Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Risen Lord, be known to us

As I watch the various bloggers and their responders discuss the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury will be visiting with the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops in September, it strikes me that I and my fellow clergy continue to be burdened by strife in the wider church. With e-mailed news releases, blogs, and a host of other information outlets available online, it is very easy to get sucked into a maelstrom of despair regarding the current state of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Yet, I must keep reminding myself, the things going on at the highest levels of both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are not the whole story, not even close. Thousands of churches continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God in word and deed, thousands pulse with resurrection life, and thousands of my fellow clergy continue to celebrate the Eucharist week after week, month after month, year after year. By God's grace, I am not thinking about the current conflicts in the wider church when I stand at the altar and begin "The Lord be with you...".

It is wise for me and my fellow clergy to recall, as we read of the encounter on the road to Emmaus between Jesus and two disciples, and that Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread, that ultimately we are simply called to faithfulness in Word and Sacrament and, by the grace of God, the rest will take care of itself.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Walking the Way of the Cross

As I mentioned yesterday in my sermon in the church I serve (St. Alban's, Albany, Oregon), I had the opportunity in college (1988) to visit the Holy Land, including Jerusalem and Mount Siani. While in Jerusalem, we were able to literally walk in Jesus' footsteps along the Way of the Cross. Since few people have the opportunity to do so, the church has created the commemorations of Holy Week, and more specifically, the Stations of the Cross, in order to give people the opportunity of going on a pilgrimage without leaving home. In light of the current difficulties besetting the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, the image of a difficult pilgrimage seems particularly apt.

Bishop Pierre Whalon, Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, sets out a fairly exhaustive "Estimate of the Situation" in the wake of the recent meeting of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. I've been a fan of Bishop Whalon ever since he articulated my own thoughts as as centerist in "The Centerist Movement" in March 2002. Then, as now, Bishop Whalon seems to have a keen grasp of both history and the need for theological and ecclesiastical balance. In his Estimate, he rightly points out that the House of Bishops has chosen to erect few boundaries around what its members say and do, since only sexual misconduct seems to merit any sort of disciplinary action. On the flip side, he notes the false choice between ecclesiastical structures on the one hand and missionary zeal on the other. Structures exist to support mission and mission is simply a brushfire (my analogy) without the boundaries and sustaining help of structures.

To bring the above thoughts together, Bishop Whalon suggests that it is the task of the church to look beyond the current presenting issue of homosexuality and deal with some very basic theological and ecclesiastical assumptions inherited from our history as various daughter churches of the Church of England. He ends with this statement:

"This is the hard road in which we are all called together to walk. It lies in no broad plain. This road is rather a narrow mountain pass that leads from an old creation to a new one. There is none other, and there are precipices all around. Whether we take it or not will determine not only the present situation, but also the future of Anglicanism, and in some small measure, the future of the Christian Church."

I couldn't agree more. We shall see in this age of sound bytes, instant answers, and public wrangling whether the Anglican Communion can do the theological heavy lifting to keep itself together. The church has the unfortunate habit of either becoming fixated on Good Friday to the exclusion of any sort of resurrection life or to fast-forward through Holy Week to get to Easter, without making the journey that would make such an Easter celebration meaningful. May we all, this Holy Week, both keep our leaders in prayer and make our pilgrimage with Jesus together.