Despite the cries of anguish we are already hearing from the current crisis in the church, this moment still feels like that eerie silence that follows a flash of lightening, just before the thunders set in. Or like the moment of silence following the dropping of a bomb and before the mushroom cloud explodes into the sky. I suspect that we’ve yet to hear the full blast or take in all the damage and fallout from what is going on.
Beyond repentance alone, which is necessary on the part of priests and bishops, we must also brace ourselves for digging out of the debris and constructing a new church, with an architecture patterned on the simplicity of the Gospel. I see no way (or desire) of just fixing things up and going back to a status quo ante. Nor am I fan of calls for “purification,” as I’m not sure what that means, and it has certain ominous undertones (like searching for scapegoats and targeting lgbt people, gay priests, and faithful dissenters).
Rather, it seems to me that a “new reformation” is what is really at hand. And we must find the freedom to accept that, treasuring what is precious and valuable, which we’d like to take forward with us, but letting go of all that has accrued to hobble our way. And we can learn much from the posture of our ancestors (Hebrews 11), who had to adopt a long-haul vision, who did not live to see all their dream of a new homeland fulfilled, but who lived into and worked for that dream, with God’s help:
All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better homeland…. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.