Uncategorized

Be About the Work: St. Martha and Mission

Anyone who worked in the Hospitality industry, for however short a time, can tell you the importance of the dishwasher. Not the appliance, but the person.

A dishwasher in the weeds means a restaurant in the weeds. Everyone- servers, bartenders, and chefs alike depend on a steady flow in and out of this person’s hands, and they’re typically the lowest paid and least respected person on staff. They are seen as replaceable (they’re not) people doing low-skilled (it isn’t) work that makes up the base of the cursus honorum of the kitchen. But every night I walked into the restaurant to start a shift I could predict the flow of the night with near certainty based on who was in the dish-pit. The labor that is so often valued least, is the labor that makes or breaks the whole enterprise.

The impulse to undervalue essential labor is a sinfully universal impulse, and its one that effects the Church as much as anyone else.

There is a consistent refrain among missional circles that needs to stop— The refrain that maintenance is not important. That we over-encumber ourselves in keeping house, and because of that, miss the chance at making connections and growing the Church.

It’s not that this refrain is wrong— It just misses the point that no connection happens in a vacuum. With the same sinful blindness to the grunt work of hospitality, it ignores the fact that someone has to do the pre-work of creating space for the encounter to happen. Or it doesn’t happen at all.

If we make connections out in the community (as we should be doing) we have to acknowledge that the only thing we have done is to have contracted the work of spacemaking to someone else.

If we meet in a coffeeshop, do we see and value the barista?

If we meet in a bar, do we see and value the busser?

If we meet in a library, do we see and value the custodian?

(And if you are going out into the community and not over-tipping tipped workers, then may God have mercy on your immortal soul, because you have missed the entire point.)

If we’re going into places where people work, and not connecting with them as people, regardless of their role, if we’re not seeing the holiness of their labor, then we’re not going to see the Spirit in them.

This isn’t entirely our fault. There is very little in our Culture or our Church that has prepared us to see this way. Today’s the Feast of Saints Mary and Martha, whose story lays plain the ways that our tradition has taught us to undervalue spacemaking.

“Are you a Mary or a Martha?” is a ubiquitous question. Are you spiritual, or are you a busybody?

As catastrophically wrong as that question is, and many of us see how it is problematic, we can’t shake that impulse. To be near Christ we can’t be in the kitchen. (To say nothing of the way in which this undervalues labor traditionally coded as feminine…)

If you remove Martha from that story, you remove Mary’s encounter.

Martha made the meal that the meeting centered on.

Martha is the one that sends word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick.

Martha is the one that meets Jesus on the road.

Martha is the one that rolls away the stone from Lazarus’ tomb.

Martha cooks Lazarus’ first meal back from the dead.

These actions are essential, and not just the action, but the person. To think that anyone could have replaced Martha in these roles is to disregard the way that God works in our lives and to buy into the lie that the labor we produce is inherently alienated from who we are. That St. Martha is somehow interchangeable with any other ancient Palestinian woman. That St. Martha’s house is interchangeable with any other location.

That kind of thinking is foreign to the Gospel, and should be foreign to us. No one, regardless of the labor they produce, is a one-for-one replacement for anyone else. No space is a one-for-one replacement of another. No matter what franchisers would have you believe.

We can absolutely take a critical look at what kinds of maintenance we’re doing, and what kind of spaces are worth preserving, but we cannot ignore making space, which means we can’t ignore the people that make the spaces that make encounter possible. We can talk about whether systems or parishes are sustainable, but once that conversation has been had, then we need to be about the work of making spaces that are warm and hospitable, clean and functional, bright and beautiful.

Hospitality is not just extending welcome. Its about creating welcome. And that means being about the (good and holy) work.

Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany: Open our hearts to love you, our ears to hear you, and our hands to welcome and serve you in others, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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alt-right, Anglo-Catholicism, Christianity, Church

To the Alt-Right, From a Priest.

Friends,

Those who know me will be the first to tell you that I am not one for fire and brimstone, but since you seem so fond of the old ways of speaking, I reckon I’ll play the part.

