Monday, October 30, 2006

I Reckon

I reckon it's about time.

News is brewing that the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor is calling for the cards of a handful of bishops who have brazenly led their dioceses to the brink of leaving the Episcopal Church.

I think they have left already, and I know I'm not alone.

While Bishop Iker of Fort Worth complains about being shocked by the decision calling him to account, I'm shocked that he doesn't seem to understand a call to all of us to be mindful of what it means to be in community. . .to be accountable to each other even when we disagree.

No matter how things get painted up in the coming days, it strikes me that this move coming from our new Presiding Bishop is not about evangelicals vs. progressives, conservatives vs. liberals, or any other vs. you can come up with. This is about community. This is about communion.

There is no righteousness in trying to cleverly write our way out of communion with each other, while splitting canonical, moral, and ethical hairs to retain our property and pensions. Or, on peril of our souls, to cloak our understanding of Christ's will for us with ongoing vitriol.

In the Episcopal Church, we've all had enough years of bearing the spiteful, patronizing actions and words far beyond thoughtful and courteous dissent. I sure have. And I've been around the block far fewer times than many.

With all the appalling advertising, mudslinging, and fractious rhetoric of an upcoming election in this country; with all the ongoing threats of divisive war, terrorism, and despair in the world. . .

Well, it sounds to me as though ++Katharine Jefferts Schori, after several attempts to appeal to the better side of Bishop Iker and others, has decided that it's about time for the Church to start behaving again like the Church. Like we are a community again: a community for a world that desperately needs community of the real kind.

We may not be a community of one mind, but we are committed to be a community honestly seeking a way forward in truth without rancor. . .perhaps even with a degree of humility -- something we all desperately need. . .perhaps even with some charity for each other -- and that we need even more.

Our bishops who don't behave as though they want to be in that kind of community. . .who can't seem to model this kind of Christian being for the rest of us, even if only officially. . .are finally put on notice. It's about time. . .

. . .at least I reckon.


Anonymous said...

Maybe those bishops have left already. Maybe they haven't - or perhaps they are people going through a process somewhat like a marriage break-up. From when do you date the split? Perhaps reconciliation is still possible?

I come from a diocese the mirror image of yours, very evangelical.
If I could ask you one question it would be, "Is there room for evangelicals to thrive in TEC?"
I wonder if you think it would it be better for TEC if it could speak in one voice. Those who can't agree with the direction TEC is taking I presume have to go somewhere for that to happen.

R said...

Personally, I date the split from the time that a handful of bishops quit taking communion with their brothers and sisters in the House. That was as true a sign of divorce as any in a sacramental body. It expressed firm conviction that TEC is utterly apostate (dare I write irredeemable?) and should be treated as an outcast. And that seems reflected in the words actions of those bishops and those who support them since that time.

But taking the analogy further, divorced couples sometimes remarry. I hope that reconciliation is always possible, but it would require a return to the table, simply for starters.

"Is there room for evangelicals to thrive in TEC?"

I suppose the only people who can answer that question ultimately are the "evangelicals" themselves. (Though, "evangelical" implies so many things: are we talking about Jim Wallis or Jerry Falwell here?)

"Thrive" can also mean many different things. If it means that everyone agrees with "evangelicals" on any particular issue, or if it means we in TEC all agree on the nature of biblical authority and interpretation, the answer is probably no. If it means we can hold our differences in love and hold ourselves to the deep bonds we share in Christ at God's table and grow and discern together in that, then I hope the answer is yes.

For my part, I believe the door opens both ways.

That's true in the parish I serve. There are some parishioners who disagree strongly with me about the recent decisions of our bishop and TEC. I continue to pray with them, eat with them, and tend to their pastoral concerns. Our disagreement on one particular question is held in the greater love we have for each other in Christ. Every decision we make as a community, whether individuals agree or disagree, assumes this foundational principle.

Those who can't abide with that or any other difference in our communal life are not forced to stay.

But the door is held open to them if they wish to return. That, too, seems to be rooted in abiding Christian love.

It's where this context gets lost that we run into trouble.

Put another way, I am less concerned about the theological perspectives of "evangelicals" than any willful violence to the greater community in the name of those perspectives.

That said, it strikes me that many "evangelicals" of quite a number of perspectives are continuing to participate in the full life of TEC, voicing their disagreements in loving and appropriate ways, sharing in the hope that the Spirit does and will indeed "lead us into all truth. . ." and the hope is that we will be together as that happens.

As far as I'm concerned, the claim that TEC has made a mistake is within the bounds of our common life. To claim that it is apostate and un-Christian is not. Writing TEC out of diocesan constitutions and canons, spiting our new Presiding Bishop -- duly and prayerfully elected -- and deliberate attempts to subvert the integrity and jurisdictions of the Anglican Communion are not, either.

Remaining at the table and expressing disagreement in love seems to me faithful witness. I see that happening both at home and in the greater church. And I support it.

God's peace,