Sunday, July 20, 2008

Of Lambeth, the Anglican Communion and Everyday LIfe

This will not be a profound expose' of the Lambeth Conference, nor will it be one of expository analysis of the larger Church. I felt I should let you know that right off the top. There is a level of ennui on my part about the larger Church. It's not that I don't care. It's not that I don't see the emotional and spiritual agony of those who see any kind of change in the Gospel message as right or wrong [mostly plain wrong but then these are the ones who don't get the whole Gospel message to begin with...]. It is simply because, when it come right down to it, all we really can do about the changes being argued and fought over is through prayer. Prayer and letting God's will be done. Not what we think His will is but, truly letting God be God and driving the Church as He sees fit. It's like a family in a vehicle. Everyone wants to drive or steer or put on the gas because he or she thinks that they can maneouver the Church better than the next person. Sorry but the Church belongs to God, and no one should have a license to drive it but God, and this license is called God's will.

His will is being done and has been for decades now. Women are priests and bishops in the civilized parts of the Communion, most recently in Britain now where all the "woe is me"-ers are finally deprived of the "issue" of women in the episcopacy. One more issue down and God only knows how many more His human progeny can come up with to further water down the true message of the Gospel and completely focus on the superficial instead of the real issues of poverty, hunger, torture, homelessness, injustice and war, to name a few.

Granted, there are those in the Communion who have the right Gospel focus, and not only in Europe but throughout the WWAC [World Wide Anglican Communion], including the true Christlike Christians in Africa and Indonesia. May the difficult conditions under which they minister be full of blessing and abundance. May they be protected from the power-hungry bishops and priests who would kill and maim in the name of God. In the name of God. How Christians have so abused this justification, most notably those who are Christians in name only and could care less about the welfare of their fellow citizens or peoples in so-called civilized nations. The reality is, the third world is not civilized as we know civility and our knowledge of this concept is stretched pretty thin when we cannot take care of our own in this country. Who are we to lead the second or the third world in peace and justice when we can't get our own act together? We are far better off than almost any nation on the planet and yet the potential for disaster is virtually at our doorstep today.

We are not the leaders of the free world when we imprison the innocent and buy off the guilty. We are the not the peace-seeking leader of the free world when we wage unnecessary wars, destroying the next generation of our own country as well as the country in which we wreak havoc. Or when our current Administration leads us into a conflict to settle an old score for the President's father, instead of using Special Ops forces to accomplish the same task of overthrowing a ruthless government in a covert operation that takes out the immediate leadership and has them eventually stand trial, instead of destroying an entire economy, social structure and incur the wrath of the people we are supposedly "saving".

In same vein, within the Anglican Communion, you do not set out to destroy the entire Communion for the sake of one pitiful issue when talking and diplomacy should be our first recourse. Try to tell that to those who would deny baptized Christians the right to love whom they choose, as they have been given the freedom to love and marry their own spouses. I have heard it said that to allow gay and lesbian couples who are and have been in committed relationships would be a detriment to marriage as we know it. What is a detriment is denying these loving and committed couples the right to marry. Marriage is a civil privilege that should be denied no human being. If it is blessed by a spiritual rite, then so be it but that is not a prerequisite for the marriage itself. In America our Constitution guarantees that we are equal, have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It should be a done deal but its not when others try to decide who gets those rights and who does not.

As Christians, we have been given the two greatest commandments by our Lord Christ:

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, your very being; and love your neighbor as yourself. [My paraphrase].

How do these two commandments relate to the Church and to Lambeth? What will Lambeth really resolve if anything? Who's in and who's out of the Communion? Who will accept a Covanent and who won't? Who gets to decide what this supposed Covenant says and who decides the final draft? Is a Covenant truly necessary when God the Son has outlined the only Covenant we need which is the most important part? Who is my neighbor and why should I love them again?

"Love God; love your neighbor as you would want to be loved by them [My paraphrase again]".

Here is how to love God and your neighbor: Bring food for your local food bank or kitchen, go through your closets for decent clothing you no longer need or wear for St Vincent de Paul, give generously to your priest's discretionary fund to help those trying to pay for electricity or water, or for help in getting out of a bad situation. Find something about the people you work with that unites you, even when you are the only Christian Democrat in the mix [my case], weed your book collection at home so that others who cannot afford a book can read when you donate to a local shelter or library, when growing your veggie garden this summer, plant an extra row for the hungry and take it to a local soup kitchen or charity. And yes, charity begins at home, with your neighbors. Once you learn how to love your neighbor, its easier to love those who aren't.

This is the lesson I hope someone will have the courage to teach or talk about at Lambeth this time around. When these African and Indonesian and South American bishops and priests learn to take care of their own people, truly loving them as themselves and loving God and understanding how He loves us, then they may have an opinion on how the rest of us should then live. Until that time, I have no ears for them, or their counterparts in the United States. The Episcopal Church USA has a heart and mind for the real Gospel, and it is good news. It is a shining light on the whole for how we should and do love our neighbor.

So what about reporting on Lambeth? I actually have no interest in doing so. It's God's Church. It's about time they realized that the Communion's bishops, priests and lay folk have absolutely and ultimately no power over it. Remembering that we are instruments of God's will should be enough. As a consequence, I will continue to support and encourage my local parish in the living out of the Gospel and thereby changing the greater Church, one parish at a time.



Morgan H said...

Beautiful post, Catherine -- full of integrity and grace. Thank you!

Jan said...

Catherine, such wise words. Thank you. I appreciate your thoughts and outlook.

Jan said...

Catherine, wise words. I appreciate your thoughts and outlook. Thank you.