Saturday, November 27, 2010

A New Year's Resolution

The Church Year begins this Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, and it's as good a time as any to make resolutions. Although there are more that I could - and even should - make, I am making at least this one: I am not going to worry about the future of the Anglican Communion and simply tend to being a member of the Episcopal Church, the Associate Priest at Saint Peter's Church in Salem, Massachusetts, a Trustee of Episcopal Divinity School, and a member of my wonderful family.

What brought this on were two events that happened on the same day and the flurry of responses to them on various blogs. 
  1. The General Synod of the Church of England voted to send the final draft of the Anglican Covenant to the dioceses for consideration. If a majority of dioceses recommend its adoption, the General Synod can then decide whether or not to adopt. This process will take two years and is aimed at insuring that the Covenant is given serious consideration.
  2. A group of Primates (senior Bishops of member churches of the Communion)  from the Global South released a statement that the Covenant was unacceptable to them and that they would not be attending the next meeting of the Communion's Primates early next year.
It does not seem to be a coincidence that these two events happened on the same day, especially as the statement from the Primates was from a meeting in October. There are some of us who saw the Covenant as a very imperfect attempt to keep the Communion together in the wake of strong objections by leaders from the Global South to the attempts at full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in the Communion's member churches in North America.  The Primates' statement makes it clear, to me at least, that nothing that do, short of accepting their convictions about same-sexuality, will keep the Communion together. These men have decided to walk apart, not only from the member churches in North America, but from all the other member churches. 

The Anglican Communion is broken and I'm not going to waste any more time or energy worrying about it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christ the King

Our friend Cathy is recovering from surgery and I offered to preach in her parish church this coming Sunday. As I read the lessons for Sunday and some commentaries, I learned something I had not known before. In three different stories in Luke's account of the Good News, we find Jesus speaking about today.

Near the beginning of Luke, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and, after reading a passage from Isaiah, 
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
he says,  "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 

Near the end of Luke, we find the story of Jesus' encounter with the tax collector Zacchaeus. Jesus is passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem and, in order to get a better view of him, Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore tree. Jesus sees him and says,  “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” After dinner, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” 

In Sunday's lesson, we find the third of these stories. Jesus is on the cross and one of the two men being crucified with him says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus came to "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor," to bring us and all creation the Good News of God's unconditional love. Throughout his ministry, that love was made real today, not off in the future, in the sweet bye and bye, but in the present moment. The response of the religious people in the synagogue in Nazareth was to attempt to throw Jesus off a cliff. They could not fathom how Jesus, whom they had watched growing up, could make such an offer. I know that in my own life, and in the lives of people with whom I have been privileged to work and worship, there are times when Jesus' offer is rejected, often because we can't fathom how we could even begin to deserve God's love. But Zacchaeus and the man crucified with Jesus grasped what we so often fail to grasp. It isn't at all about deserving or having played by the rules; it's simply about God's grace, about God's deciding to love us even though we don't deserve that and far too often reject it.

Today this offer is made anew and God yearns for us to accept it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hope Abundant

My friend Kwok Pui-Lan has edited a collection of essays by women theologians from the Global South and the United States. For far too long the theologians we heard were white men from Europe or North America. We now have new opportunities - including Hope Abundant - to hear other voices.

Strong Turnout?

The local paper reported that there was strong turnout here for Tuesday's election - just under 60%. Strong? If I had accomplished that percentage in school, I would have received an F, but we seem pleased when more than 40% of our fellow citizens decide not to perform one of the simplest and least burdensome of their responsibilities.

Benjamin Franklin told a questioner during the Constitutional Convention  that the Convention had created "a Republic, Madam, if you can keep it." We seem to be doing a very poor job of keeping it if more than a third of us don't even bother to vote. 

Although I don't agree with their agenda, Tea Party activists understand that keeping a Republic is hard work. Even though much of the success of the candidates that movement endorses was due to well-funded media campaigns and the influence of Fox News, activists did put in many hours as campaign volunteers. The leaders of that movement are also committed to work in 2012 to defeat candidates they supported this year if they don't live up to the movement's expectations. Whether this threat will work in enforcing absolute adherence to the Tea Party agenda remains to be seen. Some of these newly-elected members of Congress may discover that the perfect is often the enemy of the good and that compromise is not always a bad thing.

Whatever our politics, engaging with those elected to represent us is our responsibility. They cannot do the job well without our help. That conversation between citizen and representative ought to be one of mutual respect. Demonizing those who represent us does us no good. It may feel good to characterize a represent with whom we disagree as "not a real American," but it effectively puts an end to any chances of productive conversation with the representative.  Respectful disagreement and attempts to find common ground are often difficult in a political environment in which civility is all too rare, but I see little hope for keeping the Republic unless we are willing to do this difficult work.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Taking Back Our Country?

On my way to the doctor's I passed a couple of people holding signs for a candidate in tomorrow's election. Pasted to the back of one of the signs was another that said ,"We want our country back." It is probably a good thing that I was on my way to an appointment and wasn't free to engage them in discussion, good because I might have crossed the line into rude and that would not be good for a newcomer to town. But if I could have talked with them calmly, I would have asked them, "Back from whom? Do you think it was stolen?" I'm not sure that I can even guess what their answers might have been. If they had identified big  business as the thief, I might have agreed with them. If they had told me that Democrats had stolen the country, I would have pointed out that Democrats are also Americans and all that they did was win some  important elections. I might even have pointed out that many of us who voted for the President think that not enough has changed and that there is still a great deal that we can do to realize the promise of America. 

I understand that people are angry and want someone to blame for whatever they think is wrong. But one's political opponents are not the enemy and no one has stolen our country. What may be the case is that we haven't taken our share of responsibility for our political life. Many of us don't even vote. Even those who vote may not even remember the names of those who represent them in Washington or Boston. Few of us take the time to communicate with our representatives about issues that concern us. And yet we feel free to complain that our representatives haven't done their jobs when we have failed to do ours. It's time we got it right and began practicing the advance citizenship of being Americans.