Friday, February 5, 2016

Church History, New Church and Jesus

A couple of years ago I had read Diarmaid MacColloch’s Christianity, The First 3,000 Years. I had taught church history since the 70’s but it was a limited idea of what happened in Christianity.  It had been very limited to western Christianity and totally irreverent to the broadness of how the story of Jesus was spread throughout the whole of the Middle East, Africa, India, China.  MacCulloch opened to a type of Christianity that had become a political control in Papal and Orthodoxy to a history of the Church of the East.  And if there is anything that faces us today it is the willingness for us to look hard to see how we have allowed Christianity throughout the world, (and it does not matter what religion) to dictate what Christianity that often has not based upon the person of Jesus except for those who are in that spiritual relationship of the Holy One. 

I must admit that I thought that Christianity came west in Europe early, but not for almost 500 to 800 years.  Christianity became a faith of the Middle East and even the Far East.  I had also the privilege of reading Philip Denkins, The Lost History of Christianity, a fascinating understanding of the first 1,000 years of Christianity of those that were not under the Roman/Orthodox Christianity that got lost. Those who were not Trinitarian were vaster and much more open to a way of understanding than what happened after the split between first Orthodoxy and the various Myaphysite Christianity that developed in the East, Egypt, Africa and finally to India.  

For many places throughout the world from the time of the 4th century, Christianity, especially in places where colonization from a culture quite different demanded specific behavior having to do the colonizing. From the time of Constantine used Christianity to control his Eastern Roman world.  But how Christianity became less a faith by those who used religion as a way of maintaining empires, Christianity became as much as a sociological element throughout centuries. Church leaders were as much political elements than faith leaders.  And we still see this in many churches of the world today.  We still see this kind of church leadership in Roman Catholicism, but we still see this kind of call from many within Anglicanism because it is the way that it has existed for centuries.

  By the development of America under the English, we certainly saw this in America with regards to the behavior of Native American peoples, demanding ways of living in order to be considered acceptable enough not to be imprisoned.  We can still see in the African understanding of Anglicanism, a Christianity that is more based on a manner of being that has less to do with the relationship with Christ and more if one lives like the Brits…or perhaps a type of British/Western European life style than faith. 
I am convinced that much of what was taught throughout the colonization of Anglicanism had less about faith but much about making a colony possible to run.  What happened as the US turned away from British colonialism, a new way of Christianity was developed that changed from old Anglicanism.  The removal of Church as a state religion changed the entire European concept as Christianity developed in the US. And yet, there is still considered that there are expectations of what Christianity by government of what has been expected even when this nation has had a type of difference.  We have more churches than any other in the world, and in many churches have no unity. 

I had a colonial church back in the 1980-90’s.  It had started in the 1690’s to meet the needs of the Piscataway Indians along the Potomac River, but the Native Americans were not interested. It became a small place where Anglicans came to support each other as they became a community.  It still is a solid parish that has tried to remind people that the faith in the story of Jesus.  It is simple. It continues to be a place of history. It also continues to be a place where on the banks of Washington, DC it sometimes continues to speak of what Jesus continues to remind the people, and the diocese that faith still gathers people to live the love and the liturgy of faith.

Even today, there are those in all of our Anglican churches we have different ways of understanding the place of Church as it speaks in its local environs. But it also has a way of describing how it speaks internationally.  For those Churches that are still national and political, all need to be aware of the way. Christianity often speaks the cultural expectations of those who observe their faith in an area.  At the same time, in those Churches that are less social or cultural entities, especially in places where Christianity has less to do with the cultural and more to do with the spiritual, that is by far more open to the person of Jesus. 

Personally, I believe that the Anglican Communion, because we have never tried to be a standardized Church, we have tried to respect the distinctions that come from being both social and spiritual.  If there is anything that the American’s relationship to start the Anglican Communion was to respect what had happened, but not to accept the national, social expectations of the faith.  It is part of the joy of the Anglican Communion to be all over the scene, but not without respect.
Our Christian requirements as some levels will always be from the actions of Jesus.  I do not deny that the problems that face the Churches of those African nations that are in violence with religions they face.  At the same time, I do not believe that the issues of violence against LGBTQ issues that we have chosen to repudiate in our own era. It is an issue of Jesus’ love for others and acceptance of people who have been treated with disrespect and fear.  For half a century, life in the US has made moves that will eventually be seen in loving rather that fear. 

But in the inner part of the faith, in that scary, spiritual part every Christian is invited is to ask the difficult questions: am I afraid of what God is calling us all to do? Am I willing to ask the difficult questions of human sexuality has to do with Christianity today?  Am I willing to find that being whole in the name of Jesus has more to do with teaching me how to love others no matter their calling?  Can what others have named as Christianity really speak what Jesus called from his own people?  Was what Jesus doing to call the 1st century Jerusalem to open his Jewish people to return what the prophetic embrace of the God no matter what the ethnicity was beginning to edge out the people of the Temple? 

If what we are seeing another church emerging in the world today, it is a church that needs both to be willing to go back to be faithful to our origins, but at the same time to reject those things that have kept us from being the honest and not demanding of others.  I do not believe that the only thing the Church can be for the future is to be judgmental.  Jesus’ call to his people was for them to call themselves not to be judgmental of others.  If there is something for the future for the Anglican Communion it is for us to talk, share, and respect one another even when don’t agree.  It is the conversation that will continue our love for Jesus.   If there is anything that will continue us as a Communion.  We cannot discipline one another; we cannot demand of others.  All we can do is keep up the conversation. If there are those who are too frightened to talk, then Christ is not present.  If there is anything that we must be willing to do, it will be NOT to ignore, but be willing to continue to ask the difficult questions that Jesus always did. But always done with respect.

