Strong at the broken places

I’m going to do more pointing to other pieces than original thought today. The first week of the semester always makes me a little crazy, adjusting to a new schedule and all, so I’m scrambling to get to all my other stuff.

A post that caught my eye last week was Scott Gunn’s “Of broken things in the church” on his blog, Seven Whole Days. An alternate title could have been “Things more flawed than the GOE in TEC.” The post highlights Gunn’s responses to a list a colleague sent him of 10 broken things in TEC. The Episcopal Café picked it up, focusing on issues with the deployment process. The comments sections on both are also well worth exploring.

Something that’s NOT broken, Derek Olsen argues, is our prayer book. Responding to the Episcopal Café’s “what exactly is up for grabs” article I mentioned last week, Olsen gives a lengthy-but-interesting appraisal of the BCP’s importance. And then at his own blog, he points to the Café piece and mentions why it’s an important article.

These posts got me thinking, because to be honest, as a relative newcomer to TEC, I think I’m still more conscious of what’s broken in the CRC (or the conservative evangelicism of my high school experience) than in the denomination I now claim. The knowledge I do have is more intellectual than experiential.

The thing is, the Church—at least, the Church today—in any denomination, is an institution, and institutions have a lot of broken places. As far as I can see, that’s just the way things are. I accept that reality. That doesn’t mean I won’t respond to the broken places, but I acknowledge that broken places will always exist, and sometimes can’t be fixed.

My title sounds hopeful, but I should include the context. I snagged it from a famous Hemingway quote in A Farewell to Arms: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

Institutions—like corporations, despite what corporate personhood may imply—are not people, so this sentiment may not be applicable. But what if it is? Could an institution be strong at its broken places? Could resisting inevitable brokenness be deadly? Where do you see the broken places in the Church (TEC, or more broadly)? Are those broken places fixable? How might you go about fixing them?

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