Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mission and Adversity

Kelly Fryer wrote an excellent piece Friday on the need to remember our mission as a Church in the midst of distractions such as the Bradley Schmeling case and the related disputes. Kelly proposed what she calls the "Jan and Marcia" (JAM) plan to deal with this. Based on a Brady Bunch episode, her plan calls for metaphorically drawing a line down the middle of the ELCA and letting both sides go about their separate business with shared resources until they realize how much they need each other.

As I said in the comments there, this reminded me of a saying I heard a few years ago from David Tiede --"The Holy Spirit is a disruptive influence in the Church." Dr. Tiede developed this thesis based on his study of Acts, and I keep seeing that it's true. The Holy Spirit doesn't seem to like to let us get settled. And so we face adversity and the Holy Spirit works in the midst of the adversity to make amazing things happen.

I've been reading a biography of John Wesley. As late as 1789 Wesley was vigorously maintaining that he had no intention of separating from the Church of England. But as early as 1739 he was appointing lay people to preach and by 1784 he took it upon himself to ordain priests to send to America. His justification for these actions? It was necessary in order to spread the gospel.

Wesley's case provides an inspiring example of how setting mission ahead of ecclesiology can prepare the way for great works of the Holy Spirit. The actions of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta as they continue to support Pastor Schmeling is also an inspiring example. In his July 5 statement to the press, Pastor Schmeling said, "The good news for today is that we can now return to the ministry and mission that we have been called to do." Good stuff -- get to work and let the chips fall where they may.


Pastor Eric said...

This has long been a frustration of mine about the ELCA. We spend so much time on "trivial" issues and not enough time on mission. So maybe Kelly Fryer's plan deserves some attention. Let's get to work and see what happens.

Also, I like Tiede's comment about the disruptive influence of the Holy Spirit. I think that is why so many people don't stop and listen...they are afraid of the disruption and where it will lead them.

Kelly Fryer said...

You didn't add the Wesley story to your comments on my blog. Thanks for telling it here. It's helpful to be reminded that we aren't the first generation to face such challenges...and that we have great resources to draw from as we meet them.

By the way, though, the loudest suggestion I'm making is that we get serious as a denomination about thinking creatively proposal may or may not be the best...but it is way past time to starting considering alternatives to the path we're on.