Thursday, August 24, 2006

Waging Fragmentation

Great new piece just posted to The Witness website by Daniel Webster, recently of Utah and presently on staff with the National Council of Churches.

by Daniel J. Webster
Thursday, August 24, 2006

We blinked. We had stood up for the Holy Spirit's full inclusion of all people. And then we blinked. Why? What happened in Columbus that didn't happen in Minneapolis?

General Convention is supposed to be our governing authority. We have no pope. We have no dictatorial central teaching authority. We are governed by lay, clergy and bishops coming together in prayer and discernment to lay out the best way they know how the actions of God leading us forward as this church in this time.

But in Columbus, it appears all the rules got thrown aside because of threats from a faction of so-called Christians who are driven by power and control rather than grace and justice.
I felt the Holy Spirit once again in the hall when the announcement came that the first female presiding bishop was elected. The time afforded prayer in the House of Deputies was extraordinary. The silence before the announcement of the bishops' choice was most reminiscent of the Deputies' vote for Gene Robinson three years ago. It was like a Pentecost wind blowing through our church. The polity of our church was working. It was open, transparent, and grace-filled.

We had stood up for the Holy Spirit's full inclusion of all people. And then we blinked.

But then on the final day in Columbus one Convention blogger said the outgoing presiding bishop "chastised" both deputies and bishops for "not taking seriously" the Windsor Report. The incoming presiding bishop made a plea for the deputies to pass the resolution that targets one group of Episcopalians as unworthy of being elected bishop. One deputy was quoted in the media as saying, "What are you supposed to do when your presiding bishop asks you to do something?"

I wasn't there. I had left Convention that morning. But my answer to the question proposed by that deputy is that when your presiding bishops asks you to do something, read it closely, carefully, and prayerfully. Roll it over your tongue. If it tastes bad, don't swallow it. Don't let the work of the Holy Spirit and all the good and faithful servants of God be thrown away. Don't give up the democratic polity of the Episcopal Church for the patriarchal, authoritarian polity of the Church of Nigeria.

Read it all here ... and be sure to bookmark "The Witness" as one of the great prophetic resources in the church today!

1 comment:

Hiram said...

Mr. Webster refers to, “a faction of so-called Christians who are driven by power and control rather than grace and justice.” I would like to know what psychiatrist or psychologist he consulted to get this diagnosis, and if that professional had actually engaged in conversation or therapy sessions with any of the people to whom he refers.

On the whole, we reasserters seek to engage in argument rather than in personal speculation, although we are also capable of armchair psychology. (Since I have only a bachelor's degree in psychology, I will refrain from giving you my speculations; I don't have a way to reasearch them.) Mr. Webster’s statements seem to be based more on personal experience than on rational argumentation. If he wants merely to vent, that is one thing, but if he hopes to persuade anyone of the rightness of his position, he does not present much in the way of argumentation.

In fact, it is we reasserters who are motivated by “grace and justice.” We present Jesus as the Savior of all who put their trust in him, for by the mercy and grace of the cross, he is the way to the Father. We are motivated by justice, for justice comes as we live according to God’s Word. He has told us what is good to do, and what is brings evil, even if it seems good to us at first. The Apostle Paul is at pains to show in several places, notably Romans, that while God’s grace is completely free to us, it does not give us liberty to do whatever we please. We are not to be prisoner of our desires, but “more than conquerors” through the power of the cross and the resurrection.

Mr. Webster also says, referring to the Lambeth Conference of 1998, “I'm told that most, if not all, the U.S. bishops treated the African polygamist bishops with respect and courtesy.” If he is going to make such an accusation, he had better name names. Of course, he would not be able to, for in fact there are no “polygamous bishops” in Africa. The Anglican churches in Africa will baptize polygamous men – but they tell such men that they are to refrain from sexual relations with any but the first wife, and the Churches will not allow any official ministry on the part of such men, not even on a level such as exercised by our lay readers.