“Forgiving the Church” – Henry Nouwen quotation

 When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say: ‘I love Jesus, but I hate the Church’, we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organisation needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as ‘over there’ but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.

Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey published by HarperOne

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One comment to ““Forgiving the Church” – Henry Nouwen quotation”
  1. An interesting piece by a great man. But I feel there is more to the landscape of forgiveness that needs some exploration.

    The partner in an abusive relationship who absorbs the beatings is part of a process which denies the growth of two people (this is not to say that person is responsible for the choices and actions of the abuser). In choosing to exercise my own power I deny neither the church nor Christ. However, I amy need to separate myself from the church in order to live truly with Christ as a child of the resurrection and not a child of someone else’s need to crucify. As a child of the resurrection I can fulfil my purpose.

    The ‘Church’ carries great responsibilities in relation to its members. Whilst church teaching takes time to evolve there are times when it must simply act. In recent years we have seen the impact of the hierarchies failure to act over endemic levels of child abuse. The situation was known about and there was a failure to act.

    We know that there are high levels of self-abuse, of suicide etc amongst the LGBT+ population in general and more specifically amongst those of a faith background. I wonder whether some of this pain is our attempt as LGBT+ people of faith to hang on to the church which repeatedly beats us and encourages us to believe the messages of our ‘intrinsic disorder’. I repeatedly forgive and anaesthetise the pain expressed by a temporarily repentant or closeted partner in faith with alcohol, ill-health, drugs, sex or other forms of self abuse.

    We must expect more of our partner the church. Forgiveness isn’t one way. The forgiven must acknowledge their part in an activity and actively seek to repair the damage they have caused. However, like an abusive relationship they must also deal with their inappropriate behaviour and seek guidance to ensure they are able to enter into a place in which the relationship can again thrive (in the light and not in a closet of hope fed collusion).

    Its important to note here that this acknowledgement isn’t for me and the needs of my ego.

    Someone who is unable to fully embrace the responsibility they have for their actions and the resultant consequences lacks the maturity to grow and will likely repeat the behaviour as a result. To be forgiven one must adopt the space that reflects what it means to be repentant and changed by the forgiveness. I’m not responsible for that. I can’t be. To attempt to be is arrogant and denies the adulthood of the other.

    The area of relationship with the LGBT+ community is one in which the church has failed and continues to fail through lack of this acknowledgement.

    Whilst we continue to be seen as the lost sheep in need of a peculiar kind of pastoral patronage, our contribution and equality as priests already at the shared table of Christ continues to be lost to the church and the world is less rich as a result.

    I will forgive. Will the church be forgiven.

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