Blogs from Lambeth
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 -- Week of Proper 12
Today's Reading for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 977)
Psalms 72 (morning) 119:73-96 (evening)
It is a dramatic day for our reading. We experience again the death of Jesus, which becomes the door for resurrection -- new life and reconciliation for all. And we read of the ascension of Jesus which begins the story of the church.
As part of my morning reading today, I caught up a bit with the accounts of the meeting of the Anglican bishops at Lambeth. I thought I would offer one of our Bishop's entries in today's Morning Reflection. Bishop Larry Benfield is among several "blogging bishops" who are posting their observations and thoughts on the Lambeth Journal web page: http://episcopalchurch.typepad.com/lambethjournal/
This is Larry's post from yesterday, July 29:
In what may have been a first for a Lambeth Conference, Rabbi Sir Jonathan Saks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, spoke to a plenary session of the conference Monday evening. It was a strong and passionate message on the importance of covenant.
He told us that in preparing for this speech, he remembered the tears of his own people who had suffered at the hands of Christians for a thousand years until the time of the Holocaust. It was then, in the 1940s, that Christians, particularly as shown in the work of Archbishop William Temple, joined in common cause with Jews in what Rabbi Saks described as a covenant of fate. Such a covenant arises out of the shared sufferings and the common fate of groups of people.
It was a similar covenant that marked the relationship of Noah and God, and our speaker said that it was essential that we continue to seek out such a covenant in our own lives. Global powers these days seem intent on taking life and harming the environment, and the powers of technology are breaking people up into small groups of like-minded people. To counteract these processes, he said that we need to emulate the covenant of Noah in three ways: that we respect human life, as evidenced in the prohibition of the shedding of blood; that we respect the integrity of the environment, as evidenced in God's promise not to destroy the earth; and that we respect diversity, as evidenced in the rainbow that shows all colors forming one whole. The speech received the longest standing ovation of any presentation so far at Lambeth, and I think it faced squarely the problems that we see every day, as reported on television and in newspapers.
Earlier in the day the Windsor Continuation Group held a second hearing about what steps to take in light recent provincial incursions, blessings of same sex relationships, and suitable candidates for ordination to the episcopate. Hundreds of bishops attended, and speakers were allowed to address the groups members, each person receiving up to three minutes; this process lasted well over an hour.
As you might imagine, comments varied not simply widely, but extremely. Perhaps the most disturbing one I heard was that there is only one interpretation of scripture. If that were indeed the case, preaching would have ceased over 1900 years ago; the reality is that every generation, indeed, every preacher has been called by God to interpret Holy Scripture in light of the concerns of the day. The most hopeful comment was from someone in the Episcopal Church who is committed to staying in the church in spite of disagreeing over the appropriateness of recent actions, and who wondered why the rest of the Communion couldn't act similarly.
I ended up being the clean up hitter, the last person to speak. My comments were brief. I told the assembled people that my fear is that we are raising issues of church government, finding suitable candidates for ordination, and the pastoral response of the church to its members to the level of creedal authority. Doing so will eventually turn us into a confessing church, not a catholic one, and that is bad for the long term health of the Anglican Communion. If we have experienced anything through the stories shared at the Lambeth Conference this week, it has been that there is a need for a catholic Anglican expression of Christianity that has the power to be experienced in any village, community, or urban area in the world. Confessing churches cannot fill that role; a catholic church can.
I think that Larry may have been referencing my lifetime friend Duncan Gray, III, who spoke movingly about his experience as a Bishop who opposed the ordination of Gene Robinson but who knows his colleagues who endorsed Gene to be faithful Christians. Part of Bishop Gray's address follows:
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."
Duncan's entire offering is posted here: http://bishopalan.blogspot.com/2008/07/man-from-south.html
Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts
About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
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