St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Christian Households: A Sanctification of Nearness
by Rt. Rev. Thomas Breidenthal
An Introduction Led By Bishop Breidenthal
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Bishop Breidenthal began discussion by explaining to the group why he wrote his book. It all began a number of years ago when he was employed by the General Theological Seminary in New York City. He had just moved his wife and two young daughters there from Ashland, Oregon when it was discovered there was somewhat of a crisis there regarding housing and same-sex couples. A committee of around twenty was formed to address this issue, which was one of social justice. The seminary had accepted that these couples could be together, but the housing policy at the time did not reflect that. After living through these times of difficult decisions, the seminary became a better and healthier place to live.
It was from living through this experience, the Bishop began to think about what it meant for people to live together. The people living in seminaries must learn these issues as they are in essence a living laboratory for the Christian community. It has been noted that the Jewish faith supports the community to a greater extent than the Christian faith. Early Christian around the 4th century had their altar in the middle of the church and developed the exchange of the peace. It was God, self, and your neighbors that were important.
As Christianity developed in the Greco–Roman empire, however, traditions changed. The prevailing philosophy of the time was one that looked for the philosophical truth where the body simply got in the way. It was the flight of the “alone to the alone.” The goal was to withdraw from everyone in pursuit of “the truth.” These attitudes influenced Christianity which led to its members becoming more isolated from each other. One example of this is how difficult it was for many to be comfortable with “The Peace” when it was re-instituted a number of years ago.
The Diocese reminds us of community, which is what is at the core of the book. Why do we value life together to to prepare us for the kingdom of God? There are lots of rule when any two people wish to live together in a permanent relationship. So it became very important for the seminary to set itself up as a laboratory for holiness and develop the wider understanding of what can make up a household.
We must remember that even though there is a family feel to church, it is indeed a public place. Early Christians built churches in areas similar to our indoor malls. The church was very public! People living together in harmony is like practicing what it’s going to be like in heaven!