Mea Culpa!?

Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, fratres, quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo, ópere et omissióne: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.  Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, omnes Angelos et Sanctos, et vos, fratres,oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum.

Translation in English

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters,that I have greatly sinned,in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault,through my most grievous fault;

Thus we find a prayer of confession used in the Roman Rite of the church and the originas of “Mea Culpa.”

Lately I feel like the Church is being asked to say “Mea Culpa” about a lot of things in our society, some of which can be honestly placed at the feet of the Church but also many of which the Church has no control over.

Right now the Church and the culture are in a time of huge social changes which may have the greatest changes on the ministry of the church since the Reformation.  Phyllis Tickle, author of “Great Emergence” sees the Church as being in a cycle of change which happens about every 500 years.

The culture is changing around us at an astounding pace and the culture of the Church is having a very hard time keeping up with it.  So it has become fashionable in some circles to blame the Church for these changes.  You hear phrases like “the church isn’t relevant,” “the church is behind the times”, “if they 1950s ever come back my church is ready!”

Yes, I do believe we are in a time when the Church has to look hard at its ministries and make changes to continue to be able to share the loving gospel and grace of Jesus Christ with an every morphing and changing world.  Yes, sometimes the church is resistant to that change and Christians are distressed by the need for change in a social structure that they have come to depend on and are comfortable with.

But, it is not fair to blame the the good people of the Church for the changes that are happening in our society, nor is it fair to make hard working, God loving, people serving, ministry active, self-giving, self-sacrificing Christian people feel guilty or bad about themselves because they are having as much trouble as anyone else in this world figuring out why the world is so very different than they knew growing up in the church.

In Iowa Conference’s most recent Orders meeting the speaker, Peter L. Steinke the author of “Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What” talked about the importance of non-anxious leadership.  He talked about how tough it is for people to deal with the fact that they rules of the game have changed for them mid-ministry.  He talked about what he calls “leadership in anxious times.”

Well it appears to me that one of the first steps in being a leader in anxious times is to quit trying to place blame for what has changed in world and instead look to how we can work to be the best witnesses of our faith for Jesus Christ that we can be in a world that is confusing not just for Christians but for everyone.

Gil Rendle, another Alban Institute author, taught in a course on Appreciative Inquiry that I attended a few years ago that the way to plan for the future of the Church is to work from our strength, to work from our positives in ministry, to find out what we do well and seek to emphasize, grow, and expand on our strength until those strengths fill in the weak gaps.

Appreciative Inquiry is based on the idea that we can do more when we look at our growing edges rather than obsess about our failures or about our inadequacies.   While there are some places where the Church can honestly say “mea culpa” there are many places where the Church has helped the poor, fed the hungry, ministered to the needy, visited the sick, helped the dying, administered the sacraments, taught our children, worshiped the living God and met the needs of its members and the community.  For these things we have nothing to apologize for!

Let’s stop expecting the Church to say “Mea Culpa” and start asking where we can best grow to share the gospel to a world that still needs it.