My ideal Church: Reflections of an older historical theologian

212 | Jannar 2023

I’m often asked to describe my ideal Church.There are several qualities I would like to find in a Church that is a healthy Christian community:

  • I would begin by saying I want a Church that is truly a supportive community of friends: men and women striving to live in the spirit of Christ. Not a doctrinaire, authoritarian institution.
  • Some institutional structures of course are necessary but they should be understood as provisional. They, along with institutional leaders, should be regularly critiqued and changed. If left unchecked, they cease being service-oriented structures and become hard-nosed self-serving institutions demanding unquestioned loyalty.
  • A healthy Church affirms the dignity and equality of all men and women, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. It does this not just in official documents but in personal and institutional behavior. LGBTQ people should be welcomed in Church ministries and employment.
  • An honest and humble Church must realize that it does not possess all the truth and has to collaborate with a variety of people in pursuit of the truth.
  • A healthy Church asks questions and welcomes the questioner.
  • A healthy Christian community realizes that conflicts must be resolved through patient and humble dialogue. It may not be easy but it has to happen.
  • I want a Church in which the higher-up ordained leaders dress and act like healthy contemporary leadership people not museum-piece Renaissance princes.
  • I want a Church in which leadership people are elected by the community for set terms of office, like five or ten years. They – like professors where I taught for many years — should be regularly evaluated.
  • I want a Church in which openness to the signs of the times is a key virtue rather than a closed-minded condemnation of all that is contemporary.
  • It is not too late to make a few good New Year’s resolutions: to ask more questions about contemporary Christian belief and practice. To support those who question. To explore together, in respectful and earnest dialogue, the complete range of answers. More questions will arise of course. We are on a journey. We have not yet arrived. And a healthy Christian community is our GPS.

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