The United Church Must Die

September 12, 2007 at 6:56 pm Leave a comment

 That sounds harsh doesn’t it? Let me explain.

I was intrigued by an article in the current United Church Observer (newly reworked and looking/reading great by-the-way) that focussed on the upheaval at the General Council offices. It seems that budgets have to be cut, staff trimmed and projects rethought. This is a sound plan in view of the current state of the United Church but I wonder if the plan should be one radical rather than merely sound.

The era of expansion that I believe was fuelled by the baby booms is either ending or greatly softening. This dictates an end to willy-nilly foreign ministries. We must put our limited resources to work where we can best make a difference. There be the rub. How in the name of compassion do you ignore someone in need?

There are countless worthy projects underway or being planned throughout the world today. Judging whether creating a well and providing potable water in an arid third world country is more or less important that battling the AIDS epidemic is a tough call but one that must be addressed. Whether we feed the hungry living on the streets in one of our cities or feed the hungry in a locale half way around the world is a tough decision when you can’t do both. I think the writing is on the wall for our generous North American Christian denominations. We can’t try to do it all anymore. Future funding for these programs will not afford the luxury of far flung ministries.

Jesus taught us to love (have compassion for) our neighbours as ourselves. This is the teaching we have lived out in the past to help people in need all over the world. I think the time is coming, or maybe here already, when we have to rethink the “who is my neighbour” question. We have to take a more local interpretation of neighbour. We must first help those who are within our own society. The need for compassion and justice is great right here at home. We have hungry people on our streets; Native Canadians living in crowded squalor; mentally and emotionally stressed people trying to deal with life; people living on our streets; rampant diseases affecting almost all of society; abuses of the environment and there is much injustice yet to be addressed right here at home. This can be achieved in large part through local congregations or regional groups who live in the neighbourhood of the need.

Now, don’t get me wrong. While I think we need to pull in our horns in a major fashion to concentrate on problems here at home, I am not saying that we need to abandon everything beyond out borders. Foreign initiatives need to be thought out very carefully and supported where investment in dollars, talent and time will reap a solid benefit. A church that spreads itself thin around the world is very limited. That is why I say the United Church must die.

It is almost that time of year when my wife likes to prune back the overgrown trees and bushes in the yard. For their own good, they have to be cut back then “die” for the winter in order to be reborn in the spring. They look diminished and pathetic after she cuts them back and they winter in a sad looking state but come spring, they burst forth with new branches going in new directions.

I think the United Church would benefit from a good pruning and a winter season in order to burst forth in springtime. That new season would then see an emerging church bearing great fruit.

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Entry filed under: Wrestling With God.

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