A number of folks I follow online have been teasing a new website of essays and thought pieces for last month or so. The site, Earth and Altar, has gone live today and one of the best thinkers in the Episcopal Church today has an inaugural article posted.
Let me just post a taste of Kara’s essay:
This piece will not present a laundry list of complaints about the contemporary church. Instead, it will present two historical examples that might help to illumine our present. One is Charles Kingsley, the Victorian Darwinist clergyman who was one of the key figures in the “muscular Christianity” tendency of the 19th century that was a key opposing party to the Oxford Movement. The other is Karl Reiland, an Episcopal priest who found himself at the center of both the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century and the American eugenics movement.
The cases of Kingsley and Reiland illustrate what happens when Christians, and Anglicans in particular, replace the particularity of Scripture and Christian theological grammar with something else. Since the 19th century, that “something else”has often fallen under the category of scientifically-informed reason, and it has been portrayed as the necessary and inevitable next step in an inexorable trajectory of religious and social progress. That “something else” has often endorsed a utopian political agenda that aspires to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth through human effort. [emphasis added] Tragically, it has also baptized what historian Jenny Reardon names as a key feature of modernity: the “entanglement of rules that govern what can count as knowledge with rules that determine which human lives can be lived,” and which are treated as collateral damage on the way to a better world.
Lot’s more where that came from if you follow this link. There’s the promise of more to come tomorrow.
If what we say these days about about the Church participating in God’s Mission rather than the Church doing God’s Mission, then that italicized sentence above is the danger that I’ve watched lots of well meaning folks (myself included) fall into over the years. The Church exists for God – it is not a means to an end for some human utopian attainment.
Fair warning for those on the Canterbury Trail… you’re being attracted to an expression of the Church that has a …complicated… relationship with Empire and power. We have often struggled – and the renewal movements with Anglicanism have a mixed success rate with keeping Jesus as the main thing.