What the yungin’s like

Speaking of looking at new copies of magazines I receive, here is a quote from page 15 of the Christianity Today magazine:

“We expected they’d choose the more contemporary options, but they were clearly more drawn to the aesthetics of the Gothic building than the run-of-the-mill modern church building.”
Ed Stetzer, director of Life Way Research, which found that unchurched people between the ages of 25-34 were nearly twice as likely as those older than 70 to prefer ornate, Gothic church exteriors.

Of course, what goes on in church structures, whether modern or Gothic will determine whether anyone visits, comes back, or stays.

Well then…

Well, Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire and the fulcrum of the Troubles, is present in Kent, England. On his blog he is detailing his experience around Lambeth. He is forbidden to attend any of the official events.
His most recent post details an incident that frankly shocked me. I’m really not easily shocked any longer, but I just don’t know what to say.
In his words, here is part of what wrote:

Since arriving in Canterbury, I had not yet visited the Cathedral. I went nowhere near the place on Sunday’s opening service. The ever-anxious leadership had provided the Cathedral security guards with a large photo of me, posted at the security checkpoints, presumably to keep me from “crashing the gates” of the opening service. No one believed that I would be true to my promise to the Archbishop not to attend.
On Thursday, knowing that the conference attendees would leave early in the morning for London — for the MDG walk, lunch at Lambeth Palace, and tea with the Queen — it seemed like a good, low-profile time to make my own pilgrimage to our Mother Church. I told no one of my intentions to attend — except I had my security person follow the properly courteous protocol of alerting the Cathedral to my visit. I had him also seek permission for a videographer to accompany me on my visit for a documentary to be released sometime in 2010. We were informed that the videographer could NOT accompany me or film me inside the Cathedral. Fair enough. We were told that he could accompany me to the gate onto the Cathedral grounds, and, standing in the public street, could at least film me walking into the Cathedral through the gate’s archway.
We contacted Cathedral security to let them know of our imminent arrival, as had been requestd. When we got there, we were met by a gentleman, representing the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral, I think. He intercepted me and told me that I could not be filmed walking into the Cathedral (even from the public street outside) after all. The reason he gave took me by surprise, rendering me speechless (an uncommon experience for me!). “We can’t have any photographs or film of you entering the Cathedral,” he said, “because we want this to be a church for ALL people.” Presumably he meant that my being seen walking into the Cathedral would cause others not to want to come.
This was one of those breathtaking moments when you just can’t come up with the right thing to say. The rest of the day I thought of all the things I SHOULD have said. Like, “so you mean that I am not included in ‘ALL people?!'” Or, “isn’t this MY cathedral too?!” Or, “so what am I, chopped liver?!” The moment was so surprising, after having been so forthright in our notification of our visit and going through all the channels to ensure courteousness, I just couldn’t come up with anything to say except, “okay,” and accede to his wishes.
We were taken to the Cathedral’s visitors office, where we were introduced to Theresa, a competent and warm guide who provided me with a wonderful, informative and hospitable tour of the Cathedral. But I simply couldn’t shake the feelings engendered by the previous “welcome” a few minutes before.

I just don’t know how to respond to this happening at Canterbury Cathedral, in Canterbury, in England where same-sex relationships are fully legal. If this man enters the cathedral while being filmed, it will cause the cathedral not to be a place for “ALL” people. ALL people. Really, they want it to be for “ALL” people? This is the way?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am certainly a moderate if not a conservative on many things. This just astounds and angers me. I’m reading the 5th Harry Potter book right now, and I feel like Harry in the midst of so many who were lead to believe that he is a lier and crazy and only out for attention. The incident detailed by Bishop Robinson didn’t happen to me, but in the face of such a statement I feel by proximity.
He wrote earlier of his encounter with a number of bishops from around the world in a meet-up organized as an attempt at fulfilling the “Listening Process” called for by previous Lambeths.

One telling comment, from one of those who had chosen to accept a brother bishop’s invitation despite his misgivings, was moved to lament how easy it is to believe what one reads and hears about a fellow Christian, and to find in meeting him that that impression was distorted. He comes from a country torn by internal strife and with more than enough problems of its own, yet found time in his schedule to participate in this effort at reconciliation. Profoundly moving.

