The community focus of generous orthodoxy begins with a vibrant non-Puritanism. Puritanism was the attempt by some to “purify” the Anglican Church of unbelievers and the unorthodox and questioning and struggling, and has been one of the many movements in the history of the Church that has sought to raise the standard for who could be and who could not be “in the church.” I happen to read a handful of Puritans, but on this there is a tendency (which is putting it kindly) to walk away from the very practice of Jesus. Any community that roots itself in Jesus’ Kingdom missional focus will find the Puritan way unacceptable. Its purpose is not to exclude but to embrace; some may refuse that embrace but the community offers the embrace. Jesus’ sense of community is found in his praxis of table fellowship and in his tipping over tables in the Temple that barracaded some from the presence of God.
An orthodox understanding of community begins with the line in the creeds: I believe in the communion of the saints. Any understanding that does not begin here is unfair to the story of the Church. This communion is in Word, Sacrament, and Missional focus. What this line declares is that there is a Spiritual connection of all the followers of Jesus, living and dead, that extends from God to the world through the community. Which means it is affirming the Church as the Body of Christ.
The community is the place where the people of God will find communion with one another and be led into union with God. As such, this community becomes a beachhead to create a Kingdom society.
An orthodox understanding of community promotes healing — of all sorts of people, in all sorts of ways, both suddenly and over the long haul.
An orthodox understanding of community creates what I am now calling a “Six Day Church.” Far too often “church” is something that happens on Sunday (or Saturday night). It is a place into which people assemble, hear good sermons, sing uplifting songs, partake of the Eucharist, etc., and then are off to their homes and weeks. The Emerging movement wants an abrupt hault to this sort of “church doing” and wants it to be clear that “church” is what happens on the “six days” and not just the seventh day.
Orthodoxy believes the Church is catholic: it is universal. Generous orthodoxy takes that belief and acts upon it: it engages in fellowship with all Christians, not just those we prefer from our tradition.
Because we are concerned where with a generous orthodoxy, we understand that the Church’s focus is to be missional, incarnational, and a “Six Day Church” in its local community: it is to look, listen, learn, and link locally.
It is generous with its resources, its time, and its love. It is a community of faith that is for the world and others, and not a conventicle from the world or a Puritan establishment against any who don’t meet the standards. The only standard needed to be recipients of God’s grace and the community’s love is being made in the Image of God and finding oneself in this world — locally.
It is generous in that a genuine community is one that focuses on being known as those to whom others in the community can turn and it is generous because it will become a community that seeks “not to be looked over” when the larger community has issues and concerns and wants to make plans.
It is generous because when it gathers it edifies and exhorts and encourages — it accepts people for who they are, it lets people tell their stories, and it comes alongside all such people to help them to become who God made them to be.
It is generous because its entire grounding is the perichoretic love of the Triune God: God’s mutual interpenetration and indwelling of the persons of the Trinity. This is the grounding for community and hence it becomes a generous extension of that love to others for the good of the world.