11/17/2017

The Gift Returned: a poem exploration



The gift returned.

“He gave his only son,”
And we forever look on the cross, 
That tool of death,
And see God’s love exposed,
In all its terror.

Miserable sinner that I am,
I spin webs
Of petty crimes and sins committed,
Forever ungrateful.
My love is unequal to the gift,
And so I tremble in fear
Yet yearn for Grace.

Here we are then:
Caught forever
Unequal to the gift
Or Giver.
It is an unbearable condition.

O God, for whom time
Is a play thing,
A building block,
A social construct,
Take me back to the tomb,
To the moments between
Death and resurrection.

In the freedom of that moment,
Let me lift the vail
And see the face
Of Him who died
That I might live.

I dream:
I see Him there.
His face is peaceful.

I kiss him gently,
And leaning, whisper in his ear,
“It’s alright,
You didn’t have to die and live again
For me, or for the world.”

I imagine
The terror of accepting the gift 
Too great to ever repay,
Of the offering 
That requires death
And a cross,

And I say, “no.”

“No. God, no.
Don’t die for me.”
I’m not worth the trouble,

Double trouble if you do,
For then I am forever
Both a sinner and a debtor,
Locked into the dread economy
And strange dance,
Of redemption and release.

Let me run back and tell Pilate
Not to play his part,
And the Sanhedrin not to play theirs.
Let them and me look away
And not take the gift in hand
And lead Him to the gallows.

Rather let us look on Him while living
And see the love exposed and evident,
The transfiguration of mere flesh
To God present,
And see that as gift enough.

Perhaps we could look on him
And not despise,
Could look at him, 
and let him go wandering
Away, into a paradise unblemished
By agony and blood.

In imagination I wonder,
Could I or we accept the Incarnation
As enough? 

Could we see God present
Without the cross?

Is it possible,
With less severity,
To teach
The way of life
Unfettered,
Not bound to violence
And my forever debt?

“God gives his only Son,”
But must I receive
Such an encumbered offering,
Just like that?

“No,” I whisper to Him who is veiled.
“Not that,”

Rather, this:

God have his only Son
To be here, for a while,
For any / every while,
That in Him,
God might walk again
The shaded paths with us,
And we might know God’s love
In the intercourse along the way,
And Eden be restored.


10/20/2017

AAC, ACNA and GAFCON, wandering astray in the fields of the Lord


In the past two weeks the American Anglican Concil (AAC), the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), and GAFCON (the leadership of the Global Anglican Future Conference) have taken to dumping on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church and even the Chair of the Board of Nashota House. It has been a busy time out there in the land of the crabby righteous.

It has taken a while to attend to these small matters in Anglican-land. The strange melt down in American political life and certain personal matters (mostly quite wonderful) have drawn my attention away from the doings of organizations that thrive only when there is separation and division in the church. Now with a bit of time to reflect, here are some thoughts on the recent dumping by AAC, ACNA and GAFCON.

(1) The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the first evening of the Primates’ Meeting, to offer prayers for those who were murdered in Los Vegas. An ACNA spokesperson was quick to criticize the Archbishop for so asking. See the Anglican Communion News Service article, HERE.

The article reports,“This afternoon (Tuesday), the Revd Canon Andrew Gross, Canon for Communications and Media Relations for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), speaking on behalf of Gafcon, said that the decision to invite Michael Curry to lead the congregation in prayer at the Evensong service “put the Gafcon primates in a difficult spot.” Speaking at a press conference in a hotel near Canterbury Cathedral, he said that they were “forced to look like they are walking together when they are not walking together.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, it was reported, was somewhat taken aback.

How is it that an ACNA staff officer can claim to be speaking for Gafcon? ACNA is a church. Gafcon is the abbreviation for the “Global Anglican Future Conference.” The continuation of the movement that grew from the first GAFCON meeting gave rise to a structure, which GAFCON describes on its website, HERE. Gross works for the Secretariat, under the direction of Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen. GAFCON recognizes ACNA as a member province, and not TEC. But it is interesting that a staff officer of ACNA, the newbe on the block, is somehow speaking for GAFCON. He may be speaking for GAFCON, but I suspect he is also speaking for ACNA.

