i would like to point out, though, that at the moment r & i are baking readymade peanut butter cookies, which is way further out of my comfort zone than catholicism. so i guess anything could happen.

in the evening, when it’s daddy day-care, and i am at my wits end and trying to cook and evie is fussy. i will pick her up as i sautee the veges.

and i look forward to being able to cook with her when she gets a little older…though, my mother never involved us in the process.

let us know how cooking with r goes.

i wouldn’t call plopping ready-made Pillsbury dough balls on a cookie sheet “cooking.” rather, i would call it “hating to see even disgusting food go to waste.”
r is actually lots of fun to cook with. she especially loves to dump measured ingredients into the bowl, and could probably do a lot more, but i am usually in a hurry/ unable to allow room for error.

Olbricht’s response seems to be institutional… how do we save the CoC as an institution? And this bothers me… because it assumes straight up that our work, the portion of the task given to CoCers is that of saving the CoC, rather than the work of redemption.

I don’t think I’m as concerned as you with O’s institutional focus. You seem to present two options: 1) save the institution, or 2) focus on redemption. Can the institution itself not have redemptive value?

I focus on this part of the essay because my concerns are almost entirely institutional: does the institution want me? can I save (or at least help) the institution? what is the institution doing to my gay sisters and brothers? etc, etc.

And, to the degree that the insitution comprises people, family, and friends, saving the instutition is a work of redemption.

As always, just thinking out loud…

GR: To my mind, it’s the perspective that makes the difference, and I think J’s appeal to the catholicity of the church is necessary to put the institution in perspective. One can get to catholicity by going through the institution, around the institution, in spite of the institution, or with the institution, but one would be wrong (or at least sectarian) to say the institution itself is the church catholic. TO implies the last, or at least, doesn’t make the connections clear, and thereby he denies those who wish to find the church catholic a place to stand.

THe problem with TO’s argument in that case, which J addresses, is a different, not contra, concern from yours.

That said, J might find it wise to address the institution of the CoC more precisely in future versions/extensions of this. (Altho, Still Crazy touches on it some…)

Or I might address it. I realized after I wrote the above that my own concern for the institution is pretty minimal, and that should color what I wrote above. I believe it will survive as institutions tend to do. I do admire yours and others’ desires to redeem it (Lord help me in my disbelief).

You’re right, there has to be some discussion re: institution. And, the possibility of change or not.

That said, and I am thinking about it, and, G accurately portrays what I was trying to say. (then again, he has read more of my convoluted prose than any human alive)

Well, I have made it through all five now. Thanks for sharing your journey. I am not, however, sure if the reason for leaving was revealed.

On an exegetical note, I do not have a problem with Israel being a type of the church. In fact I believe the church continues the story of Israel (especially in Luke’s writings).

I am however committed to seeing the kingdom of God fill our being. Since I happen to be in the CofCs would you say it would be irresponsible to want the CofCs to be shaped by kingdom values? In fact I would love your take on book with John Mark Hicks,

“Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding.”

I suppose Hicks and I could also be charged with concern for the institution though we truly want to seek the kingdom. But we all exist in specific historical situations. Just thinking out loud here.

I am not knocking your decision in the slightest. I am seeking insight.

Bobby Valentine

i would like to read it, and will.

actually, i still have many ties to the CofC and, don’t really consider myself, however twisted the logic may be, a non-MOTLC.

i admire those who have stayed and are working on making it more kingdom like… for some reason i am balking at “reform” or “change”.

in regards to your first comment, i guess i might have to continue blogging around these issues, especially since i never did fulfill the promise to talk about my take on catholicity.

question: would “catholicity” exclude commitment to the historical churches of christ?

I would hope that in a sense i am a true catholic belonging to the church of God universal. yet i find the constraints of history to be real.

again just musing out loud . . .

bobby valentine

not at all… i have no problem with commitment to the historical churches of christ and i am glad that there are those so committed.

post soon coming on this very matter. :)

Nor would I think catholicity would exclude commitment, either, but (and I admit this is a lazy metaphor, but I it gets close enough for now) it doesn’t confuse the difference between a tribe of Israel and the nation of the same. In other words, if the church catholic is the xtension of israel, manifestations of it in all their various sizes are only synechdoche of the whole, but must never be said to be the whole itself.