As I’ve mentioned before, in the real life version of Draughting Theology, we’ve been studying the future of the Church. We spent most of last fall coming to grips with how the Church has changed over the last 50 years, with a keen eye on the rising Nones. This winter/spring, we’re turning our attention to the future, wondering what the Church will look like 10, 25, 50, or more years from now. One common theme, both in our reading and our conversations has been the discomfort people have with “the politics of the Church.” Committee meetings, bishops, mid-level judicatories, national church offices, and conventions seem to have as much negative impact on the regular church goer as “hypocrites” do on the de-/un-churched.
As one of those rare church-nerd-types who finds a lot of joy in the political process of the Church, I have a hard time with this. I mean, I sort of get it, nobody likes their church leaders squabbling over parliamentary procedure. Nobody wants their bishop/presbytery/conference coming lording power and control over them. Nobody likes it when a vestry/session/council holds back the ministry of everyday members. But each of those are examples of Church Politics gone bad, but they are thrown around every time somebody says, “the Church shouldn’t be political.” But that, of course, is impossible. As soon as a group of like minded people organize, they become a body politic. They have to organize themselves in some way in order for decisions to be made and money to be collected and spent. It is impossible to have a church without having politics.
Which leads me to the Gospel lesson for Sunday, the great story of the Transfiguration. Jesus and three of his disciples head of a high mountain for the first ever church committee meeting. As they ponder who will preside at the proceedings, Jesus is transfigured before them, obviously garnering the necessary votes needed to be elected Chair, but it is Peter who offers the first motion for their consideration. “Jesus, WHERAS, it is good for us to be here, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED that we build three dwellings here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” His resolution ultimately fails, but it reminds me that even at the beginning, even as Jesus was still walking the face of the earth, the Church was nothing more than a group of human beings trying their hardest to make it all work. Two-thousand years later, the meetings might look different, they might cost a lot more, they might be run by the 11th edition of Robert’s Rules of Order, but in the end, all that church politics is, is a bunch of human beings trying their hardest to do what’s best for the Church.