Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Five:

Friday Five: At RevgalBlogPals, a blog around women clergy issues often challenges us to discuss various topics. Today’s questions are interesting because they force me to think about things that I normally wouldn’t.

1. Personality tests; love them or hate them? I enjoy them. The Myers-Briggs I have referred to for many years as a way to understand myself and others. It allows me to cut folks some slack when I find that their ways are different from mine. I have never done the Enniagram but would like to. It just would give me a few more areas to explore than does the Myers-Briggs.

2. Would you describe yourself as practical, creative, intellectual or a mixture ? I am a mixture. It really depends on the amount of energy I have for things. I like writing, developing different ways to address issues or problems, but if energy is short, I work at trying to be practical, how can I get something done with the least amount of energy.

3. It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame; have you had your yet? If so what was it, if not dream away what would you like it to be? I would like a final chance to be a representative to my judicatory council.

4. If you were given a 2 year sabbatical ( oh the dream of it) to create something would it be music, literature, art.....something completely different...share your dream with us... A two year sabbatical? Way too long! If the sabbatical is there for one to improve one’s skills to do ministry in the original setting, it is far too long to be away from pastoral ministry. I have been on a ‘forced sabbatical’ for the past 3 years and it has been hell. But I have learned that centering on what is basic is an important part of faith life. Being with out income, with out meaningful work has introduced me to centrality on Christ alone for my meaning and it makes all the rest of life clearer.

5. . Describe a talent you would like to develop, but that seems completely beyond you. Cleaning house. But I think at my place in life I will have to accept that I can’t do everything. Tee Hee.

Bonus question: Back to the church- what does every member ministry mean to you? Is it truly possible to encourage/ implement?Every member ministry is where all members of the congregation understands that they are called to ministry the same as the clergy. I want people to understand the joy that comes when they understand this call from God. There is a temptation to just see that every member ministry is to take the pastor off the hook. But it is really helping all the baptized to realize their calling. And I truly believe that when the majority of the parish has an understanding of their own calling, the ministry of the parish becomes enlivening to all.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Luther-alian for a season

We were told at the beginning of our covenant, Call to Common Mission with the Lutherans that there were so many things that we held in common that there was no reason why we shouldn't be able to share in each other's churches. And I am sure that theologically that is quite true. But there are many things that are different--and with a difference that is quite marked.

Theologically, we are close enough that there IS not much difference. But when it comes to Faith and Order and customary the broadness with which we began our Lutheran/Episcopal dialog begins to narrow. Just like when I preached on Reformation Sunday, I realized how I am not really reformed. Much of my thinking still shows in my Roman Catholic roots. I don't have there deep rooted aversion to papism that my Lutheran coreligionists have. I find papal stuff tiring but not a threat to my faith.

Bishop Jerge made a quiet observance between the understanding of priest and pastor that I had never caught. The pastor is never an intermediary and always concerned for the sheep. It readjusted my POV. Pastors seem less ready to be prophets but that is ok. I think it might be healthier for the congregations in the long run.

I preached my first sermon on Justification last Sunday and felt really in deep water. Once I got going, I found we were on the same page, I am just not that comfortable preaching on theological or confessional issues. I am by far ready to discuss how the Scripture addresses what is going on in our lives than Paul's theological principles.

I do find differences in what congregations consider important. Lutherans tend to be much more organized than Episcopalians. This may be because I am less organized than my parishes seem, but I don't think that it is only an individual thing. People in my bible study READ their materials before the class! Amazing! They have studied their passages and have something to say about them. I really have to be prepared for them and it holds me to a higher standard of teaching.

Music is important to them, as much as for Episcopalian. Of course their traditions are somewhat different. Though I am surprised by the commonality of the hymns, the performance practice is quite different with much emphasis on hymns sung in a style that can only be classified as lustig.

I am warming to the Lutheran understanding of bishop, too. They recognize that bishops are administrators. They don't expect them "Father in God" or pastoral gurus. There is no understanding that somehow the Church revolves around them. The church begins truly at the bottom and is filled with laity who accept the responsibility for their congregation. There is not a matter of "turf". It is a matter of ministry and everyone is a part of it. This may be due to the fact that I am serving in family-style congregations who know what it means to run their own church. But I think that it also means layfolk accept that they are part of how things work. Episcopal churches tend to make much more of the delineation between clergy and lay, I believe, to the detriment of the Church.