Episcopal News Service, usually fairly cautious in its editorial voice, was more than taken back. It explained Gross's presence at the Primate's meeting in this way:

" The primates’ communiqué also acknowledged the pain that has been caused by cross-border interventions when a representative of one province or diocese acts in another without permission. The majority of such interventions have been orchestrated by disaffected Anglicans and former Episcopalians who’ve colluded under the umbrella of breakaway groups, such as the Anglican Church in North America or the Global Anglican Future Conference."

Later, in the article, ENS then reports on the Gross presence:

"Most of the characters who’ve attempted to influence previous meetings from the sidelines seemed to have stayed away this time. However, an ACNA representative held a media briefing earlier in the week and attempted to infiltrate the final press conference. Cathedral police escorted him off the premises."


Those in "collusion, under the umbrella of breakaway groups, such as the ACNA or GAFCON" were called "characters who've attempted to influence from the sidelines..." The memory of the ENS article reached back far enough to remember the time when at the Primates met at Dromantine in Northern Ireland from 21 to 26 February, 2005. Various “collusion” notables gatherer around the edges of the meeting and coached a number of Primates in their actions at the meeting. Conviently enough Bishop Robert Duncan found himself in the neighborhood and joined in on the hunt. At the next Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania he was also present and working the ropes.






Collusion may be all the rage in civil society and politics these days, but the level of overt efforts to influence the direction of the discussion among Primates of the Communion at the time of the formation of ACNA was amazing for its time. Many of the characters present then are retired from the field of battle, but their organizations continue. To see a list of the "characters" at that Primates Meeting, see "Follow the Money" HERE. One purpose of the collusion was to promote ACNA as the “real” Anglican presence and Province in North America, and to push for its recognition as a Province. It didn’t work. Another was to promote the notion that a resolution of the Lambeth Conference of 1998, Resolution 1.10, was binding on all Provinces. In that they came closer, but even that failed in the end.



Now the voices are fewer, and apparently no one is putting up with influence from the sidelines. But there is the hint of the old mantra raised at Dromantine, that Primates were not "walking together" but only appearing to do so. That has become the primary charge of the GAFCON / ACNA / AAC cohort, and Gross's little excess was simply an example of what happens when the image of not walking together gets overplayed.


Bishop Venables, attending the Primates’ Meeting as Primate (again) in the Province of South America (formerly known as the Province of the Southern Cone), has had a good bit to say about this "walking together" thing. See Here. The notion that people, organizations (churches or Provinces) cannot “walk together” unless they are in agreement is the core of the move to separate the clean from the unclean - in this case the GAFCON group of Provinces from Provinces that have decided to bless same sex unions and opened ministry to all the baptized. It invokes Amos 3:3 as its biblical touchstone.






Perhaps Amos 3:3, the biblical source for the phrase “walking together,” is not such a useful place to anchor the spirit of a church, since the question "do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so" is the lead in to condemnation. It is a favorite biblical quote of fundamentalists. Many fundamentalists believe that division is a sign of God directed rejection of aposticacy and heresy. Division is at its base a context for condemnation in an effort to purify. The problem is, of course, that a church whose core reason for being is separation and condemnation of others is radioactive and will have a short half-life. The long term success of ACNA, AAC or GAFCON, or for the Anglican Communion or TEC for that matter, will rest in their positive core values and Good News, not their condemnation of others.






I would contend that a better place to begin would be Luke 24:13-35, that is with conversation on the road and a meal with the Lord. It would suggest that walking with persons trying to understand and cope with the realities of engagement with this strange Messiah who died on a cross, and who were clearly confused if not wrongheaded, was an opportunity not to separate from their failed understanding and faith but to encourage further exploration. More, communion with them while they were not as yet enlightened, pure, or faithful, was a way to open their eyes. Not sharing the meal would have meant the story would have ended too soon. At least a church grounded on the encounter with the risen Lord has some chance of being more than crabby.


Well, in the midst of that moment, where pointing out that various Primates and / or their churches do or do not walk together seemed to be the preoccupation of the ACNA / AAC folk, an ACNA bishop decided to dump on the Bishop of Springfield. The Bishop of Springfield, no slouch as a conservative bishop in the Episcopal Church, is the chair of the board of trustees of Nashota House. He was slammed by the ACNA bishop of San Joaquin for welcoming the Presiding Bishop to Nashota House. Read here.






