a priest's musings on the journey

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Perspectives: Some Thoughts on Presiding Bishop Katherine's Webcast

My initial reaction to Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori's response to the Primates' Communique and her call for a period of fasting was one of hurt and betrayal. I still see it unfair to ask the GLBT community in the Church to bear the greatest burden of a fast which would prevent them from receiving access to all of the Sacraments and would prevent them from participating in all levels of ministry in the Church. However, Her Grace is clear, that this Church will not be going backwards in its affirmation that all human beings have been clained by God as God's beloved, regardless of orientation, color of skin, gender, etc. The Episcopal Church will continue to proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation, inclusion, and equality. Nonetheless, at this point in our life together, Her Grace feels we need to pause; we need time and space for listening, so that we can clearly hear the voice of God and together more clearly discern the direction that the Holy Spirit is leading us. If I am hearing her correctly, my sense is that pastoral care to all in the Church will continue as neccesary on the local level; but, the larger church needs time to clarify God's call and mission to us, and to discover, by the help of the Holy Spirit, ways to move forward together. She compares this season with Jesus agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked the disciples to wait and pray. During this season of uncertainty and discernment, we are called to wait and to pray; to wait on God to guide and reconcile in God's time.

I was struck by her comment of what true inclusivity means for us as the Body of Christ. If we are to be truly inclusive, then we must make room at the Table for those who disagree with us. As I see it, Christ has already made room for each of us. So, what we are really called to do is come and take our place at the Table, and not refuse to gather around it when we see others there who are different than us or who experience the Gospel in different ways. Our great gift during this time, is the opportunity to see the image of God and to hear the voice of Christ in the persons with whom we most profoundly disagree. This comes through gracious listening and sharing together in common mission. Our only hope for unity lies in our ability to receive this gift, and to reclaim our Anglican ability to gather together in worship and mission with those who hear the voice of God speaking a bit differently. It is when all of these interpretaions of God's voice come together that the fullness of the Body of Christ is manifest. Some in the Anglican Communion are no longer able or willing to live in such a tension of diversity. Bishop Jefferts-Schori asks us to learn to be patient as we learn how to include those who are struggling to live with diversity of thought in the Church. Impatience, she says "is an idol, a false hope unwilling to wait on God ofr clarity. An idol that fails to expect that the Spirit will lead us into all truth." Our response is to lead those who need clear answers now to a place of love, where fear is absent and where God's healing grace can be experienced.

Part of our committment to inclusive listening involves not only listening to the grief and suffering of others who disagree with us, but also involves ourbeing able to articulately tell our story, and to firmly ground it in God's Story. Bishop Jefferts-Schori pointed out that as Anglicans we test what we believe is the voice of God through the lenses of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. Those of us who have heard the Holy Spirit calling us to acknowledge the baptismal identities of GLBT Christians as full and equal members of Christ's Body have done a good job appealing to reason. However, we need to more thoroughly wrestle with Scripture and Tradition and hear affirmation to our perception of the Gospel in those places. Her Grace acknowledges that this is essential if we expect certain members in the Communion who read the Scriptures differently to hear us and our understandings of what God is saying today. We also need to find ways to be engaged together in common mission, as it is in the midst of mission that opportunities for "conversions of understanding" can occur.

She also calls us to find a way to "lower our emotional reactivity" in the midst of this controversy in order to find a way to live together. She says that our intensity about these issues hinders our ability to find resolution. We need space and time to allow a "non-violent" response to operate which will create a "life-giving resolution" to emerge in God's way and in God's time.

I must confess that I often have trouble waiting on God to work in God's time. I want answers yesterday. Yet, I know that Bishop Katherine is right. She is not asking us to take steps backward. She is not asking us to sacrifice pastoral care for anyone. She is calling us to "be still and know that God is GOd". She is calling us to slow down, to be patient, to be quiet in order to hear that still, small voice that the Spirit is whispering amid the clamor of this controversy- that quiet voice in which we are able to discover how to journey together, pray together, worship together, and serve together, even if we can not agree on all issues. Time and space is needed in order to find a way to be both an Inclusive Church and a United Church. Patience is needed in order to keep everyone at the Table and to refocus our energies back to mission and service in the world.


You can listen to the webcast

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 8:26 AM


Fr Rob -

I've heard a lot of my Episcopal friends in the blogosphere worrying about this - and rightfully so. But *if* everything the inclusive side of the ECUSA has been saying is true then this is not about win-loose politics, but rather the expansive love of God. That includes making room for the conservatives.

One of the things I had the most trouble with when I worked at 815 (under PB. E.B.) was the staunch insistence that "we" were right and "they" were wrong. "We" being the rather more liberal folks at 815, and later at my parish in San Francisco. It's hard for us who have been excluded for so long not to want to turn around and exclude others. It's a real struggle and after we make it to the table we need to hear Our Lord's command that we forgive as we have been forgiven...

There will always be some who won't come to the table because of who else is there. But let us not make ourselves stumbling blocks for those who are weaker.
Blogger Huw Raphael, at 1:16 AM  
Well said, Hew. Amen.
Blogger PadreRob+, at 5:57 AM  

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