Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Time for Mission and the Reality of Everyday Life: An Episcopal Priest Speaks Out

The op-ed piece below was written by an Episcopal priest, Tom Ehrich on July 1, 2006, and published in the Indianapolis Star. The story was provided by Integrity USA's John Clinton Bradley.

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Now that Episcopalians and Presbyterians have allowed homosexuality to dominate their national conventions yet again, is it time for rant, lament, serious analysis?
No, it is time to do what Jesus did: "Turn the other cheek."

Literally, turn away from overwrought national assemblies and manufactured alarms, and look instead at forces that truly shape human life and hope.

If a few partisans believe that the future of Christianity depends on homosexuality, fine, let them fight about it. If some want to worry about a late 19th-century construct called the Anglican Communion as if it were a divinely inspired source of global norms, fine, let them worry about what a Nigerian archbishop thinks.
It is time for serious people to focus on serious matters.

It is time for the "common-sense middle" to chart local courses that deal with real people, real pain and real possibilities, including the lives (as opposed to doctrinal symbolism) of gays and heterosexuals.
It is time to do what Jesus did -- namely, ignore the Temple in Jerusalem and go instead to where people's lives were at stake.
In central Illinois, Episcopalians told me their bishop is obsessed with homosexuality. Fine, let that be his obsession. Serious people will look at continued decay of the region's industrial base, massive joblessness, retraining of factory workers and opportunities for young technology workers.

Serious people will look at failing marriages, loneliness, a coarsening of the culture and an atmosphere of dread.

At their recent General Convention, Episcopalians stirred hope among those frustrated by institutional paralysis when they elected a new presiding bishop who comes from outside the mainstream. Katharine Jefferts Schori is relatively young, serves a small diocese (Nevada) in the West, has little experience in the concerns of the national church, is described as smart and independent, and happens to be female. Much was made of her gender, but my hunch is that her election actually signaled a turning away from what one delegate called the "old and tired."

And yet, days later, delegates found themselves once again trapped in relentless partisanship over homosexuality. The air turned sour, and people left Columbus, Ohio, muttering.

It is time, I think, for the serious to expect even less of their paralyzed national bodies and to recognize that faith, like politics, is profoundly local.
Many people live nervously paycheck-to-paycheck, send children off to inadequate schools, go to jobs they could lose tomorrow.

It isn't all dire, of course. People fall in love, start families, learn skills, succeed in the small ways that matter, have wonderful school experiences with inspiring teachers, and look across the table at the remarkable gift of a faithful partner.

Good or bad, daily life is the business of Christian faith. It's why Jesus wasted no breath on promulgating doctrine or establishing an institution.

People have opinions and preferences, of course; but the heart of faith looks like this: When a family member dies, church friends bring food, not doctrines. When a woman weeps in church because her marriage is failing, church friends hold her close. When a man loses his job and fears his house is next, church friends give comfort and help him find another job.

Those faith-driven instincts happen locally and have little to do with denominational politics.

6 comments:

Morgan said...

Amen! I loved this piece. It's full of compassion and common sense - things the Church needs now and evermore.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Tom Ehrich has spoken exactly what I've been thinking ever since the convention - the Path that Christ has called me to follow is love and service, not strife and
discord.

Life IS short, and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us....Amen, and Amen!
beth

Catherine + said...

Morgan and Beth+, I agree that we need to broaden our focus as Episcopalians but more so as Christians bringing a glimpse of the Light of Christ to those in our community here in southern Oregon and to our wider community as well.

Even the subgroups of straight people of have inequality because of economics, social stigma, cultural differences and so on. We need to tackle the entire problem to cure the smaller problems that make up the whole.

And the time is now.

bart (and Tony!) said...

Had to point out re:

"People have opinions and preferences, of course; but the heart of faith looks like this: When a family member dies, church friends bring food, not doctrines. When a woman weeps in church because her marriage is failing, church friends hold her close. When a man loses his job and fears his house is next, church friends give comfort and help him find another job."

That there are indeed folks who go to a funeral and tell heirs that the loved one is now burning in hell, etc. Thus I have a disagreement with him a bit, in that building an inclusive, loving, intelligent spiritual organisation requires actions that are more than local, or at least that is my experience.

Love,

Bart (and Tony!)

Mark Hinckley said...

When, in the Spring of 2004, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the people of my parish (St. Anne's, Damascus, Maryland in the Washington Diocese) immediately sprang into Chrisitian action, setting up a rota of folks to drive me to and from chemo and radiation appointments, and helping me with fellowship, prayer and all manner of practical assistance.
Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, and generally be there for those who are sick or in prison or persecuted or grieving. I cannot state strongly enough how much I agree with the author of "Time for Mission and the Reality of Everyday life".

Catherine + said...

Yes, I agree with you Mark, that we need to reach out and do what we can "at home" where we know lives are truly touched and affected positively. It is always good to be on the receiving side of those blessings. And I myself know how it feels to be on the giving side as a chaplain.

Maybe there is something to be said of the old saying "charity begins at home."