Repent, and believe the Gospel.

You may think that you do. Though the current rash of behavior I’ve seen across the country tells me that’s not the case. I have no doubt that you do believe, but let’s respect each other enough to not pretend that what you believe has any relation to the Word of God revealed in Christ.

Some have preached that White Nationalism and the Gospel are compatible, if not two parts of the same coin.

This is heresy.

It is antithetical to the Creeds. It is not found in the Councils. It is nowhere in Scripture. And it is contrary to the faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.

Many in my own tradition have stood in the same pulpits I stand in today and preached a message similar to the one that you proclaim. Too many times “The White Man’s Burden” was read to mean “The Christian’s Burden.” The Church and society are still paying the price for the sins of my predecessors.

This is why I cannot be silent. This is why I write urging your repentance. We have stumbled in many ways as a Church; recognition of the fact that racism is antithetical to the Gospel is one way in which we have grown more fully in the stature of Christ. I am not going to let us lose ground.

So let me say it plainly:

  • All people were created in the Image of God, and God called all of God’s creation good.
  • Membership in Christ’s body is open to all races, tongues, tribes and nations, as clearly stated in the Revelation to St. John.
  • In Christ, there is no identity except our identity as Children of God. Baptised into his death and resurrection, and raised up with him in new life.
  • To place whiteness above membership in the body of Christ is to deny your baptism, and to place yourself outside of the catholic faith.
  • Any mythology about race that denies God’s goodness and begins from a point of subjugation or domination is simply a myth; unfounded in Scripture and antithetical to the Gospel.

The witness of the catholic faith is clear that race is a construction that the Gospel does not abide. The difference of our cultures deepens our witness to the universality of God’s saving love, just as St. Peter witnessed in Cornelius’ house, and as St. Paul argued in Jerusalem. It is the duty of all who would call themselves Christian to see to it that the cornerstone of our identity is nothing other than the Chief Cornerstone.

I don’t presume to be  fedei defensor, but I tell you with all conviction that I am sure of what I write, and I am sure that you are wrong.

This is why I call you to repentance. It is not because of  my cultural liberalism. It is not because of anything I received in the insulated halls of some academic ivory tower. I call you to repentance because the doctrine of the Church demands that I do. It is my fervent prayer that you hear and believe.

Because as long as you don’t, I will oppose you. And I will encourage all people of goodwill to do the same.  I will stand in the way of every move to peddle hate. I will shout down every claim that is contrary to God’s love and human decency. I will preach until I am mute. March until I am lame. Write until I am blind; in the full confidence that Christ will return me to strength so I can continue to do so.

You have decided to wholeheartedly embrace America’s original sin, and proclaim the greatest heresy of our time, a heresy that led to the death of millions of God’s beloved.

You may think you are a new thing, with a new face, taking old ideas and old stories to their destined glory.

The Church’s ideas are older. Our story is better. We have seen worse than you. And our God doesn’t lose.

So repent. Metanoiete. The offer is always there. The confessional is always open. Forgiveness is always on the table. You will be joyfully received.

Just don’t expect your penance to be light.

 

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

Creemos.

I have the honor of pastoring a community of Latinos. They venture downtown every Sunday to make it to mass in a building a stone’s throw away from the ICE offices for central Indiana. They show up in the center of our city hungry for the Word. Hungry for the Sacrament. And they do this at no small risk to themselves.

On Tuesday night I had numbed out. I, like many others, was so shocked and ashamed by what I was seeing, I couldn’t feel, much less find words to describe whatever feeling I was lacking. My newsfeed was a chorus of outrage and shock, building up the walls of noise that kept me pinned to the floor in front of my TV, glancing back and forth from phone to television.

It was all sound and fury. I was overwhelmed.

I don’t know if it was mental effort I have to put in to switch into Spanish that pulled me out of it, but a colleague posted “Necesitamos un milagro por favor, please.” [We need a miracle, please, please.]

And I broke. It got quiet. I wept.


