Monday, August 10, 2009

The Great Western Heresy

Many people have criticized that phrase from Katherine Jefferts-Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

What she was referring to was the idea that salvation is God's gift to us as individuals, independent of anyone else. Here's a quote from her address to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church:
"...The overarching connection in all these crises has to do with the great Western Heresy - that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God. It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus. That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy, at the center of existence, as the ground of all being. That heresy is one reason for the theme of this Convention."
I have mixed feelings about that. I believe that salvation is both an individual and communal event. As individuals, we are each given free will and the responsibility to choose a right relationship with God. But we do not experience the fullness of this gift except in community with other believers.

As I promised, I'll quote more from Bishop Frey's book, The Dance of Hope:
"Any authentic recovery of hope will take place in community with other people...the New Testament word for community is koinonia. It means 'a deep sharing of life marked by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit'."
Our churches are supposed to be the places where we find this deep sharing of life. Unfortunately, we often fall short of this ideal in our actual experience. "However," Bp. Frey continues, "a deeper awareness of just what the church is designed to be (emphasis mine) is the prerequisite for enabling it to become what it really is."

What would the ideal faith community look like? You might think about it. I'm going to.



Anne L.B. said...

But we do not experience the fullness of this gift except in community with other believers.

Erlinda, I totally agree with this. When we become Christ's we become part of all who are His. The full Christian life includes ... Christians!

Going to church isn't an obligation, and it's a shame that people avoid it. It's a joy to be with others who share with us a love for Christ. We'll be spending eternity together, so there's no time like now for beginning to love one another.

Helen said...

I do think that going to Church is an obligation, since keeping the Sabbath day Holy is a commandment, but not an obligation like going to your second cousin's wedding even though you don't know them because her parent's went to yours.
It's like the obligation to go to your mom, dad, or kid's birthday party. Of course you are SUPPOSED to go, but why wouldn't you want to, right.

On what the ideal faith community looks like....I think we should be able to nurture one another, so we can go to nurture others.

Mass ends with "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." The ideal faith community helps us to do exactly that: love and serve the Lord.