A few months ago, a couple that I really look up to, recounted to me that they had sent a letter to the church they had been members explaining why they were removing membership from the church. I suppose they could have just walked away. I would have given them satisfactory marks just for calling to let the church know that they could be “scratched out” of the church’s ledger. But no, they sent a pretty descriptive letter detailing the reasons why they felt and believed that they should remove themselves from membership.
So, that got me thinking. Christine and I haven’t really been part of our previous church community since I was laid off. And we don’t envision a scenario by which we would jump back in. Ergo, shouldn’t we change our status to non-members?
Here’s my dilemma…and my question to you all. What kind of letter should we write? Based on how things went down, how much of what we feel should go into the letter? How much detail should we go into about theology, philosophy of ministry and ecclesiology? Initially, I thought it would be a good way to give our final “2 cents.” It would allow us to thoroughly communicate to the elders and leadership our “concerns”. Admittedly, we aren’t going to change the world with a single letter. But if everyone that leaves their church fails to communicate WHY they have made this decision, then the leadership of the church is left in the dark a bit. As I thought about these things, the desire for justice began coursing through my veins. I wanted…no…I NEEDED to be heard…to clear my chest about everything. Then, we could both “move on.”
Well, that was before I read this from Miroslav Volf. I have been challenged anew. Read it through a couple of times with our situation in mind. Then, make some suggestions about what we should do. OR...maybe there's a story you'd like to tell from your own life...
The “blood” in which the new covenant was made is not simply the blood that holds up the threat of breaking the covenant or that portrays common belonging; it is the blood but of self-giving, even self-sacrifice. The one party has broken the covenant, and the other suffers the breach because it will not let the covenant be undone. If such suffering of the innocent party strikes us as unjust, in an important sense it is unjust. Yet, the “injustice” is precisely what it takes to renew the covenant. One of the biggest obstacles to repairing broken covenants is that they invariably entail deep disagreements over what constitutes a breach and who is responsible for it. Partly because of the desire to shirk the responsibilities that acceptance of guilt involves, those who break the covenant do not (or will not) recognize that they have broken it. In a world of clashing perspectives and strenuous self-justifications, of crumbly commitments and strong animosities, covenants are kept and renewed because those who, from their perspective, have not broken the covenant are willing to do the hard work of repairing it. Such work is self-sacrificial; something of the individual or communal self dies performing it. Yet the self by no means perishes, but is renewed as the truly communal self, fashioned in the image of the triune God who will not be without the other.
–excerpt from Exclusion and Embrace: A theological exploration of identity, otherness, and reconciliation (Volf, 1996)