A new way of being church

Daily Reading for February 7 • Cornelius the Centurion

Is our rapidly disintegrating consensus really such a bad thing? It all depends on the meaning we assign to uniformity. If we view agreement on things as an indicator of health, and disagreement as a sign of pathology, then the loss of consensus we are facing is very frightening indeed. But what if those valuations were reversed? What if we viewed difference and differentiation as a positive thing and conflict as a natural part of life—a sign of health? What then? Maybe what makes cancer such an unhealthy condition is not that cells are dividing rapidly, but how they are dividing. Cancer is one kind of cell division: mitosis.

But mitosis is not the only form of rapid cell division. There is another kind that is completely healthy and much more hopeful: meiosis. Instead of creating a duplicate of itself, the cell divides in two and redistributes half of its DNA to each of the two new cells, so that each new cell carries half the encoded traits of the original cell. This kind of rapid cell division is essential to healthy biological reproduction. Whenever we have tried to defeat it in the hope of maintaining uniformity—in the breeding of pedigreed dogs or royal families—the results are frequently detrimental and sometimes deadly. Meiosis ensures a level of diversity in our DNA that keeps us healthy.

What is we viewed the diverging consensus in the church in a different light: not as mitosis gone wild, but as a return to healthy meiosis. Could it be that the Holy Spirit is moving in the church to initiate a kind of spiritual-theological meiosis? Could the Holy Spirit be preparing to birth something new? A new way of being church? A fresh, new basis for Christian unity?

From Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them by Ken Howard (Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete Press, 2010).

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