I hope those interested in a good future for the church take the time to watch this most amazing four minute video. It is so relevant now, given widespread knowledge of dubious leadership personnel decisions, strained administrative clergy-laity relationships, and declining financial, legal and institutional stewardship.
Those are having perfectly due, well earned fearsomely negative impact on our energy for the church and even our faith– creating new ‘nominal only’ adults along with much more actual loss– and loss in retaining the youth as they become adults.
Why now? What changed? Below please find a carefully researched video by a professor of historical human geography. Later a study going further back together give great insight into how we came to be in this situation, while suggesting a constructive and authentic way to restore lost balance.
We are in an unprecedented time in church history owing to advances in health and overall wealth. Minor rules that avoided the scandal of creating widows and orphans in days gone by are now themselves creating the environment leading to scandal in current historical circumstances. The good news is an evident and welcome path suggests itself, there is a authentic way to narrow the widening gaps between the leadership and the faithful, so visible in this internet & web camera age and unprecedented in church history.
First, the video:
Next, the following research article uses technical language, but it confirms that people lived even less long overall in the centuries prior to those in the video– particularly noting women dying in childbirth so often on average that while men lived into their late 20′s, women as often as not didn’t make it to 21. The world was full of working age widowers. Very few made it to 35. ‘Great Grandpa’ and ‘Great Grandma’ were almost unused words. Today we live 20 years ‘in retirement’ but that was the entire lifespan of half the population in those days.
If you can imagine adulthood lasting less than 10 years before death for half the population, maybe less for women on average– it gives understanding as to why church leadership a couple hundred years A.D. decided to limit who could be clergy to working age widowers barred from remarriage and also the never married monastics. Why? The same reason we need to fix things now– widespread visible scandal. Imagine a man in his twenties in those days who remarried– he almost certainly wouldn’t live long enough to see those kids reach ten years old. What a scandal. Any woman who lived into her late twenty’s was almost certainly raising her dead sister’s children. Men above 25 outnumbered women 2 or 3 to 1. Better for everyone such men if wise enough devoted their time to the church or a monastery instead of a new family. That’s why monasteries were places of wisdom– a 40 year old person living there lived three times longer in adulthood than half the population. Here’s the article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16850770
What does it mean? Unavoidably the careful research in the video and article sets forth how something has happened this past century that has never before happened in church history — statistically working age widowers once as common as married people are now extinct in developed countries– and are never realistically coming back.
In our lifetime we have experienced growth destroying, victim generating clergy scandals and shocking leadership financial, legal and personnel decision making that threaten our future– and in the main these scandals and destructive leadership decisions share, ah, well, let’s call it ‘a generally common aspect’. This article is not about witch-hunts, shame or blame. Everyone falls short somehow. The thing to focus upon is: Why now? What has changed?
Not only was it never intended, it has never before been experienced in church history that clergy defacto be ‘ordained young never married’ only. The voices and life experiences and wisdom of those who know the joys and cares of marriage, stability and actual fatherhood, and sadly also suffering and tragic loss, once common, family men whose wives died young, no longer vote in synods as they have gone extinct from our leadership owing to increased overall health.
And now, here we are. If we muster the will to use our eyes to see what is and not just what we hope, the results we see if not in our own families then in the parish and in the news media– no communications aimed at ‘retaining the youth’ can overcome a lack of modelling by leadership how it can be done and not just in seeming.
So: a rule made centuries after the church began and many centuries ago changing who may participate in making church decisions as priests and bishops, a rule that centuries ago lessened the scandal of orphans and widows of clergy— no longer produces the church reality our forebears experienced these many centuries. We must drop the innovation countermanding the Gospel’s instruction as it no longer serves the once good church purpose and is now causing harm.
How can we rightly claim to pass on what we’ve inherited if we allow such a radical change in the composition of our church leadership? Entirely losing the once predominant voices of those who knew marriage, a loss unheard of in our church history? Such a restoration would remove the biggest unspoken but obvious obstacle to greater inter-Christian cooperation. Would it solve every problem, prevent every scandal? It would prevent those who repeat their mistakes from remaining in positions of decision making authority– and that would be everything we need. It also would give adult married people confidence that the person they look to for advice knew what he was talking about from life wisdom and not just what was taught in seminary school.
Absent you the reader acting in what ways you can to cause a change to restore to decision making those with the life experiences the church once had making decisions, that is to say restoring what we’ve lost, we will be a museum, not a church, in developed countries. And pretty soon, in the long view of the church, the whole world will be developed.
Senior, proven ‘empty nester’ men should be able to be high clergy whether or not his wife did or did not die during his working years. The boon of health must not be allowed to become the bane of the church.
We must give new respect for the long-term wisdom in the Gospel’s call for clergy and indeed bishops to be ‘husbands of but one wife’ along with those who dwell in creditable monasteries.
We cope or I fear we deservedly dwindle.
Thank you for your attention! We live in hope, please act and right soon.
Harry G. Coin