Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Episcopal Bishops Say 'Preoccupied' Church Missed Crisis"

With all due respect:

"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!



Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Amen, Susan. Amen.

And a HUGE Amen to the "Duh!"

Jim of L-Town said...

Dear Rev. Russell:

Off topic, but I haven't been here for a month or two.

What happened to the running $$ clock for the War in Iraq?

The clock should continue to run, people continue to die and President Obama has put off into the future the decision to get out.

Are we only concerned about the $$ and lives when the were spent by President Bush.

Between former President Bush and now President Obama we have spent twice as much to bail out banks than we did in the entire six years of the War in Iraq. Both are equally bad decisions.

Just askin'

A sinner saved by God's Grace

Jim of Michigan

Clyde said...

AMEN! to Susan and the Bishops (at long last).

Fr. John said...

We need to be careful not to sound as if we must stop talking about human sexuality so that we can get on with the Church's mission. The full inclusion of LGBT in Church and society - and not just in the United States - is a human rights issue and is part of the Church's mission, if we take our baptismal covenant seriously. The reason we are still spending so much time on this particular issue isn't only because conservatives use it as a wedge, but also because we are so far from achieving justice for LGBT people in Church and society - both here and especially abroad.

In fact, that is why conservatives are successful using us as a wedge issue. The challenge isn't to "move on" but to make the connections between heterosexism and other forms of global human and planetary suffering.

Caminante said...

Off topic but the VT Senate just voted 26-4 to approve S115, marriage for everyone. An amendment to take it to a referendum failed 19-11. It will hold its final vote tomorrow.

The House Judiciary will take it up next Tuesday and the House can vote on it by the end of the week. In Vermont, a bill has to go through three votes so that people have had time to make up their mind. For more info, go to

Cranmer49 said...

For some reason, my experience in the Episcopal Church has been that we don't move in the direction of doing justice until we're pushed really, really hard. And once the HoD is moving toward doing justice, then we have to turn around and drag the HoB. We're too preoccupied with being nice and not troubling the waters and continuing to turn yet one more cheek. I do hope some sort of epiphany occurs in Anaheim that causes us to be radically prophetic and finally walk the talk that we have proclaimed as followers of Jesus Christ.

I'm a firm believer in an inaugurated eschatology. We live in hope -- we need to remember to *act* in hope as we move creation toward that which God so dearly desires for us.