Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church: What we are and what we are not.

I have been trying to figure out how to respond both what has been happening to the Anglican Communion, what is happening in my own diocese and what has been happening in my life.  I have been in the conversation about the Anglican Covenant for many years and watched how this attempt by those with a rather Anglo-Catholic understanding trying to bring a type of standardizing to the Anglican Communion that we have never been. Even the Church of England refused to accept the Anglican Covenant as developing a 'curica' in the Anglican Communion. The refusal of the CoE to accept the Covenant brought the resignation of ABC Rowan Williams because he did not have the support of many of the dioceses of his own Church, a very UK understanding of how political leadership there.  

 The purpose of the Anglican Communion has always been to recognize a history from our British/Celtic experience, the post/Reformation understanding that included married clergy, and an understanding that we do not necessarily embrace the same theological backgrounds, but that it was our worship that has reinforced our faith for 1500 years.

The meeting of the Primates of the various presiding bishops in Cambridge this past week was better than we could have imagined since 2003 and the election of Bishop Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.  +Gene was refused invitation to the Lambeth gathering of bishops because he was gay.  There are bishops in parts of Africa and Middle Eastern parts of the world still treat LGBTQ people as criminal. Our Episcopal Church has made a opening to understand not only with our country, for the last 50 years we have gradually opened our church to what a type of anti-LGBTQ has been passed as a type of sinful maintenance of people who follow only heterosexual marriage.

As Christians, we are not dealing with a liberal/conservative issue.  We are, like Christianity, in other issues have had to look at social issues in the light of what Jesus did in his own era.  Jesus in the 1st century tried to get Jews to see what was happening in Jerusalem to open the world to what the God of Israel had always been open to people who were no longer Jews.  It was type of Judaism that had become by the 1st century one that became ethnically essential following the return of those of the Exile rather that for the message that God love was more important. It is not surprising that the bitterness that came after the Babylonian Exile developed through the bitterness that came between Pharisee/Sadducee division. It is interesting that Jesus who came from Nazareth did not follow the conservatism of Judaism of Jerusalem.  Was Jesus' teaching upset both the Pharisees AND the Sadducees of his age that brought his death?  It has never been understood.  But it was the Romans who killed him because he was easily dusted away rather than Judaism to deal with issues of the era.

We, in this country, have seen similar division.  In the 18th century there was an understanding of people of color in ways that Anglo people saw themselves as being brighter, smarter, God-blessed. We allowed our theology to support a type of color or cultural vision that was never of Christ.  We allowed Christian theology, whether it was Episcopal or any denomination, to support slavery in this nation long after the British Church finally undid slavery in the UK.  If you have never seen the film Traces of the Trade and the participation of the DeWolf family, its slave trade in the 18th and 19th century on slavery and their continued participation in their participation in the Episcopal Church. (Yes, Jim DeWolf was THAT family) It is time to understand that the Church allowed a brutal financial participation that was contrary to goodness.  But as a Church we have seen how this understanding was begun to be seen as not just a vile understanding of racism, we have embraced our own call by Christ to know that racism, to refute it, for white people to own and confess our participation in racism and embrace forgiveness.

A similar issue has developed over the past 50 years in The Episcopal Church (TEC) about the LGBTQ issue.  There had never been a difference between what has been between violent or pederasty and the loving development of people who have found love of same sex.  Those who are most afraid of violent same-sex abuse is more likely to include those who love among their own sex rather than appreciate the call of same-sex lovers.

That violent same sex abuse is a totally different understanding behavior has not been understood psychologically for centuries.  The abuse in military, prisons, even in the societies in which anger is at the center of ways of debasing others especially by male is deeply offensive.  Sexual misconduct then becomes a way to control others.