This afternoon en la Misa at 1pm, without anyone asking, without an announcement or encouragement, members of our English-speaking community showed up for Misa. They grabbed bulletins in Spanish, and they filled the pews.

During the sermon, our Dean saw this, and, almost moved to tears himself, invited the English speakers to stand.

“We are one community, and we stand with you.”

It was moving. It was powerful. It was the most tangible vision of a community of solidarity and support that I’ve seen in a long time.

The English-Speakers sat down. The sermon ended. We all stood up together. And we said “Creemos en un Solo señor….”

Creemos. We believe.

Creemos. The word hit the walls like thunder, bounced back and bowled me over.

I broke. (And I composed myself quickly and without drawing attention, because I am the worst of the repressed white men.)


There is still a place where we can stand together and say we believe.

We believe that God made this world good.

We believe Christ became flesh to call us back to goodness.

We believe we will have to account for our lives.

We believe we are called to be together. Holy, catholic, apostolic. Together.

I don’t have much faith in many other things right now, but I believe that.

When reformers wanted to get the Church back to their roots, the Ecumenical councils and the Creeds were the first place they started. That’s something I understand now. In my bones I understand it.

When the rest falls apart, we start with what binds us.

We say we believe, then we go from there. Conjuntos. Together.

 

 

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Anglicanism, ChurchNerd, Uncategorized

UnAnglican: How GAFCON’s Ecclesiology is Breaking the Communion.

It doesn’t surprise me when the mainstream media gets coverage of Anglican polity wrong. The Washington Post’s horrendous coverage of the 2016 Primate’s announcement has caused more consternation and than is necessary, and many in the Church are rightly pointing out just how wrong WaPo got it, and why we shouldn’t hail this as the end of TEC’s time in the Communion.

What I am seeing discussed in Church circles, by and large, are questions of Authority, How little or how much does this mean? What power do the Primates actually have?

The general consensus is; It hurts a lot, but doesn’t really mean much.

Bishop Curry has been wonderful in couching this in explicitly Biblical terms, and for the first time in my life as an Episcopalian I’ve been proud of the way we’ve borne the shocks of being called out on a worldwide stage.

I think that’s because we’ve stepped off the defensive. At this moment in our life together we are clearer than we’ve ever been about our vocation to extend the love of Christ unequivocally to all, and are articulating it in positive theological terms that speaks powerfully to the world around us. Suddenly we feel like a Church with a voice.

And we’re going to need to hold on to that voice, because I don’t think things are about to get easier for us, or for the Communion.

I sincerely encourage everyone interested in whats happening now to go back and read The Jerusalem Declaration issued by the GAFCON provinces in 2008. What it proposes is the clearest articulation of the ecclesiology that is being pushed by very vocal providences in the Global South, and we have done a very bad job of contending with it at all. To operate like there is at all a consensus about what Anglican ecclesiology does or should look like is to bury our head in the sand, and to ensure that what happened at this years Primate’s conference is something that keeps happening. 

Within the declaration, interspersed between benign language about the Lordship and saving work of Christ, are claims that need to be called out for what they are: Foreign to Anglicanism as it has existed as a historic Communion.

For example:

6.) We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

This runs against the fundamental concept of subsidiarity, with individual provinces abilities to formulate liturgy independently of one another. It invalidates the Book of Common Prayer in; The United States (Every book since 1789), Scotland, New Zealand, Mexico, and Chile among others…

The ability of independent Provinces to revise their own liturgies substantially predates the publication of the 1662 BCP, and to set a Communion-wide standard is an innovation that runs against what has been true since the 17th century.

It can’t be disputed that the 1662 was the Book of the British empire, and holds a dear place in the GAFCON provinces, the desire to set a standardized BCP across provinces betrays an impulse for standardization that I doubt few American (or Scottish, for that matter) Anglicans share.

The statement about the Ordinal follows the same lines. While the American Ordinal is built around the 1662, the differences are enough as to be profound.

