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What’s Wrong with The Church?

May 8, 2018

Bishop Ken Carter serves our denomination in Florida. He recently wrote this, and has graciously given me his expressed permission to share this with you —

With some regularity I receive communications–letters, links to blogs, statements– about what is wrong with the church.

The church is either not conservative or not liberal enough. If the church were either more like the Republican Party or Democratic Party, God would be pleased with us. Or the church has somehow not met a need for us—the music, the youth program, the preschool, the ordination process, the assignment of a pastor, a denominational position. Or the writer has interpreted the Bible correctly and wonders why others do not.

I’m not complaining here—simply noting a trend. The common thread in these communications is to externalize what is wrong.

In the deep tradition of the church we have always known that something is wrong. In a spiritual practice that goes back for many centuries, the church has urged us to read a particular passage of scripture every Friday: Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is a word of repentance and hope. It is a word of self-examination and grace. It is a word of transparency and joy. It is a word of honesty and trust. The Psalmist believes that God will intervene, restore, set things right. But the Psalmist also calls us to what another tradition has named as “a fearless moral inventory”.

Psalm 51 is both intensely personal and yet it moves, at the end, toward a broader vision, to Zion, the people of God.

I know, in my own life, that is easier to see what is wrong in someone else than to acknowledge that in myself. It is almost my default way of being and seeing the world.

But what if the question, “what is wrong with the church?”, really begins with “what is wrong in each of our lives?” And what if a focus on the former is an avoidance of the latter? And what if the church really is the people, flawed, imperfect people, people just like you and me? And this will always be true, this side of heaven? And the progress, the small steps, the reconciliation, the rebuilding of Zion, hinges on praying and being transformed and even purged by the words of an ancient text?

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love….

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  1. Naomi Roberts permalink

    Wow! Now, the big question is how do we get this message to the people?


  2. Thank you, Naomi, for both reading and commenting! Please feel free to share this yourself in whatever format and on whatever platform as a way to get his message to people. Again, thank you. See you at Annual Conference


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