Monday, 28 July 2008

Man from the South

Spent the afternoon at the Windsor Report continuation hearing — the steamiest two hours this side of the Mississippi. By sheer coincidence one statement really got me thinking, from the Bishop of Mississippi, Duncan Gray. I commend it for a bit of thoughtful attention, as a slightly different take on TEC’s ups and downs:
A bit of personal history: I have been nurtured and shaped within the Evangelical tradition of my Church. Most importantly, this means that the ultimate authority of the Holy Scripture and the necessity of an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus as the way to the Father are foundational and non-negotiable components of my faith.

Within my own province, I voted not to consent to the election of Gene Robinson, for reasons both theological and ecclesiological. I have followed to the letter and the spirit of the Windsor Report — before there was a Windsor Report.

For my faithfulness to this communion I have been rewarded by regular incursions into our diocese by primates and bishops who have no apparent regard for either my theology or ecclesiology.

I have made some peace with this reality, preferring to think of the irregularly ordained as Methodists — and some of my best friends are Methodists!
What I cannot make peace with is the portrayal of my sister and brother bishops in the Episcopal Church, who disagree with me, as bearers of a false gospel. That portrayal does violence to the imperfect, but faithful, grace-filled, and often costly way, in which they live out their love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, I am in serious disagreement with many of them on the very critical sacramental and ethical issues about which the Communion is in deep conflict. Are we sometimes, at best, insensitive to the wider context in which we do ministry, and at worst, deeply embedded in American arrogance — Absolutely! And for that insensitivity and arrogance we have begged the Communion's forgiveness on several occasions. “But do I see the Church in them?” as the most serious question at the last hearing asked. As God is my witness, I do. Despite my profound disagreements I continue to pray “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” We continue to reaffirm our creedal faith together. We continue to gather round the Lord’s table together, bringing the brokenness and imperfectness of our lives into the healing embrace of our Lord who sends us out together to the poor, the weak and the hopeless. And, in the midst of our internal conflicts, they show me Jesus.

There are dozens of bishops like me in the Episcopal Church. We are not a one, or even two dimensional Church. We are a multitude of diverse theological, ecclesiological and sacramental perspectives — and the vast majority of us have figured out a way to stay together.

How is this possible? I think it begins with the gift from Saint Paul, who taught us the great limitations of even our most insightful thought. We do, every one of us, “see through a glass, darkly.” And none of us can say to the other, “I have no need of you.”

One day, Saint Paul says, we will see face to face, the glory that we now only glimpse. But in the meantime, as each of us struggles to be faithful, may each of us, the Episcopal Church and the wider communion, find the courage, and the humility, to say to one another, “I need you — for my salvation and for the salvation of the world.”


Erika Baker said...

Thank you for posting this.

One of the people in my local village parish I respect most is the a fundamentalist-ish evangelical who disagrees with everything I say and represent. We have often crossed swords in public debates and I know he believes that my partner and I are destined for hell.

Yet he never fails to exchange the Peace with me, I am welcome at the prayer breakfasts in his house, and when my daugher suffered from a prolonged and serious illness he prayed for her every day and often contacted us to ask how she was.

I wish I'd find it easier to be like that!

nlnh said...

Duncan was my priest for years before being elected bishop.

I do not agree with him on everything, but I know him to be an entirely decent and loving man and a true Christian. I love him dearly.

I'm glad you got to meet him.

Doug Chaplin said...

Thanks for posting this testimony. It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of personal stuff we all need to hear, and I hope you and your fellow bishops are benefiting from.
We were fortunate enough to have Bp Gerry Wolfe address our Diocesan Assembly just before Lambeth, and she brought a very powerful note of personal conviction and, dare I say, holiness, before us.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

... and a MacBook Air.... (sigh) :-)

Ren said...

I'm very glad you posted this. It reminds me that we may not all agree, but we are in the same boat. It's also a welcome reminder to me to uphold the principle of being charitable wherever possible.

I think there is that lovely patristic image of the Church being a Noah's Ark--of course, I think whoever said that must really know what it's like in the Church after we leave the liturgy...

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