One of the gifts of Kathy Escobar’s book, Faith Shift, and her website is how she provides language to describe what people are going through. She defines shifting as “When we start to ask questions, have doubts, become restless but things are still manageable and nothing significant changes related to church, etc.”
Implicit in the understanding of a faith shift is that one needs to have had a fairly solid understanding of faith – what one needs to believe, how to learn/grow, and what one ought to do – before it can actually go through a shift. Escobar refers to this prior stage of faith as fusing. She defines this fusing aspect of faith in hindsight, from out of the perspective of faith shifting (and even rebuilding). The word, fusing, points to a certain level of rigidity in the system, something that might be seen looking back, even if one does/did not experience this phase of faith as having been rigid. In her own words, Escobar defines fusing as being “Where our faith is formed (and sometimes stays for a long time because so many churches and systems are built on this season of our faith); the core values are certainty, conformity, and affiliation.” As she describes fusing more extensively, she notes that it involves “Certainty about core doctrinal beliefs that feel unshakeable and clear. Conformity and learning the norms of the group. Most of the groups and systems in Fusing are homogeneous. There’s a clear sense of what it means to be part, what we need to believe, do, think, or act appropriately in the system. And affiliation–being part of something bigger than us, having a “family” and a team to belong to.”
Fusing thus happens before a faith shift. During a faith shift, one has control over how one can react, choosing either to return or to unravel. If one returns, then one becomes part of the fusing aspect of faith again. If one unravels, that continues until one severs and/or rebuilds. Further definitions of those concepts can be found on this website in the coming weeks or on Kathy Escobar’s website (or in her book).