aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Thinking about Authority and Tradition

My wife and I are Church Orphans. We got tired of waiting to be invited to church, so we just crashed the doors and started in. Ever since I entered the clergy, I have taken it upon myself to create the Church wherever I go, in the sense that I make sure that others feel invited. I remember the Church I wanted to belong to and I offer that to others. Waiting to join something as amorphous as “The United Methodist Church” is likely to be a long, frustrating wait. Especially if what you want is the love.

I think it is the duty of every Christian to create the Church for others wherever one goes. Still, it can’t just be our little group of friends; we need to stay connected to the whole Church. And just because I have been ordained, that doesn’t mean I have the authority to “make it up as I go along,” whether speaking theologically or ecclesiastically.

Now, I am very skeptical of the evangelical view of Scripture, while being wary of the claims of the various groups touting their apostolic succession. So, what do I think I have leave to do to make the Church the way I think it should be, and by what do I feel restrained?

Well, there are about three things that define the Christian religion. Each of those things has a part that cannot be changed and a part that can and should be adapted to circumstances. I am not authorized to change our Dogma, for instance, and if I don’t believe that God or Christ is as we have been taught, then I must cease calling myself a Christian, resign my orders and do something else, or forfeit my integrity entirely. Others don’t agree with that, I know, but then, they have no integrity, so they don’t see the conflict. What I am at leave to adapt is how I Disciple others. I can emphasize certain things over others in teaching people how to follow Jesus.

I am not authorized to change our Morals, either. I know they’re not popular, but then, they never were. Even we who are serious about following Jesus don’t live up to them all the time, either. So I have to preach forgiveness even as I preach judgment. And I am responsible for showing Love, incarnating Love, teaching how to Love even those who refuse to acknowledge, let alone adopt, our Morals.

I am not authorized to make up my own Ritual. I can’t add or subtract Sacraments, and the ancient festivals and rites that have been accepted and used over many generations are beyond my sole ability to change. Sacraments come from Christ and tradition comes from the community, and I have to receive them, not invent new ones. That said, the style with which I enact them is up to me. I can be solemn or joyous, ancient or modern; I can employ organ or piano or guitar or voice only to sing God’s praises. I can arrange the architecture to suit my usage.

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