This season in the Lutheran church is one that I greet with some anxiety and some real excitment. I want to be able to serve the Lutheran people in my charge with a quiet care that is not caught up with church fights that are foreign to them. I want however to make a difference in calling our two denominations to Common Mission in a way that is healthy and accepting of our differences. That is the point of our covenant. But also don't want to trip over some important piece of what it means to be Lutheran in the process. I am on the edge of my church as it is. And yet it is on the edge that God has me in relationship to the ELCA. It will be interesting to see if we can find the commonality that will make us whole as Christians.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Future of the Church

What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life…. The long painful history of the Church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led…. Much Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give and receive love. Henri Nowen

What powerful words by Henri Nowen! And they are so timely. This week Bishop Ely from VT made a presentation on Small Parishes to the clergy of the Diocese. There were many good messages in his presentation. But in each the bishop was clear that the ministry of small parishes must be seen as important and viable.

It is my experience that small parishes can't be killed off by bad clergy, or top-down programing coming from diocese or national church. Larger churches can be affected in that way. But small churches exist because they care for each other and are maintained by the laity. They are not especially moved by the acts of juridical bodies. They are about trying to be as Christian as they possibly can be by their lights and they are willing and able to fund that ministry but not a whole lot more.

In short, they are not tempted by power as Henri Nowen states. They are generally about the hard work of love. And love in the small town, the small community is difficult. It means that people have to take one another for what they are. There is little to buffer the rough edges of personalities in small communities. There are no strata of society in the villages, no veils of phoniness behind which one can hide. In small towns 'you are what you are' and everybody knows it. There is little mystery allowed an individual and consequently there is little power attributed to those who special gifts.

Like Jesus in Nazareth, it is impossible to be a prophet in one's hometown. You are just Joe Blow or Susie Stitch and nothing more than love is expected of you. And if you try to work your miracles in small towns, no one is going to pay attention. They may, however, love you no matter what you do.

In the light of what is happening at the upper reaches of our Church--in the diocese, national and international realms of the Church, I believe that it will be the small churches in small towns that will carry forth the mission of Jesus Christ. It will be the small churches that you can't kill with a stick that will last and be the place where ministry will continue in love. The continuing mission of Jesus will be played out despite diocesan, national or international programing. There will be a certain nod to those who arrogate power unto themselves but it will be in the small congregations that God's love will continue to be shown forth.

These small parishes will not need to report their minstries to the diocese. They will not need to evaluate their work or fill out forms. They will just continue to love the people Christ brings to them. They will not need a bishop to teach them how; if anything, the wise bishop will learn from them. And the Church will survive in these small communities where food is grown and life is basic.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Statement of the Global Center

Declaration of the Anglican Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (Global Center)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

“By this all men would now that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

We the Anglican Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, who sign below, gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica from the 18 to 22 of May 2007, renew and ratify our position proposed in Panama, better known as the Global Center, in which we call the Communion to preserve its participative nature, diverse, ample and inclusive, characteristics which we consider essential to Anglicanism and at the same time our contribution to the Christian tradition.

Since our last meeting, our concern has grown because of the polarization regarding the biblical and theological positions manifested in the Anglican Communion, during the last years; positions known as Global North and Global South, non reconcilable in their character and putting the unity in the Communion at risk.

In the midst of this painful controversy, we do not identify with either side, because they don’t fully represent the spirit of our thoughts.

It has been proven in our relations that we greatly represent the plurality and diversity that are universal characteristics of Anglicanism and that we hold different positions on the themes that are presently discussed in the Communion. However, we have also experienced that the plurality and diversity we represent has become a rich source for growth, rather than a cause for controversy and division.

We unanimously express our determination to remain united as members of the same family and will continue to come to the Lord’s Table, together.

We invite our brothers and sisters in the episcopate, as well as all the members of the Clergy and laity who identify with this vision, to join together and work for an effective reconciliation, interdependence and unity in the diversity of our family of faith and so preserve the valuable legacy of which we are guardians.

As disciples of Jesus, called to live out the mandate of love (St. John 15:17), we declare our commitment to be together and with all our strength, struggle for unity, as an act of obedience to His will expressed in the Holy Scriptures. Trusting that the Holy Spirit, whose descent we are about to celebrate on the Feast of Pentecost, will guide and strengthen us on such a difficult journey.

The experience of these few days confirms our conviction that, we will make it with God’s blessings. Of this, we are sure and now we return to our dioceses comforted and full of joy and hope.

Comment: I know a surprising number of these bishops and admire the strength and the gentleness of such a statement. I think that their willingness to comment from the center and claim the center says much about the sense of theology and ecclesial development that is happening in this part of the Anglican Communion. I believe there may be more statements from the those who consider themselves part of the Global Center. I have much more hope for the Anglican Communion that I have had over the past few months.