Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Leaving Church

One of the highlights of last week's trip to Washington, D.C. was Sunday morning worship at St. John's Lafayette Square. The small yellow church across from the White House is known as the church of the presidents, but we were not hoping for a brush with power. We came to hear the "really real" voice of Barbara Brown Taylor.
Barbara Taylor has been an Episcopal priest since 1984. Her most recent book, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, reflects on the 15 years she spent in parish ministry and her decision to leave it. She is quick to say that she has found a different kind of ministry in teaching, writing, and speaking, but she has also found a different kind of faith. That story, told beautifully in Leaving Church, is very much worth reading.
"If it is true that God exceeds all our efforts to contain God," Taylor writes, "then is it too big a stretch to declare that dumbfoundedness is what all Christians have most in common? Or that coming together to confess all that we do not know is at least as sacred an activity as declaring what we think we do know?" Observing that "the poets began drifting away from churches as the jurists grew louder and more insistent," she writes that she "wanted to recover the kind of faith that has nothing to do with being sure what I believe and everything to do with trusting God to catch me though I am not sure of anything."
Leaving Church is one person's story, but it is a story through which we see ourselves, others, and the gracious presence of God more clearly. Taylor writes, "This is not the life I planned or the life I recommend to others. But it is the life that has turned out to be mine, and the central revelation in it for me--that the call to serve God is first and last the call to be fully human--seems important enough to witness to on paper."

(photo credit: Don Chambers, www.barbarabrowntaylor.com)


Blogger Steve said...

I don't get over here too much to read the articles. However, I must admit that I was particularly surprised that hearing from "barbara brown taylor" is something that would be a highlight. Quite frankly, I am wondering where is the discernment in sitting in on a teacher that doesn't profess to holding the Bible as the Word of God?

to quote an article 6/12/2006 from USA Today:

Barbara Brown Taylor, 55, aspires to be a "holy troublemaker."
But to do it, she had to relinquish her ordination as an Episcopal priest, says Taylor, who describes her decision in Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith.

Now, on Sundays she writes, prepares the religion courses she teaches at Piedmont College, or works with her husband on their northwest Georgia farm.

She drifts by churches some Sundays and speaks on the national Episcopal circuit. But it's hard to find a church home when she sees some lose sight of "the whole purpose of the Bible ... to convince people to set the written word down in order to become living words in the world for God's sake."

Instead, she says, she sees too many people sink into vitriol, wielding words of faith as weapons.

"Jesus knew the Hebrew Scriptures, and he departed from them. He was not faithful to the Scripture of that time, and today the Bible teaches me the book is not the final authority. ... The spirit is moving; Scripture is not the only measure."

As a priest, she never blessed same-sex unions, since her bishop opposed this. But Taylor believes the clergy should talk about "the virtues of righteous sexual relationships of any kind and bless them."

God is found wherever people are "non-abusive, mutually self-giving, honest and monogamous."

Taylor remains a vocal Episcopalian, staying in the fold because, "If you leave, no one has to deal with you anymore."

My problem is that the Word of God (the Bible) is referred to in Colossians 3:16 as the Word of Christ! If you read through, you see why the denial of Scripture is a problem!! 1 Timothy 6:3-4a "If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; .."

I am not a person that wants to walk around being a critic for the sake of criticism. However, I am not comfortable with promoting those who challenge Scriptures authority as being a "highlight".

Just something to think about!

2:20 PM  
Blogger Joni and Bob said...

I can understand your concern, given the slant of the USA Today story. However, her speaking and writing is insightful and offered out of love for the church. (Her preferred subtitle for the book: A Love Story). She is no Bishop Spong. Her words provoke reflection, teach grace, and remind us of the mystery of our shared faith.

7:21 AM  

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