"Episcopal Bishops Say 'Preoccupied' Church Missed Crisis" was the headline of the Daniel Burke's RNS follow up to last week's spring meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops. The article, posted March 19, included this quote from the bishops' pastoral letter:
"In this season of Lent, God calls us to repentance," the bishops said. "We have too often been preoccupied as a Church with internal affairs and a narrow focus that has absorbed both our energy and interest ... to the exclusion of concern for the crisis of suffering both at home and abroad."
It had a familiar ring to it, so I checked my archives and -- sure enough -- it sounds a lot like this quote from the last day of General Convention 2006 in Columbus:
"We spent nine days here in Columbus and we’ve done nothing substantive other than talk about where our position is in the Anglican Communion.
We have over 200 pieces of legislation that are going to fall into the abyss today because the clock is going to run out and we’re not going to talk about genocide and we’re not going to talk about evangelism and we’re not going to talk about how to bring a just peace in Iraq and we’re not going to talk about the environment and we’re not going to talk about our children.
Instead we’ve spent our whole time talking about “the church.” If the point of the church is to serve the world in God’s name we have failed – we have failed miserably – and we haven’t just failed gay and lesbian people, we’ve failed the Gospel. "
That was me ... just after the vote on B033 ... letting it all hang out for a scrum of reporters outside the Columbus Convention Center in a moment preserved for time-and-all-eternity on YouTube by Greg Griffith of Stand Firm fame. You can watch the whole 4+ minute rant here ... (and yes, I was having a bad hair day!) ... but here's my point:
What I said ... what WE said ... in Columbus is now being said by our bishops in a unanimously adopted pastoral letter: our preoccupation with the institutional church has kept us from living out the Gospel.
The question we need to ask ... each and every ONE of us ... of each and every ONE of our bishops is:
So what are we going to do about it?
What are we going to do different in Anaheim to move this church forward on the issues that call us to make God's love tangible in the name of Christ Jesus to a hurting, broken, crying out for Good News world?
What are we going to do to keep this General Convention -- and the next and the next and the next -- from being manipulated by those who want to exploit the differences on human sexuality that challenge us into divisions that distract us from our wider mission and ministry?I think the answer is here -- also from the pastoral letter:
"We have often failed to speak truth to power," they said, "to name the greed and consumerism that has pervaded our culture, and we have too often allowed the culture to define us instead of being formed by Gospel values."
The answer is that we have too often allowed forces in our communion to define us instead of being formed by the Gospel values that inform our Baptismal Covenant -- and that we can, must and WILL stand up together in Anaheim and say we're ready to be the church God is calling us to be and get on with the work we have been given to do.
The cost of continuing to allow that work -- that mission and ministry -- to be held hostage by those who insist that we must choose between institutional unity and gospel justice is TOO great. We cannot allow what happened in Columbus to happen again in Anaheim and we must start NOW making that case ... to our bishops, to our deputies, on our blogs, on our listserves -- wherever and however we can.
The time has come.
The future is here.
It is time to repent. To turn around. To move forward.
Our bishops have written, "God calls us to repentance" -- in the Greek "metanoia" ... to turn around. Let's answer that call together by turning away from B033 ... by embracing once and for all this church's 1976 commitment to fully include its gay and lesbian baptized and then let's ALL get to work on the suffering at home and abroad that our bishops have called us to!