Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wary of the Sin of Waiting

Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote from a Mississippi jail cell to his clergy colleagues, explaining why he would not, why he could not, agree to their pleas that he delay acting upon his convictions. In his letter which was later published under the title, ‘Why we Can’t Wait,’ King shows that he understands the reasons that his colleagues have chosen to still their activism, to silence their own voices, presumably in hopes of achieving a social stability that mollify the majority on both sides of the segregation and equal rights controversy, and would substitute for true peace. He then explains why this simply won’t do for himself in light of his calling to represent Christ to both his friend and his enemy, alike.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Passing through the storm - General Convention 2006

Surely by the grace of God, the Church has gently and mightily risen above a gathering squall, perhaps that it might now address the storm gathering in the world around it. General Convention rejected the petty bigotries that have driven efforts to redefine the Church. With active commitment to that truly Christian manner of life that was displayed there, the Episcopal Church can move further beyond the internal fanaticism that finds itself now in its death throes, and turn to concerns truly more meaningful and relevant to a Communion that claims the ministry of the reconciliation of humanity with God.

Perhaps the rumor is true that a number of so-called ‘orthodox’ bishops cynically cast their votes for Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop only to drive schism. If so, we can thank God for this 21st century revision of the story of divine will made manifest by Balaam’s ass. We will soon have a presiding bishop who is unencumbered by participation in the good-ol’ boy network, and who, wondrously enough, is focused on the Church’s global witness and ministry.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Two Streams in the emerging 'covenant'

The conversation around the proposed Anglican Covenant appears to be surfacing two discernible streams: those who are in favor of its adoption rather immediately, and those who favor a cautious skeptical approach.  Few if any are against a Covenant outright.  Having reviewed the St. Andrew's draft of the proposed Covenant, I had originally concluded that it was pretty serviceable.  I viewed the abundant appendices as perhaps a sly way of weighing the thing with such cumbersome processes of application that effectively it would be a moot exercise.  I no longer hold to this position.  As serviceable as it may be, the proposal is less about a covenant of relationship than it is about a description of a juridical process.  I believe this renders the proposed covenant a detriment to the vitality of the Anglican Communion, and certainly to the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Currency of Controversy

In the Church's seasons of controversy, taking no public position is sometimes the prudent and charitably Christian to do. But perhaps it is time for those who once spoke out with bold and godly clarity on behalf of others whose voices were refused legitimacy to lay aside their polite diplomacy and speak up again. Perhaps it is time now for those who seem to have gone strangely quiet to take a clear position on the issues roiling the Church today, and freely accept the consequences of speaking plainly the Truth of the Gospel.

Homosexuality is the precipitating issue that has brought forward deep disagreements around biblical interpretation and application, limits and privileges of constitutional authority, the ontology of communion, and the definition of Anglicanism. Nevertheless, because most people concede that these other issues are open to legitimate differences of opinion, homosexuality continues to orient the debate. Since at least 1993, I’ve heard repeated the claim that “it’s really all about anal sex.” The plain wisdom of this insight recognizes that, for many of the ‘manly men’ disturbed by folks like Bp. Robinson and his partner, the idea of same-sex activity between two women simply doesn’t elicit the same passionate revulsion as does the idea of gay male sex. This may suggest an important insight into the nature of the current dispute. Currently, historically, and biblically, the objection to homosexuality is always primarily and most energetically expressed by men, and always primarily and most energetically focused upon the sexual activity rather than upon the sexual orientation itself.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Anglican Triad

In an article in last month’s Nevertheless, I referred to Anglican theologian Richard Hooker’s order of priority that he assigned to Scripture, Reason, and Tradition. I didn’t include it in the article, but to be absolutely specific, I was drawing upon a quote from the Fifth Book of Hooker’s Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Chapter 8 "The Third Proposition," section 2. I think it has something still to teach us. (All the following quotations are from the 1977 edition from the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.)

In this section, Hooker refers to two kinds of laws that he believes the Church may properly establish: one for the sake of order, the other pertaining to doctrine. He does contend that “that which in doctrine the Church doth now deliver rightlie as a truth, no man will saie that it may hereafter recall and as rightlie avoutch the contrarie. Lawes touchinge matter of order are changeable, by the power of the Church; articles concerninge doctrine not so." Yet, he then says, in the specific quote to which I referred earlier, "Be it in matter of the one kinde or of the other, what scripture doth plainelie deliver, to that the first place both of creditt and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever anie man can neccessarelie conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. That which the Church by her ecclesiasticall authoritie shall probablie thinke and define to be true or good, must in congruitie of reason overrule all other inferior judgmentes whatsoever." Here the casual reader will want to note that ‘succeedeth’ refers to ‘follows in order of succession’ rather than to ‘wins’ or ‘prevails.’

Saturday, April 8, 2006

The Lingering Issue

Returning from a vacation spent drinking in the natural beauty of our great state, I’m refreshed and reminded of the wonder and goodness of God. In touch with the vastness of God’s creation, the urgent concerns of humanity tend to shrink in comparison. To be surrounded by the awe-inspiring rugged grandeur of the mountains, to sit quietly and hear the whisper of God in the silence of the desert, has been, for me, to gain a renewed appreciation of the timeless and divine blessings that God, I think, would have shape the lives of His people. In our supposedly more civilized settings of city and suburb there reside concerns or ‘issues’ that can drive us quite forcefully. And unless they are integrated with the eternal and divine, these are the issues that can most easily divide, and whose resolutions, if similarly divorced from the transcending goodness of God, can bring far more harm than healing. My experience in the past and of late has been that these ‘issues’ can be humbled, issue-driven-ness quickly can be tamed, in the context of less-mediated and less-distracted contact with God.