The ACNA bishop of San Joaquin in his letter to the Bishop of Springfield is a bit testy, echoing the unhappiness previously reserved for the Dean of Nashota who invited the last Presiding Bishop to visit Nashota House. That invitation occasioned quite a stink. David Virtue, of Virtueonline, reported extensively on the similarities of these two occasions HERE.






The article references several bishops who send “Anglo-Catholic” students to Nashota: “Menees (of San Joaquin), Jack Iker, Keith Ackerman, William Wantland and Juan Alberto Morales.” Quite a menagerie! Bishops Ackerman, Iker and Wantland are all ex-bishops in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Morales was elected in ACNA to succeed Bishop Ackerman. His background is odd, to say the least. The suggestion that they might not sent their students to Nashota House is less a threat than a plea. Where indeed could they go if not to Nashota House? Where else is there an Anglo-Catholic seminary that would welcome ACNA folk, some of whom act out the worse sort of fundamentalist separatism? I think the answer is “no where.” I wonder, then, if the ACNA bishop might have been better advised to couch his objection to the invitation in a more pastoral way, suggesting that he might meet with the Board to reflect on the concerns about disconnecting from the unrighteous.






The ACNA objection to the PB leading prayers at Lambeth is, well, silly and somewhat pathetic. Venible’s efforts, as a GAFCON leader, to parse the “walking” thing is a bit pedantic. The letter from the ACNA bishop of San Joaquin is at the least ill mannered.



What gives? ACNA is quite capable of really pretty good efforts to build community and do theological work. Some of its efforts seem quite sound. GAFCON is what it is, an organization whose missionary efforts consist mostly of invasion, ordaining bishops for recovery of the true faith in England, Scotland, and North America. But even GAFCON in its better moments is able to be a voice of post colonial Anglican realities. But what gives here?






The Primates’ meeting was not good news for ACNA and the American Anglican Council, or for GAFCON. The communique of the meeting had the audacity to state the truth, namely, (a) that ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion, (b) the Primates’ Meeting was mostly successful in including all but six Primates, only three of whom were absent for reasons of conscience and (c) Scotland got sanctioned in the same way that The Episcopal Church did for moving to bless same sex marriages, but the “hot button” issue of homosexuality as sinful or not and the related items about same sex marriage and inclusion were reduced to wringing of hands and muttering of sorrow about the facts. That is: The Primates met, the GAFCON / Global South Primates who were present (and most of them were) were engaged in the full range of common life, prayer and discussion, and ACNA was a non-starter.






The peak of influence by “characters” around the edges of the meeting was at the Primates’ Meetings in Northern Ireland and Tanzania. At those meetings outside pressure and influence by the “don’t walk with them, walk with us” crowd involved cell phones, late evening strategy sessions, coaching, media briefings, and so forth. Outside players were all over the place. Both exclusion and inclusion parties were there, but the exclusive crowd (AAC, ACNA etc) were the more forceful. International religious press folk and highly charged partisan organizations sent their best and brightest to do battle. Primates had little time for unpressured conversation and reflection. Whatever had been envisioned by Archbishop Coggen, the Archbishop of Canterbury who invited Primates for the first meeting, was overtaken by meetings more regulatory meeting, and the notion of a relaxed and deep conversation became harder to achieve with the three ringed circus of media, lobbyists and partisans surrounding it.






GAFCON has run into the internal contradictions that emerge from overly zealous use of Amos 3:3. Apparently some of the Primates (and quite a few of the bishops in the member churches of GAFCON) do not see the issues of the moment to require division and separation. For whatever reason, they have come to the Primate’s meeting and have stayed in communion with the whole, even while having some distance from TEC and other flawed Provinces. GAFCON apparently is not the solid wall separating the godly from the ungodly that it purports to be.






The crabby comments from an ACNA spokesperson, from an ACNA bishop, from GAFCON about the whole meeting, are all the product, I believe, of these organizations feeling the beginning pangs of failure. Under intense pressure they may have come close to carrying the day at earlier Primates’ Meetings. But now ACNA has little justification for its claim to be part of the Anglican Communion, the AAC has to make all the greater used of the somewhat broken down image of “walking” or “not walking” together, and GAFCON may have to back off its more extreme use of the fundamentalist tactic of separation and division.