The statement that, “We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.” Implies another assumed norm that simply doesn’t exist. When read as a statement pointed toward concerns over Sexuality it has a bit of a firmer foundation, but taken as a stand alone statement it borders on being disingenuous that the Church is at all (or ever has been) remotely uniform in its reading of Scripture.

I would like to believe that the GAFCON primates wouldn’t be so naive.

The Jerusalem Declaration is an affirmation of an Anglicanism that has never existed. It assumes authority that hasn’t been exercised sense before the American Revolution, and it sets it as the sine qua non for Communion.

It isn’t Anglican.

It isn’t, but it could be.

We’re going to need to watch this like a hawk. We have to be able to call out this innovative and destructive ecclesiology whenever and wherever we see it, because letting it creep into our common life together is to see what happened this year intensify in years to come.

This means we have to stay at the table. And we need to fight like hell to retain our vote while we’re there.

When the Archbishop of Uganda left the Primates conference he did so because he was disappointed that the Primates didn’t exercise an authority that they did not have. 

Foley Beach is calling for more sanctions, when the Primates are unclear about their ability to give real sanctions in the first place.

GAFCON has been telling us that this is what they’re after since 2008. It’s time to call their ecclesiological claims what they are: Unfounded in history. Ungrounded in our common heritage. UnAnglican.

 

 

 

 

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Catholicity and Culture

Why The Filioque Doesn’t Suck, A Respectful Response.

I’m about to do something that may be highly inadvisable, and pick a fight with the Crusty Old Dean.

But like folks at my Alma Mater will most likely tell you, pushing back on Seminary faculty was a bit of a pastime, and I’m glad to get back into the swing of things.

I fully recognize that I’ve already lost this argument within the wider Anglican Communion, and when the BCP gets revised I’ll say whatever’s put in front of me to say. For the moment, however, I felt called to go to bat for what I feel is an important part of the Western Church’s life and doctrine.

On my wedding day a friend of the family gave me a cross-stitch from his time growing up in an Episcopal Church in the 50’s. It was triumphalist and imperialist and mostly wrong, but it was a keepsake and had been dear to him for years.

Now, this man is the most quintessentially Greek man I know. Growing up in Central Georgia wasn’t enough to take that sense of cultural and religious heritage away from him or his parents. Despite all this he was raised in an Episcopal Church because, at the time, Orthodox Christians who lived away from Orthodox communities were actively encouraged to attend Episcopal Parishes. Our polity bears a striking similarity. Our sense of Catholicity tends to jive well remarkably well together. Our Eucharistic theology is closer to the East than it is to Rome… all of this was enough for the leaders of the Orthodox Church to tell its members in the Diaspora that they could feel at ease among us.

We were the next best thing. Filioque and all.

And then we started ordaining women, and the Orthodox had a problem with that. (The Orthodox have also been expanding their presence in the U.S, making the lack of parishes increasingly less of an issue.)

If the Filioque is a stumbling block to our Eastern Brothers and sisters, it is one among so very many, and pretending like we’re going to get past 1976 (much less 2003) based on christological goodwill alone requires an optimism I don’t have. (The writers at Anglican News seem to have it in spades.)

It’s important to remember that since 1976 we’re no longer talking about full communion. The conversation we’re now having is one centered around “theological understanding and common witness.” It’s noble. It’s necessary. But the degree to which it places claims on our respective traditions is negligible.

All that isn’t to say that I’m against the dialogue, I’m simply against us thinking that its more than it is. So many times I feel like Anglicans in ecumenical dialogues are like the nerdy kid who freaks out after being acknowledged by the head cheerleader. We’re so excited that they talked to us that we lose sight of the fact that we don’t have a chance in hell of taking them out.

There’s another thread to this that concerns me a bit more than our preoccupation with ecumenical concerns, and it comes in two forms; Anti-Medievalism, and a misplaced trust in the state of our current Trinitarian theology.

The heart of the argument against the Filioque is that it was an early Medieval interpolation into the fruit of an ecumenical council, and that point itself can’t really be contested. The historical foundations of the Filioque aren’t up for debate. What we make of those foundations, however, needs to stay alive in our theological consciousness.

