Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Balancing Community and Individual Needs

John Plummer has an interesting post today entitled "Running Free". In it, he elaborates on a theme that he has expounded before, especially in his book The Living Mysteries -- the idea that the church and jurisdictions and organized communities are unnecessary, as the priesthood and the sacraments are the important thing.

Indeed, many churches have caused a lot of harm -- one need merely think of the persecution of the Jews by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other denominations (Martin Luther was shockingly bigoted in his anti-Semitism); the endorsement of racist slavery by the Southern branches of the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist denominations in the United States; the denigration of women inherent in denying them the opportunity for full participation in the church's life; or the current vicious attack on lgbt families by many denominations, with an anemic response by most "liberal" mainstream denominations (the United Church of Christ being the shining exception). There are many other examples that could
be offered. And John is absolutely correct in pointing out the ridiculousness of many independent jurisdictions.

Yet, there are also many examples of how unbridled individualism can lead to great problems as well -- especially in our movement. While there are many holy people doing good work in our movement, there are also a lot of people who want quick ordination with no demands to feed their egos -- and while John points to jurisdictions that feed this, I think abolishing this for a "free" priesthood would only exacerbate the problem, since it would remove all accountability.

Individualists can point to unhealthy and abusive communities and say, "See? Everyone is better off on their own, with complete freedom!", with justification. Communitarians can point to unhealthy, abusive, and eccentric individuals and say, "See? Everyone is better off in community, with accountability!", again with justification. In fact, God has created us with a hunger for community, so that we cannot be fulfilled human beings without being in deep, intimate, covenanted relationships, as well as creating us as individuals with deep longings of the Spirit demanding that we express them, even if we go against the grain and march to the beat of a different drummer (if I may be forgiven for mixing metaphors).

Healthy priesthood can only exist within covenanted communities that honor and encourage healthy individual development -- and it is this search for balance that we must pursue, rather than recreating unhealthy communities or establishing unaccountable "free" priesthoods.

5 comments:

Alexis said...

Hi Tim - good to see you posting!

Whilst I sit with my own thinking on this (soon to be posted "in another place" :) http://gracecatholic.blogspot.com) I just wanted to offer a hearty "Amen!" to your post - in particular, where you write: "Healthy priesthood can only exist within covenanted communities that honor and encourage healthy individual development -- and it is this search for balance that we must pursue, rather than recreating unhealthy communities or establishing unaccountable "free" priesthoods."

Thank you.

John Plummer said...

Hi Tim -

I think you misunderstand me. I have never said that I think community isn't essential. I just don't think community and accountability has to take denominational/jurisdictional form. This discovery of true spiritual individuality leads one precisely to the realization that we're all in this together.

Thanks for the response!
John

John Plummer said...

I hit post too quickly! Here's a question for you --- Why is accountability somehow more real if it happens in a structured, formalized organization (which, in the independent movement, has often been created by the person/s in question!)?

Paul Goings said...

I'm not sure that I get the distinction between "community as community" and "community as jurisdiction." A jurisdiction is a community, no?

Alexis said...

Paul makes an interesting point - one which my partner also made in a slightly different way this morning at breakfast - a bishop - taking this as an example because your's truly is one. Regardless of his/her connection to a "larger" body intrinsically has a "jurisdiction" because the care and relationships he/she has for those under his/her episcopal care. It is a "natural" outcome of the office really. I think My other half expressed it better to be sure.