Editor’s Note: Timothy will be writing for The Rope on a weekly basis. Hoorah! He’ll be covering a lot of deep topics that deal with theology, the Church and other issues that challenge our thinking on “how we’ve always done things.” Get ready to get deep.
Nearly 70 years after his death, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous “the Church confesses” statements (found in his work Ethics) are eerily consistent with concerns in today’s church bodies.
The Church has misused the name of Christ by being ashamed of it before the world.
- The Church has looked on while injustice and violence have been done under the cover of the name of Christ.
- The Church is guilty of the loss of holidays, for the barrenness of its public worship, for the contempt of Sunday rest.
- The Church is guilty of causing the restlessness and discontent of working people as well as for their excessive work hours because its preaching has been so weak and its public worship so limp.
- The Church is guilty of helping breakdown parental authority … because it feared losing the youth and therefore the future.
- The Church has witnessed oppression, hatred and murder without raising its voice for the victims and without finding ways to help them.
- The Church has not reached out to nor helped people whose lives have been destroyed by slander, denunciation and defamation.
“The church confesses that it has not professed openly and clearly enough its message of the one God, revealed for all times in Jesus Christ and tolerating no other gods besides. The church confesses its timidity, its deviations, its dangerous concessions. It has often disavowed its duties as sentinel and comforter. Through this it has often withheld the compassion that it owes to the despised and rejected. The church was mute when it should have cried out, because the blood of the innocent cried out to heaven. The church did not find the right word in the right way at the right time. It did not resist to the death the falling away from faith and is guilty of the godlessness of the masses” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, Fortress Press critical edition, pages 138–141).
As I read this passage I could not help but think of my own complicity in these sins that Bonhoeffer points out. I was convicted to begin seeking how to correct these wrongs in my own context. It is my hope that by sharing this others will see the importance of repentance for the ways in which the Church has failed to live up to its mission.