Saturday, June 24, 2006

History does not always move forward

Okay, in time yes, but in a progression of human well-being and advancement, certainly not.  I think this myth is deeply ingrained in us, and highly unhelpful.  It makes us overly proud of who we are, what we think, and overly confident in what we have.  The good news is that who we are, what we think, and what we have is all very vulnerable to the changes of time  This is good news because we are unable to save ourselves, and any efforts we make in that direction are better deflected.  If we hold this false hope in progress, it can only hurt us.  However, our confidence may rest safely in the one who formed The Orien and the Pleades, who came as a babe, taught with divine wisdom, healed with divine compassion, challenged with divine concern, died with divine faithful love, and rose again with divine hope and promise.  Sadly, Americans are so convinced that the empire they have built is based on sure and certain gains that they cannot see the base of the empire crumbling before their very eyes.  Growing poverty, increased pollution, declining wages, poorer schools, ineffective political institutions, growing debt, unneccessary wars, heightened governmental intrusion in our private lives, the break down of public discourse, the isolation of intellectuals, the litany could go on, all betray our impending demise.  American faith in human progress has undermined any reasonable sense of vulnerability, and the false belief that we are safe has blinded us not only to our deep need for God, but even for God's relevence.  We retreat into cliche statements about God on the right and the left.  And these diseases are firmly entrenched in large swaths of the church, both left and right.  We are not at the zenith of the American age, I am convinced we are in its last five to ten years.  The Christian faith teaches that empires rise and fall, and this is the only reasonable Christian opinion of our Empire.  Our faith is not in Empire; Jesus himself was the challenge to Empire.  Unless we recognize this, and put it into practice in our lives, we are living a fool's dream, from which we will eventually be rudely, but thankfuly, awoken.
Pace e Bene,

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Response to the Divisions of General Convention 2006

My friend Bob, who runs an excellent blog, linked in the sidebar, has made some commments on his inner struggle with the conflicts at General Convention: http://hypersync/

I wanted to respond to his writings because his feelings so resonate with me. But rather than make a long, long, long comment on his blog, I post it here:

Your sentiments resonate with me. I always was attracted to the church because, firstly, it was traditional, drawing its breath (spirit) through the lungs of all those who went before. Secondly, it was a church based on loving relationships: what makes us Anglican is our commitment to each other incarnated in our bishops. Thirdly, it's worship, an understanding of faith as something that involves bodily and spiritual formation, and which only conservatively changes what is received. And lastly, the ability to allow dialogue on where scripture, tradition and reason witness to God in our context: a dialogue in which much latitude was allowed for the sake of people actually owning and incarnating their belief, rather than the temptation to just parrot them, and live a kind of schizophrenic (sp) faith, saying one thing, but not quite seeing how that meets the road, or if it really matches what one thinks with mind and heart.

I have come to believe that the divide in the Episcopal church has come because the "more left" side of the church challenges the traditional nature of our faith and the conservative approach to worship, and the "more right" challenges the process whereby we do theology, trying to impose an orthodoxy of a modern biblicist character. The conflict has called into question the relationship character of our unity, and is even visible at the very heart of our ordered ministry, the pick and choose mentality of who can be our bishop.

Truth be told I am coming to see some conservatives as demonstrating less faith in God than the liberals. I say this because they reach an almost irrational anger and reaction which I think betrays little faith in God's purpose and betrays a poor spiritual practice. However, it may be that the liberals are just temperamentally less likely to get so wound up. Nonetheless, I'd rather look for spiritual growth with liberals because I tend to come away from them feeling loved and built up in faith. When I read or am with conservatives, I feel tired, assaulted, and not built up in faith. I have to go with the "You will know them by their fruits" test, and so I tend to want to hang out with the liberals.

I think what we need to do is gather the people who are sympathetic to liberal momentum for the inclusion of women and gay and lesbian people, and at the same time work to promote healthy understanding of tradition, and expose the wisdom of our traditional liturgy. We need to trust that God is up to something, that it tends to shake us up, and that God wants us to respond to our church and world with love, creativity, and the gifts of the spirit.

