Saturday, July 26, 2008

From Across the Pond: Bishop Nick

Through the Gathering the Next Generation (GTNG) clergy email list, I've recently been put in touch with a great blog from Bishop Nick Baines of Croydon (Diocese of Southwark). Hosted by Fulcrum, his blog makes interesting reading, relatively free from either the distress or the enthusiasm of some of the bishops from The Episcopal Church. I was particularly interested in this part of one of his posts:
When I asked a Zimbabwean bishop last year why they don't write their own indigenous liturgies and why they follow only the BCP (17th century vernacular English), I was told that this is what the missionaries brought with them. Christianity was synonymous with the trappings: BCP language and liturgy, English Victorian hymns, English vestments and robes, etc. To ditch (or 'move on from') any of these would be synonymous with changing the faith itself or moving on from (or 'changing') the Gospel itself.
I find that I have two reactions to this. First, it is increasingly clear to me that one of the largest challenges we have is that the Gospel message that was communicated via English missionaries (interwoven with the English culture of the time) has been so locked into place as the one and only unchanging Gospel that it is clearly difficult, if not impossible, for there to be any "new revelation" or "new interpretation" even considered. It would be like dishonoring your father or your mother. Second, I know that that we have some of the same things at work here in The Episcopal Church. How many people left the church when "the new prayer book" (i.e., Book of Common Prayer 1979) was adopted because they were so used to the forms of th 1928 BCP that they couldn't imagine worshiping God in any other way?

For me, I find that I need to be both compassionate and discerning in my response to this. Clearly, God is timeless and so is the Gospel. Yet, to the extent that we serve an incarnational God in Jesus Christ, someone rooted in a place and time, our expressions of worship will necessarily reflect our own place and time. More likely, they will reflect the place and time in which we were raised. Short of a cataclysmic "Damascus Road" experience, it is extremely difficult to transcend our own cultural upbringing and inheritance and embrace something new without a substantial spiritual grounding. Perhaps as we lament what we consider the limited wordview of our Anglican brothers and sisters in the developing world, we should realize that our view, too, is limited, just in different ways.

1 comment:

writing_here said...

For me, instead of St. Paul, then Saul, on the Damascus Road, St. Peter on the rooftop of the house of Simon the Tanner in Joppa comes to mind. Maybe this is because of the recent appearance of this passage in the Daily Office lectionary, but then I've always liked that part of Acts.

St. Peter as you know is told by God in a vision to basically forget the whole Kosher diet thing he's grown up with! Then it is off to visit a centurion named Cornelius. And when the Holy Spirit comes upon Cornelius and the other gentiles gathered with him, I think that is when St. Peter finally totally gets the vision.

I know what way of worship works for me - structured, liturgical, candles, bells, but no smells and very little happy clappy praise music - but I also know that that way doesn't work for everyone. Some people need that happy clappy praise music.

Anyhoo, if you are looking for good episcopal (lower e on purpose) blogs from across the pond, check out by a non-golf playing bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church (the non-golf playing becomes very funny when you note what diocese he is bishop of and what golf course is in said diocese).