The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

A great essay

2 Comments

Head over to Mike’s blog for a great essay on The Anglican Ministry in SL..  well worth a read CLICK HERE.

Author: Mark Brown

CEO of The Bible Society in New Zealand.

2 thoughts on “A great essay

  1. To put Wil’s comments into context, here is my post on MikeCamel’s site he’s referring to:

    Thank you Mike for sharing this with us. You provide a good introduction to the history of the Anglicans in Second Life (AISL)Cathedral as well as to some of the theological issues that arise from the endeavour.

    I came to Second Life with the intention of exploring the viability of a fresh expression of church within this context. It has been a great joy to see the Cathedral grow and flourish as a base ecclesial community, and, even as a Methodist, to be a part of that community.

    I think you have captured the sense of a mixed community there well. The Leadership should be commended in their success: remaining distinctly Anglican and serving the needs of such a variety of people is a real challenge. I believe the missio Dei, as evidenced in Scripture, does not address any of humanity in a generic de-contextualised form. Whether it is Jesus portrayed as the Messiah, the Lord or the logos; whether God’s redemptive activity comes in terms of the new birth to Nicodemus, the kingdom of God in the Synoptics, justification by faith to the Romans and Galatians, or the superior sacrifice to the Hebrews; whether it speaks exodus for slaves, a warning and call to repentance for idolaters and perpetrators of injustice, or the demand to give up riches to the rich young ruler, the gospel addresses concrete situations and human needs.

    Faith discourse takes the form of a personal relationship, and for this to be authentic, it must be truly mutual. The people who find their way to the Cathedral may or may not have experienced God, and may or may not have an expression of that experience. Significant dialogue is necessary for us to engage these people in ministry and mission. The Cathedral’s history has demonstrated an acute awareness that, as the first step, Christians seeking to minister in this new frontier must immerse themselves in the reality of the other. From the side of the other, openness to relationship is naturally essential. Only when there is authentic relationship does the possibility exist that we may communicate the Good News we have experienced and heard in Jesus Christ.

    This relational demand of faith is then surprisingly consistent with some interpretations of the phenomena of social networking. Moving away from the individuality of modernity (based on the famous ‘I think, therefore I am’ of Descartes), these interpretations argue that to be, is to be in relationship. The missio Dei demands incarnational ministry: we must know people, know and experience their context, encounter their struggles and live with them in their joys. Only then are we in a place to make a proclamation of significance that names the evangelion as revealed in Jesus Christ.

    I think this is the heart of what it means to be a fresh expression of church within Second Life. So, therefore, my only point of slight divergence with you is your concern that the absence of the Sacraments leads you to consider that the Cathedral is not a “full” expression of church. As someone heavily involved with ecumenical dialogue on a variety of levels, a definition of church that insists on the inclusion of sacraments is problemmatical to some denominations, such as the Salvation Army, and even between churches whose concept of the sacraments and what makes them valid are radically different. Even within Anglican spirituality, as important as they are to self-identity, are not these rites secondary in terms of what it means to be the Body of Christ? Sacramental rites point to a deep reality which, when lived out, can make even online churches ‘sacramental’ communities.

    I agree that more discussion is needed on this and other questions raised. Nevertheless, the AISL Cathedral powerfully demonstrates that incarnational church is both possible in theory and attractive to a growing number of people in practice within virtual worlds such as Second Life.

  2. Thanks for the link to this essay which is well worth reading. I published a comment there but I’m not sure it was saved properly – and now that I think about it, there are more compelling reasons for some of these thoughts.

    First: I agree with Gareth – I think it is a good idea to leave the sacraments for RL churches. In addition to the reasons I gave there, churches also have stipulations regarding with whom we may partake of the sacraments. We might be able to fellowship better if we do not consider ourselves a church in the “fullest” sense, and more fully feel fellowship without the questions of whether we consider, e.g., an SL eucharist to be a eucharist, and if so, with whom we may partake of the elements. This consideration will be especially important to orthodox Catholics. I highly dislike answering non-orthodox Catholics about why I do not partake in Catholic eucharist – I can imagine this not being a very productive or uplifting debate where the sacrament would already have been degraded to a symbol-of-a-symbol.

    Second: seeing ourselves not as a “church in the full sense,” though yet a real church. I believe making this clearer in the charter would do a great deal to ease the minds of those who might otherwise be opposed to partaking in such a presence – making it clear that we wish to encourage all who are not yet partaking of RL church fellowship to find RL fellowship, even if this means reducing or ending their SL church participation.

    Furthermore, I think an honest admission of our ministry’s limitations and differences from RL churches would help us further identify our own calling in this type of unique ministry, and perhaps also stimulate us to find materials which allow us to profit from the wisdom and experiences of others who are in church-like, but yet not-traditional-church type ministries.

    Yet we are a “real church” in the sense that the cathedral is not a place for faith role-playing, or other role-play. On church grounds, you are honest about what you do or don’t believe, or honestly remain silent on the matter. If, for example, in real life, you are Muslim, you should feel free to tell us that – and Christ’s love compels us to love you, even though you are of a different faith. You should not say that you are Anglican, though you are free to join the Anglican group (? I assume this is the case), or reply that you aren’t comfortable talking about your faith, if someone asks you about it. We aren’t discussing your Avatar’s faith, we are discussing your faith. We do not want to pray for your Avatar, we want to pray for you.

    I see some potential positive points in faith role-play for evangelism, but such role play is weighed down in so many disadvantages and questionable issues that I think making clear what we are here for in this way would also help fellowship and ministry. SL is already full of so much superficiality that the reality of the Cathedral people speaking about real faith is, I think, one of its greatest strengths.

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