Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
April 9, 2001
God bigger than the Church
Theologian says Jesus called for a kingdom that was larger than the Church
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — God is bigger than the Church and the Church is bigger than the bishops, says a retired theology professor from California.
"Just remember that God is bigger than the Church. God is bigger than the papacy. It doesn't mean that we give up the wonderful things in our Church," Franciscan Father Kenan Osborne said at the Anthony Jordan Lecture Series.
Osborne, professor emeritus at Franciscan School of Theology in San Francisco, spoke on Sacraments and Liturgy in the New Millennium March 30-31 to 200 people at the lecture series sponsored by Newman Theological College.
"If something were to come along that were greater than Jesus and his Church, I would have to give it deep thought," Osborne said in response to a question.
As a Catholic, he said he could take Buddhist or Islamic writings and say, "Something of God is there." He recalled taking his shoes off in a 1,500-year-old Buddhist temple and feeling the presence of God there.
In his lecture, Osborne said Jesus came to bring the kingdom. "The kingdom is greater than the Church."
The early Church explained what it means to be a follower of Jesus in terms of the Greek notion of Logos (the Word). Unfortunately, that was the first and last time Christianity took ideas from a particular culture, he said.
"Today for the first time we are beginning to interface with other religions."
When one became a Christian in 19th century China, he or she had to break and burn everything connected with the ancient myths of Confucius, Osborne said. "All your neighbours saw you and they said, 'You have given up being Chinese.'"
But today Christians are sitting down respectfully with Buddhists, Hindus, and exponents of African and First Nations religions, he said.
The Asian bishops, in one of their statements, said several times that the Catholic Church did not bring the Holy Spirit to Asia - the Holy Spirit has been in Asia for 5,000 years.
Under a Logos theology, the Church hierarchy can control the word, he said. But no one can control the Holy Spirit. "We find the Holy Spirit at work where we didn't think the Holy Spirit was."
The Church itself is not a clear, focused term, he said. The Second Vatican Council said there are many elements of faith and sanctity and truth outside the Roman Catholic Church.
"The word 'Church' includes a structure far beyond that of the Roman Catholic Church."
Indeed, the Church is bigger and more expansive than the bishops, Osborne said. "The Church in Canada needs a rearview mirror: It's not a rearview mirror that only picks us the hierarchy. It picks up what Jesus is doing."
"Jesus would say to us today: 'Go to the marginated.'"
Osborne noted that theologian Jan Sobrino says the marginated are the poor.
But Osborne said Jesus also reached out to tax collectors such as Levi and Zaccheus. "Today they would be driving Jaguars and Porsches. They had money."
But if those two went to the synagogue, they would have been thrown out because they were working for the Romans. More than marginated, they were excommunicated.
"Jesus said, 'I don't care about that excommunication. Today salvation has come to this house,'" he said. Jesus was taking away the authority of the religious leaders.
Today, the people who are marginated include women, the divorced and remarried, gays and lesbians, and young people.
Many parishes cater to children, married people and the elderly, but they don't cater to young people, he said. "They come to a liturgy and it's boring. It doesn't speak to them at all."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.