There has not been a lot of commentary on these matters outside the realm of conservative bloggers. There seems to be a growing sentiment among more liberal writers that the organizational overreach of Primates’ Meetings, and other “instruments of Communion” have called the whole structure of the Anglican Communion in to question. From that perspective the crabby comments of characters around the edges of those structures seems profoundly uninteresting. Attacks on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ Meeting, have become non-starters. These “instruments” seem not to be viewed as servants of the desire to find ways to travel on the road to faith but rather are viewed as regulatory instruments of an expanding world wide canon law for an emerging world wide church. Interest in the whole enterprise of the Anglican Communion seems to be lessening.






Perhaps it is simpler than that. Having discovered that sanctions from “out there” in Anglican-land hurt our feelings, but little more, many of us have simply turned our attention to more pressing matters. And there are indeed more pressing matters to which we ought turn our attention.






Still, I wonder.... I want to be part of a larger whole, whose vision is not limited to our own particular takes on liberal or conservative litmus tests. I want a church whose reason for being is not to become pure, but to live out the Christian virtues in the world where the pure and impure are so wonderfully mixed together that we have no choice but to fall altogether into the fear of judgment and the joy of grace. We should be up to the task of walking with those we only partially agree with or understand, but who we love and care for. I think we Anglicans can do that. I’d like to be part of that Anglican Communion.

9/27/2017

Who is minding the store? ACNA's plan to become part of the Anglican Communion.

Concerning the Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion, who is minding the store in Episcopal-land? Beats me. But its time to wake up.

Somewhere in the headwaters of The Episcopal Church (TEC) or the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) there needs to be some attention paid to the fact that the American Anglican Council (AAC) is churning away at the process to declare that the Anglican Church in North America is a province of the Anglican Communion, and that TEC and ACoC are not. There needs to be a response from on high. Something more than a news article.  

Until then, let this be a start.

The AAC is playing a dirty game of ecclesiastical politics with hostile takeover in mind.

The American Anglican Council is the mouthpiece for the gang that believes The Episcopal Church has lost its bearings and taken up heresy. From AAC's standpoint TEC's primary heresy is that TEC does not convey the Gospel "once delivered of the saints."  The outward and visible signs of its heresy is seen in ordaining women, particularly to the episcopate, and considering sexual orientation no longer a barrier to full inclusion in the ministries of the church. The inward and spiritual depravity (to hear them tell it) is that TEC is not bible based.

The AAC has mounted a long term campaign to dislodge TEC from its place in the Anglican Communion and replace it with The Anglican Church in North America. This week, in an website article, it has admitted to a "10 year process" by which it is moving to hijack TEC's place in the Communion.

For a long time now ACNA has contended that it is indeed part of the Anglican Communion because it is recognized by a number of the largest national churches in the Communion.The churches that recognize ACNA are Sudan, South Sudan (I assume), Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, South America, Southeast Asia, West Africa, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. This is the list of the Primates of the Global South group. They represent 14 out of 39 provinces. 

It is about half way to the goal of gaining approval by 2/3rds the Primates of the Communion. That approval is what ACC believes is needed for inclusion in the Anglican Communion.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has contended that, no, ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion and that the process is not about garnering more and more votes from Provinces that would reject TEC or the Anglican Church of Canada for the ACNA. From the Anglican Communion News Service -

"The Secretary General, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has stressed that the Anglican Church of North America is not a province of the Anglican Communion. Speaking to ACNS as he delivered his report to the Standing Committee, Archbishop Josiah said he wanted to correct any suggestion that ACNA was the 39th province of the Communion rather than Sudan, which was inaugurated in July.

“It is simply not true to say that ACNA is part of the Anglican Communion,” he said.  “To be part of the Communion a province needs to be in communion with the See of Canterbury and to be a member of the Instruments of the Communion. ACNA is not in communion with the See of Canterbury – and has not sought membership of the Instruments. 

“There is a long-standing process by which a province is adopted as a province of the Communion. It was a great joy for me to see Sudan go through this process and it was a privilege to be in Khartoum in July to see it become the 39th member of the Communion. ACNA has not gone through this process.
“ACNA is a church in ecumenical relationship with many of our provinces,” he went on. “But that is also true of many churches, including the Methodist, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.”

The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council, has just written this in response to the Secretary General: 

"The Anglican Church in North America is already in a 10-year process of recognition by the Primates, who have the jurisdiction to extend such recognition.  The ACC (Anglican Consultative Council) may offer advice if requested.  They have not been requested by the Primates recognizing The Anglican Church in North America to do so." 
 
