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/mt.net

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.

1 comment:

Bob said...

John -

You are so much more eloquent than I!

I find that when I am with many conservatives, not all but many, I am encouraged when we speak about faith and our relationship with God. I am encouraged around liberals, not all but some, when we engage in the quest for understanding that allows much wondering and questioning.

There is a difference between "fundamentalists" (those who will not consider a different approach or understanding and who demand that all agree with them absolutely), anti-liberals/conservatives, and true liberals and true conservatives.