The Via Media is dead.
The post-mortem of the Middle Way includes such examinations as General Conference 2019, 21st century politics, seminary recruitment plans, and Christian evangelism.
At General Conference 2019 a via media was offered by marriage equality advocates and a few who favor traditional marriage. It was strongly rejected by just over half of the delegates.
In 21st century politics, a via media platform would never get enough support from a party’s base to be nominated in the first place, and so the candidates presented for election tend to represent extremes.
In seminary recruitment, rigorous theological debate among a variety of diverse viewpoints has been replaced by ideologically driven “orthodoxy” training, which has become a primary consideration for potential students.
In terms of evangelism, individual Christians are drifting toward congregations that are more uniformly aligned with their own theology rather than doing the hard and uncomfortable work of living together with diverse perspectives.
(Yes, these are generalities; Yes, I am aware of their limitations.)
I am a “via media liberal.” I have “mediated” my sermons here at Campbell for the sake of honoring the middle way. In doing so, I hear from liberals in the congregation disappointed that I have not been more forthright. When I am more forthright about my personal perspective, I hear from conservatives in the congregation disappointed that I have been too political. Both liberals and conservatives have left Campbell in the past few months to connect with congregations to which they feel more aligned theologically. More via media post-mortem examination.
And so it goes. (I hear similar stories from “via media conservative” colleagues, by the way.)
And still I continue to believe that the middle way is the best way. I continue to believe that we need each other. As much as I value my personal relationship with Jesus, as highly as I regard my perspective of who he is and who he wants me to be, I know that my glimpse is only one small glimpse of the infinite entirety of Christ. I know that I need other glimpses, connected together with mine, in order to get a fuller picture of who God is.
We need each other. And so…
We need the via media.
Yet the via media is dead.
Is it dead for a season? Is it winter for the middle way, with a spring somewhere on the horizon? Has the via media been crucified, meaning resurrection is just around the corner?
And if so, what do we do? What can we do?
And on a personal level, what do I do? Shall I veer left theologically, mediating less and being stronger with my own personal perspective? Would that be selling out, capitulating to prevailing winds of the day? Or shall I continue to advocate for compromise, diversity of thought, and the middle way? Would that just be an exhausting, fruitless tilting at windmills that would do nothing but wear me out spiritually?
As of now, I remain committed to the middle way. I value diversity. I enjoy hearing different perspectives, when they are offered with generosity and civility. It just seems like it is harder and harder to walk the via media in this season. More and more people seem to be seeking like-mindedness instead of engaging the difficult, vulnerable, and risky search for truth together.
Maybe it’s that Saturday in between Good Friday and Easter for the middle way, and all we can do is sit by the tomb, in silent vigil, grief stricken, not knowing, not understanding. Wondering what comes next.
Hoping for Easter.