Exodus or Exile?

The Conference of which I am a clergy member, the Central Texas Conference, is the midst of a realignment process.  We had a task force appointed in 2009 and their report was published October 1 (this month).  It is available here.  I’ve only posted about this once; here.

I read the report as soon as it was available, and have had discussions about it now and again over the past year.  The final decision about our conference’s realignment will be made on Saturday, November 13, at a called session of Annual Conference that will be held at FUMC Mansfield.  The report is titled: The Exodus Project: A Transformational Roadmap for a Church in Transition.

Here’s my question for you:  Is exodus the appropriate imagery?  Or is exile more fitting?

Since the exodus reference is biblical, it seems to me to beg the question, “From what are we being delivered?” or “To what (or whom) were we enslaved, such that we are now talking of being delivered?”

It seems to me the exile is a more fitting metaphor for the church’s situation.  What we look back to in our recent past was less enslavement than glory years of resting on the cultural presumption that we had it made.  Isn’t that what Christendom was?

I can’t wait to read/receive your opinions!

6 thoughts on “Exodus or Exile?

  1. For a while, the Israelites lived well in Egypt and under Pharaoh. For a time, the UMC lived well as part of the wider American culture. But a new Pharaoh has arisen who does not know Joseph. The culture has turned.

    Just an idea.

  2. While, I don’t know if Exodus is the correct term, I don’t think Exile is the correct term for the situation of our annual conference either. I understand your reasons for disagreeing with the term Exodus; however I think there is an end to an Exodus, but when I hear the term Exile, I don’t see an end to it.

    I’m not really sure if this makes sense?

    • You hit my point on the head, Ethan, and the reason you doubt exile is the reason I prefer it: the endlessness.

      IF our goal is to return to a place we once knew, then exodus might be fitting. I wonder what that place would be: where the culture respected us? where people “assumed” church membership was a good thing (though it was often a status thing rather than a mission thing)?

      On the other hand, learning to live in Exile means we are not expecting to ever have our own Kingdom; at least not until Jesus comes and brings it to fruition. Rather, in Exile, we learn to be faithful to God in the midst of whatever our surroundings are, and also learn that we cannot presume to one day “take over” or “return” to nostalgic memories of some past.

  3. You raise a good question, and an interesting alternative; however, are we in ‘exile’ or are we ‘in the wilderness’?

    I’m thinking particularly of Jesus’ post-Baptism excursion, “driven by the Holy Spirit” into a spiritual season more than a temporal location where he was ‘forced’ to prayerfully discern *how* he would faithfully respond to the options that he encountered?

    • I’m not even sure we’re in wilderness; but if we are, it is a wilderness more analogous to Jesus’ than to that of the Exodus.

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