Theology in the Vineyard began two years ago in a vineyard in eastern Ontario.
It began as an attempt to fill the growing gap between the institutional church and the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholics who have felt marginalized by the historical patriarchy and clerical dominance of the Catholic church. It is an ongoing attempt to provide living water and nourishing bread to Catholics longing for a more authentic experience of church. It began with the central fact that baptism – not Holy Orders – is the central sacrament of the Church.
All who attended our first session were asked the reason why they came. Most expressed lamentation at the inward turning of the church.
“I feel like a starving orphan …”
“I am exasperated by the institution …”
“There is a need for real change in Christianity. I need to step away from the institution to energize …”
“We can’t count on clergy in parishes. I came here to hear what people can do …”
“There is respect here for diverse opinions and a lack of fear …”
“I support a social justice church … how better to spend a Saturday …”
“I thirst for the days of Vatican II …”
“I am in dire need of spiritual nourishment.”
“We’re retreating into the past. There is real frustration and a need to renew. There’s something radically wrong when a pastor changes, everything changes. There’s something wrong. That power should not exist.
“I am disillusioned and in need of hope …”
“I have four kids and thirst for a relevant church …”
“I just love the dialogue …
“I feel frustrated, alone and unwanted and I have no intention of leaving …”
“I want to know where that great hope of Vatican II vanished …”
In summary there was anger, frustration and deep hope for dialogue leading to change.
Ted Schmidt analyzed the social and cultural changes which have produced a climate of fear in society and the church.
He pointed out the “anxiety-producing” threats to our collective psyches. Globalization has produced a deep concern for job protection and job loss, AIDS, SARS and 9/11, along with natural disasters have upset people’s worldviews. The speed of modern life has exhausted people and they are working six weeks a year longer than they did in 1972. Divorce has reached epic proportions, further traumatizing the young. There is a collective urge to “escape from freedom” in church and society. Erich Fromm wrote about this urge in his epic work (1941) written during the cataclysmic period of World War II. Fromm posited that people then look for “a great leader, a powerful state (fascism)” to alleviated their anxiety.
“One must understand that unless one has a strong faith and belief that the Spirit still moves among us, there will be deep uncertainty about identity and a general feeling of (disorientation),” Schmidt said.
He continued: “We need to appreciate why there is a rise of fundamentalist thinking afoot. A postmodern world offers people a dizzying array of choice and many believers simply can not deal with this and say, ‘tell me what to believe.’ Psychically immature people will in times of crisis surrender their critical thinking and move to a very rigid ‘orthodoxy.’ They can not accept that faith grows, evolves and as Vatican II said it is semper reformanda. Faith indeed should give us a minimum of security but it must also countenance risk. Fundamentalism of any stripe seeks security but real faith
seeks truth –and as Jesus showed, that can be dangerous.
“Within Catholicism there are those who make an idol of the pope, his every pronouncement can not be challenged. They saw Pope John Paul II as a bulwark against the tides of relativism. These Catholics can not accept that this excellent man, like all of us was limited in his thinking, and subject to a certain narrowness of vision, unable to
tolerate diversity in his own church.
“A strong charismatic leader, he could not hear others and would not listen. His silenced over 100 theologians whose work was absolutely crucial in meeting modern challenges. His papacy had many wonderful moments but it surely lacked serious dialogue not only with theologians but with the People of God. You simply can not say to today’s Catholics, you can’t even discuss these things.'”
Theology in the Vineyard will include many voices in the future, voices from the Roman Catholic tradition and beyond. We hope you may be nourished and energized here as well in the forums we plan to hold in the future.