Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Simple Truth

The legislative complexities of the end of General Convention 2006 are going to take days, if not weeks, to sort out. Very few are happy about the outcome, particularly an 11th-hour resolution that was wrenched from both exhausted Houses with the hopes that its compromising language might be sufficient to gain the good favor of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates. . .so that we can stay in the Anglican Communion.

Vitriol on the traditionalist Episcopal/Anglican blogs has reached a deafening climax. The arguments and accusations of heresy and apostasy going on right now are legion and deeply tangled in theological self-justification and a quest for personal righteousness. The past twenty-four hours of reading some of it has cost me sleep and peace of the soul.

Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon at the closing Eucharist of General Convention is presently being excoriated on traditionalist sites for its one-time inclusion of the metaphor "mother" for Christ. It's fascinating and sad that this one word has totally eclipsed, in some of our brothers' and sisters' minds, the message of our Presiding Bishop-elect. With her wisdom and the wisdom of our tradition, she illuminates a profound truth:

Jesus, through his teaching, healing, death, and resurrection, calls us out of fear.

What a strikingly simple message!

It's just dawned on me: now that's spiritual leadership standing in the center of the storm.

The behavior that has dominated the traditionalist camp these past few weeks, encapsulated for me in the Bishop Iker/Fort Worth episode, seems to have been about one thing at its heart: fear. Fear of damnation. Fear of "false teaching." Fear of ordained women. Fear of gays and lesbians in the Church. Fear of the other. Fear of difference. Fear of our real selves.

But does the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the heart of our tradition, promote fear?

That may, in fact, be what all this talk of "traditionalists" and "progressives," impending gloom and doom, and threats of schism boil down to in the end: how we, as faithful Christians, answer this simple question.

It's funny, but I've preached entire sermons on this many times. Yet I had forgotten, in recent days, this core question of our faith.

It's time to renew my commitment to this singular truth: The Gospel of Jesus Christ for me doesn't promote fear. Quite the reverse.

Jesus promotes the love God has for us. After all is said and done, Christ is Risen!

This calls me to endeavor to stand and build my ministry in God's lavish grace, following the examples of our Presiding Bishop-elect and numerous other visionary leaders in the Episcopal Church, calmly in the eye of the storm with faith in God's love. . .a "perfect love" that "casts out fear." (1 John 4:18)

God in the Risen Christ saves us from fear. And no threats of damnation, schism, or cries of "heresy" ever need again touch that.

That's a prayer. . .a way of life. . . worth sharing.

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