Thursday, June 30, 2016

Faithful Resistance: Gospel Visions for the Church in a Time of Empire by Rick Ufford-Chase...a review.....


Faithful Resistance: Gospel Visions for the Church in a Time of Empire by Rick Ufford-Chase
A review…..

With his new book, Faithful Resistance…our friend Rick Ufford-Chase had made an important and significant contribution to the growing body of literature on the future of the church. (And how to get there..) It is significant that Rick’s primary focus is not how do we save the church but how do we live as faithful followers of Jesus in this empire dominated day and what role does the church have and what kind of  church is needed in the struggle. The church is thus a means to faithfulness, not an end of and to itself.

The book is also an example of liberation theology praxis. It is intended not only as reflection and analysis but as a workbook to help the faithful be about this work themselves.  It is especially intended to be used in groups, groups that help sustain each other in mutual support and solidarity in difficult days ahead.  In that, Rick follows in the footsteps of the  Latin American liberation theologians who brought a Freiran approach to the doing of theology in their Christian Base Communities.

It is very helpful that Rick comes to this book not as an academic or even professional clergy but as a lay person who understands the value of each of our God-given unique ministries and our need for one another. He draws on his experiences as a seminary drop out, going adult volunteer, border justice worker, moderator of a historic denominational church with international partners, peace activism and co-chairing an ever evolving study center with interfaith intentional communities. In broad strokes, Rick responds to the already inevitable end of the large national (and local!) denominational church infrastructures  as we have known them. (For example, in New York City Presbytery, there are approximately 14,000 members in 99 churches. Half belong to 5 churches, the other half to 95 churches over 50 of whom have no pastor at all…) Related to our ecclesiastical structures are our literal structures from our  national office in Louisville with its echoing emptiness to our hulking aging stone buildings with mausoleum like silence. How do/can they function in our mission?

This is for Rick, not an occasion for mourning but more an exciting opportunity for recreating at the grassrootsiest of levels a church that is flexible, mobile and resilient. Being independent of reliance on larger structures, the church can be radically free to be a faithful witness, not unlike the primitive church.

Towards that end, Rick does several important things:
* Names and discusses the power of white privilege (and other cognate privileges of class, gender, orientation, etc…)
* Produces one of the first real discussions I’ve seen for the implications of this new reality for theological education. (Happy to see two institutions I’m involved with, New York Theological Seminary and Newark School of Theology on his list of emerging models of providing quality education for those who cannot afford.. moneywise or timewise…traditional theological education.)
Others chapters tackle such issues as confronting empire at the border, the importance of ecojustice, nonviolence as a principle and practice, worship, the meaning of solidarity, being a church that is “small but fierce.” Oh, and the intriguing exploration of the idea of  responsible living in a “watershed.”

Though somewhat presbycentric, Rick's primary context, it nonetheless has much to say to all of us struggling to find faithfullness.

Rick’s bottom line is one that appeals to me at the deepest level:
“ I am interested in creating a community where those who have been rejected in every other space can come and feel safe..”  Amen. Word.

Pull together a circle of friends. Get a few copies of this book. Let the connversation begin….

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