Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Need for Discussion and Debate Among Church Leaders

Daniel P. Horan, OFM writes a blog in which he reflects on “the possibility of understanding relationship of prayer as Dating God in the everyday and ordinary experiences of the twenty-first-century world.” Coincidentally, the blog is called Dating God, as hiis his new book. If his name sounds familiar, it might be because he taught in the Department of Religious Studies and the Foundations Sequence at Siena College during the 2010-2011 academic year. Earlier today, he posted the following:
Few people seem to remember what the early Church was like. I mean the EARLY Church. Go back and look at the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of Paul, the evangelists’ accounts of the Good News of Jesus, the non-canonical sources and so on. Discussion and debate permeated the style of leadership of the early Church communities because everything was so new and uncertain. The first generations of the “followers of The Way,” as Christianity in its inchoate state was known, were trying to grapple with questions about who Jesus of Nazareth was and is, what it means to talk about resurrection, what it means to talk about humanity and divinity together. There were questions about who was and was not part or could be part of the community. Was it only Jews? Could Gentiles convert? Did they have to be Jews first?
You have two of the most significant followers of Jesus of Nazareth, Peter and Paul, on two very different sides of the proverbial aisle on the question of who could and couldn’t be admitted to the nascent Christian community. It was a very public and well-known debate.
You have, just a few centuries later, the famous Christological Ecumenical Councils, at which some of the most foundational creedal statements of the Christian faith were concretized. By the standards of the outcomes of those Councils, many of the bishops who entered the Council did so as technical heretics, at one time convinced of an opposing or all-together different theological view.
Even at our most recent ecumenical council, the Second Vatican Council, we have the best documented historical record of any over the course of some two thousand years and in the record reveals a very lively and at-times contentious discussion and debate about procedure, theology, canon law, engagement of the Church with the world, interreligious dialogue, the meaning of the Church and so on!
Had there been no discussion and debate among Church leaders at any point in history, we simply wouldn’t be the Church and the Spirit wouldn’t be able to work through the gifts, minds and hearts of a diverse body of leaders.  
So why do so many Church leaders today, particularly in the in the United States, believe that discussion and debate are bad for the Church? Why are certain partisan voices permitted to reign hegemonically, while critical voices or alternative views are silenced, ignored or pushed away?
The rest of the blog is here.

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