I sense these fights in our chruch are tied up in fighting and tearing down. I want to rise above them into being centered in God, say my office, read my Bible, study the tradition, enter into meaninful dialogue with people willing to both hear and speak, and build community to give to the church. I want to be centered, humble, loving and I want to speak my truth to liberal and conservative, whether in organic unity or not. I will not deny that the church is in crisis, but I will not allow that crisis to deflect me from solid trust in God. This is how I intend to respond.

Long Aside: Both sides are hurt by what I consider a weakened scholarship. This is sad because I believe the wisdom from sound intellectual pursuit is "spiritual". We tend to relegate spiritual to inspirational, almost magic achievement and insight. But I think a true Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit is based on our wisdom tradition, which recognizes the fruit of scholarly pursuit done with integrity as a vehicule of inspiration.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why General Convention doesn't do it for me

Well Resolutions can be broken. I had said I was not going to follow any of the news from the Episcopal Church's Convention. Yet, when so many people you know are there it is hard not to. Still, I will try to stay out of it as much as possible.

I am pulled in so many directions by this convention because there are several factors which are in conflict with each other. Let me try to itemize the different pulls here:

I am a traditional catholic Christian who takes belief seriously and so the left in our church which is so free and easy with tradition makes me uncomfortable. I do think there is a lack of faith in our talk about God (I do not confuse this with faith in God, because I think there is a lot more of that than the "orthodox" would have us think). This suspician of traditional God-talk is deepseated in much of the church because of a failure to recognize the wisdom of the people who created the tradition. The modern world belittles too much those from a pre-technological age, which I find ironic because I think we have become less sophisticated in many areas of human inquiry that the ancients were very adept in. This lack of confidence is partially a result of modern Biblical criticism, which I think in itself is helpful, but which has led some people to conclusions I find strange, mainly because faith in the Bible had been substituted for faith in God in many quarters. (This is another question) I also think that persons in this position frequently reach into social outreach as a substitute for adhering to a way of talking about God.

I think the people who mostly banter about the word "orthodox" and "tradtional" do not have a very sophisticated concept of either and so are not really "orthodox" or "traditional". They are actually reactionary. Not all, but many.

I believe God calls women to be ordained in the church, and I think the tradition has tended toward a preponderance of male imagery whereas I think we need to take steps to balance the imagery in our liturgy especially, and also in our theology, yet without substantially changing the liturgy.

I believe that a place can be made for gay and lesbian people who see their sexuality as a constituent part of who they are and would like to live within a blessed lifelong faithful exclusive relationship without the need for universal concensus. This argument is not about who beleives the Bible, it is about who is deeply immersed in traditional exegesis of the scripture which is far less reductionist than most modern so-called "orthodox" Christians.

The church is about Love and Holiness, Worship and Ministry. It demands not part of our life but all of it. We are in a post Constantinian Church which still sees the church as part of our life and the civic life as quite compatible with it. This is holding us back and not being addressed.

I take Christian Unity seriously and think we sometimes make great sacrifices for the sake of unity. At the same time I do not trust the pneumatology (theology of the Holy Spirit) in the Roman Catholic Church, and so I think we should challenge them more, yet at the same time I think we should take their concerns largely seriously.

Where is the attempt to build some common life and mission between the various separated branches of Christianity. Self-sufficiency is not only going to kill us, it is un-Biblical and I dare say, heretical. What are we doing in that regard.

So, in part, I guess I do not have confidence that the conflicts in the church are well thought out on the one hand, or address the true problems we face on the other.

....But hey, this is Joyful Rumblings. God is up to something, and my faith is in God in Jesus Christ, not the church or its convention. May my life be loving and holy, worshipful and serving. That is the best thing I can do for the church and for the convention, and out of love for my savior.