For some of our Churches the place where Women, LGBTQ, Catholics, Evangelicals, all provide difficulties for some cultures for discussion.  For some who have been unwilling to even give acknowledgement that women are more than prepared to share their faith in both intelligence and ability make it so difficult to realize what Jesus shared in the women of the Church in the 1st century.  With that for those places in the Communion, we can no longer just ignore their abilities.

I am especially filled with the efforts that are being made by our TEC Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry.  His life will always be a powerful statement not only in our nations of TEC, but he will also be one so ready to put himself in the arms of Jesus daily.  Evangelical but Catholic. But Evangelical and Catholic while part of history must not determine the structure of the future.  We need perhaps to be less stone church and more open to being people who want to share Jesus with those who have never known the person and spiritual life.  We are not a Church of illness, although at one point I was worried that we were.  Today I am more convinced here in Fort Worth that we are beginning to see a Church for the future… a Church that will look to living the life of Jesus daily, momentarily.  We have the possibility to think outside of what has always been so that our Christianity may speak more of what Jesus called us to do.  It will be the honesty that comes from asking the hard questions.  But more importantly it is a Christianity that call us out of what we have always done in order to love others…even the ones who find fault with us.  I do not fear what others fear.  Jesus has always taught how much I am loved just as I am and calls me to love others the way they have found Jesus loving them.  When we get to that kind of Christianity, when others know the love of God, the world will be changed.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

And Why Did We March?

This is something I wrote back in August while coming home from the commemorations of  Jon Daniel's life and the events of Selma.  But it was not so much about Jon as it was about what has happened in the past 50 years.

And why did we march?
        Was it just an adolescent lark?
Hope and Youth incarnate in colors
         so foreign --- so alike?
Dreams of a land so lush
         or a rush
To claim the righteousness of lives
         not branded with sourness of age?

Hope is the liquor
          that addicts youth
To visions so attainable  in the fresh-eyed, 
          just beyond reach,
Overwhelming the soul.
          Set on paths to live long.
Battle, like moths to lamps...yet
            strange to elder myopia
Rooted in a future of the Holy
            only to find denial in new generations holding
            such visions uncouth.

And why did we risk?
            For life itself---to make possible
             a generation to dream of a life without us.
Requiacat en Pacem 

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.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year, New Head, a New Life

This is the first time I have tried to write since I went down with a brain tumor on the 9th of December.  The surgery was on the 14th and for a few days I couldn't even speak following what the neurosurgeon pulled out some of the tumor.  It was as much a problem to try make my head to try to explain what was going on inside my head.  For several days I thought I was explaining what I thought was in my head, but there was really not much pain.  I just felt that I had 2 heads.  There was numbness on the left but not real pain.  As the past 2 weeks have gone on, I have finally been working out at a Rehabilitation Hospital and I am now in better physical condition than I have been in the past 20 years.

Tomorrow I go home for a week and do outpatient work.  Next week I will meet with an Oncologist  as well with the Neurosurgeon to see what more needs to be done.  Most likely there will be chemo.  I don't know how long that will be or whether there will be radiology.  But if what they have already done with almost no pain, or illness, I can't complain.

What I am finding is just as much difficulty is trying to use my new computer and the Windows 10 that was before a tumor so I guess my having to deal with something new that pushes me each day to think a bit more.  It sort of feels like there is less in my brain to get in the way of computer stuff and have a whole new way to orient to my computer. I find a positive way of coming to this new computer with a new way of relating to my computer that I would normally just find as a computer one more pain.  But this morning I am finding an opening to something quite open, something embracing technological that I would not normally have done.

The relationship of God has been one that has so cradled me in a way I haven't known in years.  It is a time that I would never have is something I have believed.  But this is a time of an experience of friends, family and spiritual closeness that is on so many levels that I am still unable to even explain how close and how I have known God's presence.  It is both transencendent and immanent all at the same time.  Is it merely medication?  It is being able to know that God in humanity and Creation is doing stuff in my life that I have not known.  Am I more than usual? No, but I feel nicer than I have in a number of years.

I will begin to write theology again now.  I will begin to take on the things that those writers like Diarmaid MacCulloch, Diana Butler Bass, and other people who are beginning to describe faith that are willing to address the goodness that the God who has always been able to reach so much more outside what the Church has often tried to demand what the Church has demanded rather than what God wants.

If there is a new world that faith does demand of us for the future, the Church is being faced with a way of knowing what it means to claim that what is good and holy.  It may not look like what Christianity has dealt with for the past 1000 years.  It may look like a way of who we are in the face of what people from different faiths that allows us to hear how people who find how that holiness speaks finally to all.  The more that I have seen in the health of people both in the medical world no matter what their faith brings to them, they are willing to make sure that the goodness for whatever reason they call me to think and live in a way that embraces world in a way that I have never thought of.  It is a type of faith.  It isn't so simple to just let God do God's thing.  It is a participation in a way of life that is much grander that I would have allowed myself.

I do hope those who read my blog these days feel free to hop on what I say now.  I will appreciate for people to have ideas different from mine to put their stuff in comments.  It is a new age.  It is a new way to look at the goodness of all that still speaks of the goodness of the Holy that is still so very much available.  The goodness however it makes itself available to us and that is all that is important.