What we see in the life of the Filioque, is the persistence of context in the formation of liturgy. It was a good-faith attempt at keeping the Catholic faith alive in a region and at a time where Arians were in the majority, and in positions of power. Place that in tandem with the fact that Augustinian theology was the sine qua non for doctrinal development in the Western world (and largely ignored in the East) and you have the makings of a well-reasoned liturgical change rooted in the clear pastoral needs of the people. And lets be clear, the Creed has always been a principally liturgical document. It was born in the Councils, yes, but its life has been lived in the Mass.

The Filioque received its doctrinal place largely by acclamation. It was contested, suppressed, and contested again, over a period of well over two hundred years. Anselm’s defense of the Filioque pretty well put any theological concerns about the clause itself to bed. It is a product of Western circumstance that, while unorthodox in its implementation, was completely orthodox in its sentiment.

This is the same period of time, and the same general region that gave us the Creed of St. Athanasius which has avoided controversy while retaining a place as one of the 3 Ecumenical Creeds approved by the 39 Articles. It comes out swinging in favor of the Filioque, and is frequently lauded as one of the best articulations of Trinitarian theology we have at our disposal. (See: Saint Patrick’s Bad Analogies.) While it is in no way Athanasian, (It comes just shy of quoting De Trinitate verbatum) I fear that its Patristic namesake has kept it safe.

We are so slow to escape from the overwhelming cultural construct that nothing good happened between 500 and 1300CE. The fact is that Trinitarian heavy lifting that took place in the Middle Ages set the stage for the most formative period of Theological development in the Western Church since Augustine, who a decent cohort are more than willing to lump in with the “nothing good happened” lot. What the Filioque controversy shows, however, is a group of devoutly Orthodox Christians who were devoted to raising their people up in the Catholic faith, and were willing to do the theological heavy lifting that made the change possible.

We are doing precisely the same thing today in so many ways. To be Episcopalian and take a hard stand against pastoral need driving doctrinal development is to speak out of both sides of our mouths.

Which leads me to my second point. The usefulness of the Filioque in formation today can’t be understated. Yesterday Derek Olsen wrote a remarkably poignant description of the theological climate in which we currently live and move. His insight around the tenets of Therapeutic Monotheistic Deism are right on the mark, and the fact that TMD is a remarkably Arian movement needs to be pinned to the wall of every catechist in the Church.

My own Barthian predilections notwithstanding, we are at a juncture where the creative aspects of the eternal Logos need to be taught and preached with abandon. The Filioque and the Athanasian Creed are two tools that can’t stand to live without. Derek was right to note that any Prayer Book Revision has to take TMD into account, and if we’re serious about what that means it follows that we should be serious about retaining the Filioque.

Liturgy is formation. Its the heart of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. The Filioque was produced at a time where that was felt more acutely than ever, and the Western Church, Catholic and Protestant alike, has affirmed repeatedly until the Ecumenical wave of the last 50 years.

It seems to be that my lot as a young priest is to scream into the wind of movements I wasn’t around to play a part in, and this feels a lot like screaming into the wind. But with a Prayer Book Revision looming on the horizion, I reckon its something I’m going to need to get used to.

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Sermons

Death Had A Good Week: A Sermon for Proper 22.

Death had a good week this week.

10 killed and dozens injured in Oregon. An execution in Virginia and in Georgia, with another stayed at the last minute in Oklahoma.

Hundreds more unnamed, many in our own city have fallen victim to violence. Have fallen victim to a despair and to a spirit of darkness that runs through so much of the world that surrounds us. Death is common place.

Like our president said. Our response has become routine. Our debates have become scripted. Our positions have become more entrenched.

And just like the Pharisees in our Gospel today, we test each other. We ask the biting questions. The leading questions. The questions that affirm our own positions, that write our own points, that make perfectly clear, to any who are around us, exactly which side we are on.

