Years ago, I was challenged to read a book I was not quite ready for by John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile. In it he reflects on his quest for a new way of living his faith, which for him meant that he lived his Christianity in exile from the traditional church. He wrote,
The only thing I know to do in this moment of Christian history is to enter this exile, to feel its anxiety and discomfort, but to continue to be a believer. That is now my self-definition. I am a believer who increasingly lives in exile from the traditional way in which Christianity has heretofore been proclaimed. 'A believer in exile' is a new status in religious circles, but I am convinced that countless numbers of people who either still inhabit religious institutions or who once did will resonate with that designation."
Sometimes our quest is for a space in which we can believe what we believe without having to conform to the doctrines of a religion or movement. I can remember when I engaged on that quest. It is, in part, what led to the creation of Inspiritual. I began to realize there were others who were believers in a diversity of faith traditions who, like Spong, felt as if they were believers in exile.
Spong is not the only one identifies as a believer in exile. Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, talks about her exile from the church as she found her own way of being and expressing her belief in a world that is yet unable to fully celebrate women in the church. Our quest each day in Inspiritual is to create a space where all feel welcomed and none feel as if they must enter exile. We intentionally work to create a space where all feel welcome to come and express their beliefs without having to conform to a doctrine or a what I believe statement.
I entered my own state of exile several years ago. I though I had found a space where I could practice my belief that God is greater then any single denomination or school of thought. That statement was actually a part of their belief statement. However, when I began to practice that I was told this is a prophetic statement and not one that was actually believed yet. So I entered my own state of exile, which began a quest for a space where I could focus on evolving and transforming in my own journey. Along the journey, I encountered answers to my questions. As I began my quest, so did my wife, with me she has traveled a path that is constantly challenging us both to grow and evolve in our journeys.
There are those I know who are happy and content in the settings in which they worship and I could not be happier for them. Yet at the same time I recognize there are others for whom the traditional church and traditional ways of doing “church” can be constraining, and as one person shared with me suffocating. Entering on a quest for a space, individual or collective, that is what one needs, requires courage. It takes courage to step out of our comfort zone and walk with and towards God in a journey to answers to the questions which lie in the deepest of our hearts. This month, take the time to engage in your own quest seeking the answers to the questions in your heart.