So we now have in print the "plan." The idea is this: to get more and more of the Primates to recognize ACNA as a province, arguing in process that those Primates represent the majority of the worlds Anglicans, until finally 2/3 of the Primates recognize ACNA rather that TEC (and the Anglican Church of Canada) as the Province of the Anglican Communion in North America.  As far as the American Anglican Council is concerned, that is sufficient for ACNA to become a province of the Anglican Communion. 

Ashey argues that communion with Canterbury is not essential for a province to be part of the Anglican Communion, nor is recognition by the Anglican Consultative Council. In his read, recognition by 2/3 of the Primates would constitute the basis for inclusion of ACNA. Of course that would be accompanied by those Primates also declaring impaired or perhaps non-existent communion status with TEC.

On its web pages ACNA states, "On April 16, 2009 it was recognized as a province of the global Anglican Communion, by the Primates of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans." Of course recognition by these 14 Primates does not make ACNA a province of the global Anglican Communion. Perhaps it makes ACNA a province of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Churches, but nothing more. 

To be clear: The Anglican Communion is NOT the Global Fellowship of Confessing Churches. Being a province (whatever that means) in the latter does not make a church a province in the former.

The Anglican Communion is not a church. It is "a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces, and regional Churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer."(from the Preamble to the Constitution of TEC, wording from the resolution from the 1930 Lambeth Conference.)  

The Anglican Communion is "a fellowship."  Nothing about TEC or any member church being part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is compromised by either being or not being part of the Anglican Communion. It is a fellowship of churches willing to share experiences, best practices, mission engagement, and common understandings concerning worship and church order. 

Still, membership in the Anglican Communion means a great deal in the highly divided and broken world of christian churches. It is a sign of catholicity even as catholicity eludes every effort to bind ourselves into a universal church. The Church Catholic is a goal. It is not a reality. 

Still, even with that falling short, the Anglican Communion is about finding ways to be united in the work of the Gospel. It is a pearl of considerable price, and worth it.

Ashey believes the Anglican Communion is joined by being voted in by 2/3rds majority of the Primates, and arguably that those same Primates could effectively "vote out" an offending Province (TEC) by the same process. So the way in is to have more and more of the Provinces choose ACNA rather than TEC. This "10 year process of recognition" doesn't petition the ACC or even the Primates for inclusion as a province. It works at getting Provinces to abandon their relationship to an existing province and choose ACNA instead. It is a process of inclusion by poisoning the well so that a province TEC is excluded and ACNA takes its place.

The AAC would have us believe that the vote of the Primates is all that matters, and that the invitation by the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend Lambeth, or communion with the Church of England by way of his See, or inclusion in the Anglican Consultative Council are all secondary to the decision by the Primates, one at a time, to choose ACNA rather than TEC as the jurisdiction of the Anglican Communion in North America.

This is all a rather complex smoke and mirrors attempt to legitimize the attempt by ACNA to do a hostile takeover of the positions held by TEC and the ACoC as provinces of the Anglican Communion.

That's a form of robbery. In Episcopal-land headwaters it might be useful to remember the Gospel and act accordingly:

"But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into." (Matt 24:43)



It is time for watchers to awake. 



8/19/2017

Identity with the Jesus Movement and the receding relevance of the Anglican Communion

The Episcopal Church has been identified by its leadership with "the Jesus Movement." I have written on this recently

What that means for us as a church community is immediately relevant to issues of the day. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's recent video commentary is a fine example of how our being part of the Jesus Movement plays out as we respond to violence and hate.

At the same time it seems to me there is less and less interest in The Episcopal Church as part of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Curry also posted some remarks on the Primates meeting in 2016. That meeting was , he suggested, "disappointing."  The Anglican Consultative Council met later that year. Since then there has been little stirring in Episcopal Church circles concerning the Communion. The inauguration of the new Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, and the terrible news of continued war and violence in Sudan have drawn attention to the difficulties the church faces there. There continue to be prayer concerns for various churches as they respond to social and natural disasters. But regarding the Anglican Communion as a "fellowship" very little seems to be going on.

There is not much excitement or interest in which Provinces will not attend the next Lambeth Conference. Uganda seems to have said "no." Did anyone care?  At least the bishop representative of The Episcopal Church will be going off prior to the next ACC meeting. Who will replace Bishop Ian Douglas? (Who could?) Who cares?

