It is clearly possible that, in the condition of the world as the world now is, organization can force upon an institution a character that is alien or even antithetical to it. The organized church comes immediately under a compulsion to think of itself, and identify itself to the world, not as an institution synonymous with its truth and its membership, but as a hodgepodge of funds, properties, projects, and offices, all urgently requiring economic support.This is why I think such voices such as Berry's, who is often called a prophetic voice in America today, are needed in this world. He helps us differentiate between the truth of, say, the church, and the false of, say, the accretions that attach itself to it. I recognize that even though I am no longer on staff at an institutional or organized church, I am still a part of the church and desire to be a responsible member of it. It is my community. So it is my personal challenge to be a part of the institution in a responsible way. Please join my newsletter by clicking HERE. Thank you!
I don't subscribe to using IC to stand for Institutional Church in a negative or pejorative way. Institutions can't be helped. Biblically, institutions are of the created order. They just are, just as we are. My own immediate family is full of institutions. Marriage is an institution. Family is an institution. Public education is an institution. The government we find ourselves under is an institution. Even our supper is an institution. We have instituted it almost every day at around 5pm that all five of us sit around the table and eat together, as much as we are able. The problems would start, however, if it felt like an institution. If it becomes forced, contrived, demanded, required, staged, and it no longer is permeated with grace, love and care, then the natural truth of it dies and only the institutional and organized shell remains. The great American essayist Wendell Berry writes in his excellent essay, "God and Country" (in What Are People For?):