WELL THEN, I just got home and picked up my new copy of Newsweek, and the cover copy is this:
Murder in the 8th Grade: At 10, Lawrence King declared he was gay. At 15, a classmate shot him dead.
And who wants to claim we are a “Christian country?”

As the world turns…

CORRECTION: The commenter did not comment on my post about the Sudanese Archbishop’s comments, but about the Ekklesia article. Sorry about that! However, it all gets mixed up in the same pot, I think.
A person posted a comment to one of my recent posts covering the Sudanese Anglican Archbishop’s call for the resignation of the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire. During the press conference at Lambeth, the archbishop comments on difficulties he has with Western/American ways of living the faith and the competition for souls he is engaged in with other religions in the Sudan (and like experiences in other Global South states). For the archbishop, the reality that Anglicanism is shrinking in the West while growing in the developing world is proof that we are wrong and they are right.
The commenter wrote, “Yes, the church in the West has been shrinking, but that won’t last forever. And people who live in wealthier countries need faith, too, don’t they?” I absolutely agree, but the contexts in which we live really are different. That with which we in the West compete is not a fundamentalist Islam, but more of a fundamentalist secularism. The way both of us should proceed is not to become like the other – more fundamentalist or more permissive – but rather a third way. How we “prove” the significance and viability of our faith-system/religion is the rub, I think.
I have to look at my own “spoiled Westerner” status, too, even though because of what I’ve had to endure and struggle through I know just a little bit of the emotional and psychological and spiritual stuff that other oppressed people have had to endure. The humbling aspect for me concerning the good archbishop is that he and his folk have endured struggles I can’t imagine – 10 fold. I can’t just dismiss him like I can someone like James Dobson or Pat Robinson. They are tired and pathetic in their Culture War crusade in so many ways.
One of the problems I see is that too many and large segments of the Church universal will not or cannot understand that the West has been moving into post-modernism for a while now. This IS the way of thinking of the younger generations, and it isn’t going to change because a bunch of old men demand that these people “correct” the very constructs by which they make meaning of life. This isn’t a matter of “worldly” thinking, any more or less than Modernism is “worldly.” I content that post-modernism presents to the Church a fantastic opportunity for evangelism at least in the West, if only we can accept the challenge.
Too many Christian groups would rather demand the culture(s) not be post-modern and condemn the system as if they can stop the process/progress, rather than spending all that energy learning how to be witnesses within it. One of the problems, I think, is that post-modernism demands that Christians actually live what they say – action over words, orthopraxis over the words of orthodoxy.
If we prove the inadequacy of Christianity by our hypocrisy, then why should anyone consider Christianity or a culture/society give it a privileged position? They, it, shouldn’t. The “competitive marketplace” of ideas and the leveling out of the playing field for all competing religious systems (death of meta-narrative, supposedly) forces us in the West to live the Christian life in ways that we have not had to live for centuries. How will “they” know we are Christians or that the faith is real? By our love, by the way we live our lives and not by fine sounding arguments. (I know that Modernism and Post-modernism both seek “proof” in various ways.)
For the most part, we live a deficient Christian experience in the West. Post-modernism calls us to account, for the sake of those who do not yet know Christ. In some ways, post-modernism does to modern day Christianity what Jesus did to the Judaism of his day – to the Pharisees of his time. Jesus called the religious leaders to account, corrected them, and presented what the faith was supposed to be over-and-against their misunderstanding and misapplication of God’s Way. Post-modernism is accomplishing a very similar task with us today.
This is an exciting prospect for me, frankly, and an opportunity for God to prove to suspicious and cynical Westerners the vitality and reality of salvation, redemption, and reconciliation in ways rarely experienced in the West for a very long time. It is an opportunity, but it calls us to a level of sincerity, devotion, and the giving up of self and our own agendas and wants to a degree that many are unwilling to do. We are just like the rich young ruler who gave up discipleship with Jesus (and possibly heaven) even though he obeyed the Law faithfully – he did not go and sell all that he had. He would not give up his privileged and incorrect way of thinking and living. Will we?
Of course, this dynamic is experienced primarily in the West were post-modernism has already taken hold and in many segments predominates. In parts of the world where fundamentalism reigns – Muslin, Christian, native religions, or whatever – it will not work the same. This is where the “competition for souls” takes on a temporal militancy rather than a cerebral exercise. There is a third way, if only we are willing to seek, listen, discern, and obey (oh, how we hate that last one!).
Something like that, anyway.