Back in the early '90's I had a seminarian intern when I was in the Diocese of Washington.  He was already a priest but he had been sent from Uganda to study at VTS.  He was a remarkably bright man but was very uncomfortable about talking about gay issues at the seminary.  Talking about anything about sex was just taboo in his nation.  In Uganda in the 1800's the very British bishop of the beginning of the colonial church lost his life and with many young men by a king of the area who took part in sexual abuse of the people of the Church. The martyrdom is recognized by both Anglicans and Roman Catholics as the center of Christianity.  But they have not looked at European development of Catholic and Anglican participation in the political participation at taking over African areas.  It is not surprising that the people of that part of Africa still see the behavior of their king's sex abuse as violence.  But because the discussion of sexual behavior of any kind makes it impossible for them to see that people who are gay can be seen as something other than sexual abuse. It is also interesting that the inundation by Africa by HIV/AIDS is also seen as something that is not to be discussed.  It is not surprising that the Primates of Africa still find it difficult to speak honestly about what is threatening them.  It is easier to find difficulty with TEC, Canada, NZ, Australia, and in nations that are willing to discuss such issues that have less to do with some 'sexual propriety' and have more to do with what is happening with what is sexual behavior in their countries.

What we have seen over last in western society is a type of looking at what really happens, and are seeing that what is loving is at the center of loving people.  It was the kind of thing that Jesus tried to teach in his own era about what was loving by people who were not necessarily Jews.  Jesus called people to live honestly and how to live honoring God's participation with all.  And if there has happened anything in our Church's understanding of Jesus' Movement, we are calling from ourselves is to speak the truth about how we live our lives together.

Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has not dismissed primates who have misused their authority.  He is not taking us out of the Anglican Communion because the primates who have never understood their own place in the Communion.  We have a PB who understands that as Christians still are called to call a world to the mission of Jesus that has always been at the center of our Anglican Communion. His own history as an African American and is deeply embracing of a faith that is calling Christianity to a living out not the social values, but the living out the deep call to know the ability to own the sinfulness of ancient ideas so that we can embrace will call us to understand how we have behaved sinfully in the face of racism, sexism, attitudes towards women,  religionism, just so that we don't have to be afraid. When we have been called by Jesus we have always been freed to embrace the goodness that allows us to not be be afraid when we are trying to greater.  But please God, we will continue to learn just what joy that we are being able to what we can for those places to hear the same joy that we are learning.

If there has been anything in our Diocese of Fort Worth, we are seeing a major change in our diocese in the past 6 months. We are living out a Christianity that this diocese has not been able to live out a Christianity for the past 35 years because it was so fearful what Christ's life has call it to.  Now our diocese is growing.  The parish we attend has grown by 24% in the past 6 months. Our school is growing.  We are going to have to add more services and most likely are going to have to add room while we are still in court with the Iker crowd who is losing population.  The clergy of the TEC diocese is not bothering about what the Iker crowd is blowing off about.  We are talking about a what a new era not just needs from Jesus, but what we are seeing in the history of Christianity can remind us what Jesus was about.  We are less calling us to say that Christianity is the only religion.  We are seeing from those who are faithful Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist,  and other faiths to have many of the same things that Jesus taught us.  We need to find in that goodness a way to begin the conversations that will open us to the love that our faiths call from us.  

Our faith is the new way of what it means to love God...the God that continues to teach us, to draw from us and teaches us that fear is not something we need to live out.  Our PB, Michael Curry is leading us. As clergy we need to be willing to live that loss of fear to live the life of the Jesus Movement we will be the type leadership for the Church.  But what we are seeing here in Ft. Worth is a group of clergy and especially lay leadership are a group of people who have said we are followers of Jesus.  We are ready to live what Jesus is call out of us and it is awesome.  If there is a future for the people of TEC is because we refuse to be afraid any longer.

1 comment:

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Willing to say NO (the fear drops away). Willing to ask for help (the fear drops away). Willingness is the key in my opinion, willingness to change...not always an easy task when fear gets in the way...continued good wishes for the diocese of Ft. Worth.

Leonard Clark
Leonardo Ricardo