Saturday, 9 July 2011

Diversity and Expectation

A recent comment says that Anglican and Catholic churches can be as diverse as Unitarian, but people like to know what they are going to get. When Belper (and Hull) have situations where they don't know what will be read, it will only attract a few people.

First of all, I would agree that there is much more diversity in say an Anglican or Methodist congregation in terms of what people really believe than what is presented. We know that people have all sorts of different views about God and indeed about Jesus or others, and they hold these despite what preachers may say week after week. You don't need a pressure group like Sea of Faith, for example, to have those who don't believe God exists turning up at churches for religious as well as social reasons. Sea of Faith is the intellectual and pressure group end of a phenomenon that already exists.

However, for a number of people, this 'othopraxy' rather than orthodoxy gets a bit stale. There are spiritual elements, perhaps in a ritual of drinking and eating, say, but so much is so so. There are others who wish to get into a wider market place of ideas when it comes to spirituality and discussion.

Those who formed the Unitarian Christian Association are simply a defensive 'right wing for the denomination' group who want the Unitarians to remain appearing as a church. It is often about practice maintained. But the question then is how Unitarians can appeal to those who have nowhere else to go, other than to the Quakers and their silence. Unitarians like to speak and there cannot be boundaries as to what to believe, what not to believe and what to do. This must include ministers and lay people alike.

In the end, when an Anglican minister makes promises that they do not believe, even if they then keep them in practice, there is a duplicity that has to be rejected. This duplicity starts within the Christian realm - many in the Unitarian Christian Association also cannot practice this duplicity. They are not trinitarians, they do not believe in the Virgin Birth or Bodily Resurrection doctrines, and yet they are Christian to any outsider. Indeed they may be similar to Central European Unitarians of the catechism. But the Anglo-American Unitarian is an evolved view of belief and practice, and this has now expanded within rationalism into religious humanism and out of rationalism into the Pagan and Eastern (Eastern is a bit of both).

Despite the potential for variety, the Unitarian service is still more alike than unalike. We don't always say the Lord's Prayer, for example, but it is said more weeks than not (I no longer join in). The references are more usual than unusual in terms of religious language. I personally think that if Unitarians are clearer about diversity, and the message gets out, then it will attract even the relative few and it can talk about the necessity of diversity and coming together in today's world.


Anonymous said...

"Bodily Resurrection doctrine" - I wasn't aware that there was a 'doctrine', as such.

Isn't that a large part of understanding the Christian dynamic ?

That the body of Christ today is how Christ lives today ?

It's really not a very difficult metaphor to understand from Jewish cultural heritage.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

The doctrine is in the creed. There is an obligation to use the metaphor, if it is a metaphor and not something clearer.