The Pharisees asked Jesus is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Knowing full well what the Torah said. They set him up. They laid the trap.

Jesus knows the answer that they’re looking for. He knows he’s being played. He comes back with another question. “What did Moses teach you?”

They said, Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce his wife. Moses allowed a man to write a certificate that, in the time of Jesus, would leave a woman stranded without support. That would put a women in the social position of a widow without the same structures and provisions that provided relief to widows. The law of Moses allowed a man to put a woman in a position where she was fighting for her life. Where she was cast out and cut off from the family that she relied on for her sustenance.

Is it lawful? Yes.

We hear a lot about that question these days. About what the boundaries of the law allows. About what our Rights are. About the right to bear arms. The right of the State to take vengeance upon itself on our behalf.

It is because of our hardness of heart. Because of our hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for us. It is because of our of your inability to see the depths of God’s creative love. It is because we are broken.

We became hard like Pharoah who could not hear the cries of the slaves. Who would not let go. Who cannot see the justice of God.

So frequently in the Gospel the Pharisees ask Jesus about what is lawful. And so frequently in the Gospel Jesus is not concerned with what is lawful.

Jesus is concerned with what is right.

The laws are a product of our brokenness, and Jesus is here to call us to more.

Christ gives us a gracious place to make our stand. Recognizing that some relationships are indeed too strained to be saved. That it is better for some to be apart, but it is never, never, our place to dismiss one another out of hand. To cast one another aside and out of love.

Christ pushes the boundaries of what the people surrounding him knew. And following in Jesus’ example begs us to ask the question, as we navigate a time where positions are so entrenched as to be immovable; What is it that Christ is calling us to?

If we don’t see it clearly now, we can give ourselves Grace. The disciples didn’t always get it either.

As Children are being brought to Jesus, as he takes them in his arms and blesses them, the disciples shoo them away. Knowing that the teacher who has already had so many demands placed on his time doesn’t need the distraction of those who are not able to care for themselves. Who don’t have resources. Who don’t have social capital. Who don’t have a voice.

Where the disciples see distraction, Jesus sees the opportunity to share love.

We live in a society that so often tells us, and others, that “You are not worth my time.” Jesus makes a stand and says, No, it is these to whom the Kingdom of Heaven belongs. Be. Like. Them.

We have to become very clear. Right now. About what we believe.

Kelly Gissendaner, a model of the power of God’s redeeming love, was killed by the State of Georgia on Tuesday. When she entered the execution chamber, she apologized for her role in the murder of her former husband and began to weep. As she was strapped to the gurney where she would be injected with pentobarbital until she died, she sang Amazing Grace until she couldn’t any longer.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

Amazing Grace, the hymn written by a Slave Ship captain, who after a slow, painstaking process of conversion, stopped working the Southwest passage, and became an Anglican Priest.

Amazing Grace, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.

We sing it all the time. There isn’t a one of us who hasn’t heard it before and my question is now. For all of us. Do we believe it?

Do we believe that Christ’s redemptive work means that no one is beyond the bounds of our community. Even those who we would level a gun against. Even those who would level a gun against us.

Do we believe that the message of the risen Lord has anything to say to a City that has had one hundred gun-related homicides this Calendar year?

Do we believe that the Gospel has anything to offer to a country that has had 994 mass shootings since Sandy Hook?

Do we believe that the word of life can move in a country united by a Pope’s visit, who, the second he returns to Rome, schedules 6 executions?

Do we believe that Christ is calling us to care for Children in our midst in a country with the highest rate of Child poverty in the developed world.

The question the Church must ask itself now is… do we believe that Grace is Amazing?

That it has the power to reach into our relationships and mend them. No matter how broken they may seem?

Do we believe that Grace is Amazing?

Can it tell our children that they are more than what they lack, that they are more than happy little consumers. That they are loved. That they are cared for. So that maybe when they grow up they will never reach for a Gun in anger.

Do we believe that Grace is Amazing?

Will we let our hearts be softened enough to take those who hurt us, those who test us, those who would put us to death into our arms and bless them.

