I am an ecumenically-minded fellow, but this first reflection for the New Year (which I originally thought I would post on Epiphany) is directed to my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters….
Reviewing the past year and looking forward to 2015, I see seven key action projects for contemporary Catholics:
(1) Keeping the pope in perspective: Francis, the current Bishop of Rome, appears to be a genuine and friendly fellow, and an outspoken leader with some keen pastoral sensitivities. Let’s not however make the old mistake of making the pope – superstar or not — the center of our Faith. Our inspiration, and the foundation for our Faith, is Jesus of Nazareth not the Bishop of Rome. Papal superstars come and go. Christian life, witness, and ministry, however, are the responsibility of all in the church.
(2) Change is a fact of life: We live in a time of gigantic global migrations and cultural shifts. Some speak fearfully about a clash of civilizations. Cultural change, questioning, and temporary cultural estrangement are unavoidable. Let’s not see this as terrible and frightening but challenging and hopeful. The ways in which we understand both God and the church move in dialogue with ongoing changes in human culture, our changing knowledge, and our expanding consciousness. In any event — no matter how hard the fundamentalists try to convince people otherwise — there really is no turning back. We are all on a new journey…..and we are all travellers and explorers.
(3) Sexism is sin: Rush Limbaugh, known for his somewhat comic and always conservative proclamations, has warned of those who are working today to “chickify” contemporary society. What he means is that radical feminists are taking control of society and the media and subverting and subjugating men. I don’t think so. Sexism in civil society and in the church remains as strong as ever. It is unjust and inhumane and of course unchristian. We don’t need a “theology of women.” We need a theology, an attitude, and a language that are all inclusive. You and I must make it happen.
(4) Ignorance is not bliss: In our church, and especially in our ordained leadership, there is great historical and biblical ignorance. Together let us seek good and correct information. Let’s insist on theological updating and continuing education for our bishops and educators. Let us think critically and ask the critical questions. And……may we do this without demeaning the other; but never flinching either from challenging those who make ignorant and sometimes stupid church pronouncements. No one has all the truth. Together we must all be truth-seekers.
(5) Human sexuality: Perhaps it comes, in part, from a centuries-old tradition of having ordained ministers who are officially celibate. Nevertheless, the official Roman Catholic understanding and official Roman Catholic teaching about human sexuality – in it’s great variety of forms and expressions – is terribly medieval. Change here will come slowly; but it will not come at all, unless we all challenge ignorance and protest the institutional sin and hypocrisy that allow sexual ignorance and discrimination as well as sexual abuse to continue unchallenged.
(6) Prophetic church movements: Around the world there are a great number of prophetic church movements, many inspired and animated by prophetic ordained women. They deserve our recognition and support. They not only belong to the Church of Christ but may indeed be its best hope for the future.
(7) God-seekers: Most importantly, ever mindful of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, let us be God-seekers: explorers of the Divine and creative interpreters of the Divine who in words, symbols, and songs can speak about God’s presence in human life. The number of God-seekers is growing among those who are “spiritual but not religious.” Their journey is our journey as well.
We have some exciting projects ahead of us……..