The Radical Church

I am wondering these days about what a radical Anglican Church looks like. The 21st century has had many hard lessons for us about the meaning of being a Christian, and the nature of truly unconditional love. In every change movement, there has to be a moment when critical mass is achieved and the radical outliers—hardcore resistance voices in the wilderness—become the mainstream. Then the hard-fought community reformation and renewal happens. There is a crisis in our local, national, and world communities. Poverty of all kinds is growing. Front-line service workers, treating the symptoms and working in desperately under-resourced situations to remedy the causes, are calling out for support.

Let’s listen. 

We operate in an interrelated ecosystem of service delivery. Today churches generally occupy space with non-profits, charities, and NGO’s, somewhere outside private enterprise and public government service. This year, our society’s collective inability to meet the needs of our most vulnerable community members has been made very clear to all of us. An economy that fosters neglect reflects the underlying human interactions that bring such an economy into being in the first place. Lifestyle drives our economy and lifestyle change is one of the hardest changes to bring about in ourselves and with others. Christians have spent over two-thousand years learning how to build caring, compassion, and unconditional love into the systems we use in the world. 

From a human perspective, that is a long transition from what came before towards what will be. So today we find ourselves in this moment of what is, and there’s an undeniable sense of immediacy and urgency. Something in the world is crying for change. Circumstances beyond our control and understanding are manifesting. It is radical to approach uncertainty with love. The revolution is to care for others as ourselves, no matter who anybody is or where we come from. Rebels have faith there is a teaching within every experience and something good always comes from transformation. 
Advocacy and activism are in the foundations of our ministries, our roots. We are radical change agents for a more loving world and a radical Church needs radical members. This is no call to violence but to peace and the relief of suffering. Leaders are called to guide hearts and minds in the Spirit and the Word, service and the work of a servant to meet and pray together in a humble place of faith. Today this means interrupting and interrogating power structures, even ones we built ourselves, to lift others up. 

Metaphorically society is a big machine, with lots of inertia. Unless we perceive a crisis and are willing to respond, not much gets done to change how we live. Life will continue on as it did before. There is even active resistance when change is needed. We are now witness to, what I hope is, a general consensus on the need to work for a healthier and happier world. The presented alternative is not a world I want for my children, elders, family, friends, or neighbours. 

What is changing, the transition we are seeing and participating in, is our mindsets and worldviews. Our foundational beliefs—unconditional love, radical caring, and deep compassion—stay the same, but our understanding of how best to express this in action in the world as the body of Christ is growing and maturing. What it means to be a radically caring and loving person is slowly (to our perspective) becoming more refined and focused. I don’t feel particularly sad about the economy. People will continue to pursue livelihoods and wealth. I know these are financially uncertain times for our families, I get that, so let’s find a better way to help by interrogating systems that leave families at risk when a crisis occurs. I also understand how deeply the systems we built to care for our elders have failed. Our systems to mediate the circumstances of poverty are wildly inadequate. The systems we use to educate our children are facing massive shifts and shortfalls, and the systems we use to care for our sick and injured are becoming overwhelmed. 

There is an opportunity to shift our actions to match our spoken values, and realign our relationships with each other. Within the Church we are caregivers to all of Creation, a big job, and when need is laid bare, we care by working to meet and resolve those needs. We know our neighbours are doing the same for us. That is at the heart of our faith. We are created for each other. 

Life is always changing, which means we can and must adapt, adjust, find some way to fit into the new order and either modify our expectations or make our new circumstances into a manifestation of hope. There’s always a transition while relationships are built and awkward moments as everyone finds their way. Connections motivate us to stay engaged and keep doing the work we are called to do. They help us balance through uncertain footing, make peace with what’s been lost, and prepare the way to accept and celebrate the new present and future. 

Little pieces add up to something big—small steps on a long journey. Those unstable, uncomfortable moments in between need to happen. It’s how the plan rolls out. Nobody really welcomes losing their sense of balance, falling down, getting hurt, and looking like a fool. Yet sometimes it’s what we’re meant to do, or often what we bring on ourselves. Not only do we cause it, we actively prepare and even seek out these “interesting” times. 

Transitions, however unexpected, uncomfortable, or unwelcome are so important that we must try to practice or anticipate them. There are rules, processes, and procedures to follow so we can try to ensure seamless continuity in our bureaucracies and organizations. Social systems are built to provide stability and services but if we find no love, no caring, or compassion there, we are called to bring it, and if that transition can’t happen, be radical. Rebuild with peace and love. 

Alex teaches adult education on Selkirk Avenue, in the heart of Winnipeg’s North End. Most days he learns more than he teaches. 

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