Do we believe that Grace is Amazing?

The world needs the Church, the world needs us, to say yes. Unabashedly. Unashamedly. Yes.

Grace is Amazing. Grace can change us. Grace is stronger than death. Grace is here.

Image Credit: Matthew Alderman. St. Cecilia with SS. Tiburtius and Valerian. Ink on Vellum, 2010, private collection, Washington, DC.

Note: I don’t intend to make a regular habit of posting my Sermons. There are other, better venues for that. I just needed to get this one out here.

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Catholicity and Culture

Justin Welby, Bernie Sanders, and working toward Reconciliation.

The Most. Rev. Welby shook the Anglican world this week. Showing exactly how little it takes to shake the Anglican world.

I was more than a little surprised by the response. We’ve either been scoffing at the prospect of Covenant, or being (rightly) irate at the positions of Bishops on either side. The worst parts of our political culture are creeping their way into the way that the Church looks at itself. Diatribe over dialogue. Contrast over connection.

Don’t think I’m saying we can’t call each other out. We have to be able to stand up to Bishops in Central Africa who support laws that criminalize homosexuality. We have to be able to say that its wrong, and we have to mean it. But we also have to recognize the qualitative difference between those who would criminalize LGBT persons, and those who believe that ordaining LGBT people is wrong.

The Episcopal Church has seen the power of dialogue. General Convention this year was case in point. We’ve been able to come from the Schism of 2003 to the well-stated and generous response of the Communion Partners. In twelve years we’ve gone from an all out ecclesial brawl to “we respectfully disagree.” That means something. Its nothing less than a marked victory of the Catholic vision and we need to celebrate it. 

My news feed exploded this week with quotes of Bernie Sander’s speech at Liberty university, and rightfully so. We are living in a world where talking with the other side is a news-worthy event. It wasn’t only astonishing for its novelty, but for Sen. Sander’s approach. He stood up to speak, identified the points on which they disagreed, laid out the positions on which they did agree, and then pressed forward on common ground. He did something that the mainline Church needs to desperately learn from, he spoke sincerely with Evangelicals about the scriptural witness to justice. Not as a jab at their misplaced priorities. Not as an homage to his own moral superiority. He sincerely spoke to him about what a text that they both hold dear has to say about treating their neighbors.

Bernie knows something we can’t seem to grasp: When, not if, but when Evangelicals wake up to issues of Economic Justice, it will be a cataclysmic shift in the American political landscape. One which the Republican party, as it stands today, will not survive.

I’m not sure the Mainline will survive it either. We’ve made justice issues our sine qua non, at the expense of a comprehensive theological vision to back it up. When Evangelicals start to get on board they will do it better than we do, and no amount of liturgical Millenials will be enough to make us compelling.

What will make us compelling is the same thing that made ++Welby’s statement, and Sen. Sander’s speech compelling, reaching out in love to those with whom we vehemently disagree.

There’s an offertory sentence in the BCP that doesn’t get nearly enough play on Sunday mornings. Its from Matthew 5; “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Sometimes we have to step away from communion for a bit in order that we can come back and more fully participate together. The Gospel does not abide us using our separation as a sign of inherent superiority. (See also: The Prayer of the Pharisee)

Much as I bristle anytime I see “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.” I’m starting to get my hackles up anytime I hear “It doesn’t matter how you believe, only how we pray.”

No. The Creed is a claim, not just of our belief, but of the truth of the reality of the Triune God, and the Church that serves that God. The central claim that we make is that God crossed the infinite gap between Godself and us, and became like us in order to save us.

That’s the God we serve. That’s the God we attempt to emulate. And that might mean sitting down at the Table with the GAFCON primates. That might mean calling Ugandan bishops to repentance. That might mean sitting down with Evangelicals for the sake of millions of people in this country who are crushed under the weight of working for poverty wages.

Reconciliation is at the heart of the mission of the Church. At a time when efforts at reconciliation are rare enough to be newsworthy, we would do well to live into it.

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