So my question for the afternoon, an afternoon when domestic issues of violence and hate, confusion about leadership, and other matters secular and religious are occupying our time, is this: Are issues about the Anglican Communion and the level of our inclusion in it increasingly irrelevant to life in The Episcopal Church?

And, as a side bar, is the identification of TEC as "a branch of the Jesus Movement" a move away from identification of TEC as a "a Fellowship, within the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional churches in communion with the see of Canterbury."

Some thoughts on this:

The Episcopal Church has over the past half-century come more and more to identify itself as a baptismal community. As such its focus and allegiance is not to an institutional expression of the Christian faith but to an existential confession of a core allegiance to Jesus the Christ of God.

So it is, after all the exhausting institutional focus of the issues regarding inclusion of all the baptized in the full range of ministries and sacraments of the church, that the Episcopal Church now identifies itself as a branch of "the Jesus Movement," rather than specifically as a church grounded in a historically peculiar way in the scripture, creeds, sacraments and episcopal ministry.

It is, of course, a matter of degree. While The Episcopal Church is indeed primarily a community within the larger Christian community of "followers of Jesus" or "the Jesus Movement," The Episcopal Church continues to have its own peculiar hierarchical structures which guide its understanding of its institutional and governance responsibilities. 

Those responsibilities have occupied much of the energy of The Episcopal Church as the changes which have led to greater inclusion were also sources of great conflict within the church. 

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was bound by those responsibilities to oversee the processes by which TEC sought to retain properties, institutions and names which disaffected congregations and bishops claimed were theirs. Perhaps one day she will be more fully honored for having so well held the line against institutional collapse.  She and her legal advisors were mostly successful in keeping the institutional church functional through this period. 

At the same time the place of TEC as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion needed to be maintained. TEC is the institution recognized as the member church in the United States of the world wide fellowship that is the Anglican Communion. The concerted effort to make sure the Anglican Communion "instruments" understand that reality has been a major effort of both the Presiding Bishop and members of the various Anglican Communion bodies. Our representatives to the Anglican Consultative Council have there made our presence known and our positions clear. In particular Bishop Ian Douglas, first as clergy and then as bishop representative to the ACC, has done a remarkable job in affirming TEC's commitment to and engagement in Anglican Communion affairs.

But now it appears the focus is turning more towards TEC as a "branch of the Jesus Movement" and away from TEC as a "branch of the Anglican Communion."  

There are good reasons for this change in emphasis. And I am convinced that it is a change in emphasis and not a change in basic allegiances. We are, after all, both. We are part of a fellowship within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church and we are a branch of the Jesus Movement. 

Does this change in emphasis, if that is what it is, tell us something about how the leadership of The Episcopal Church is coming to understand TEC's engagement with Anglican Communion issues?  

For example, at the next General Convention there will for sure be an effort to re-examine the level of financial support for the Anglican Communion office. There will be at least some move to introduce a new resolution on the Anglican Covenant. (I hope I am wrong on this.) And there will be, I do hope, some effort to begin church to church conversations with the Anglican Church of North America on an ecumenical basis with a view to future reconciliation. And then too there will be a variety of resolutions concerning world wide Anglican responses to grave problems faced by particular Provinces.  All of these involve Anglican Communion affairs.

My hope is that even with the change in emphasis (if that is indeed what is going on) there will continue to be careful and good work done to continue our witness in the context of the Anglican Communion. 

My sense is the Anglican Communion continues to be relevant as a fellowship from which we can all draw for inspiration. The question is how will that relate to the idea of The Episcopal Church as movement rather than institution?

Thoughts?

6/28/2017

Why "The Jesus Movement" movement does not always ring true.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has made "The Jesus Movement" a rallying point and a touchstone for an important effort to focus in on a way to see the work of the Episcopal Church as a continuation of the work to which Jesus calls us, a call presented in the Gospels and the writings of the early church.  That "Jesus Movement," explores, meditates upon, and acts on, the core message of the Gospel, by a "drilling  down" to find strategies and agendas for this day. It is immediately and eternally important to the life of any Christian community. 

I am thankful that the Presiding Bishop has so clearly announced that he and this church of ours need to cling to the movement that Jesus proclaims by his words and actions, and by his death and resurrection.  So something like The Jesus Movement is indeed at the core of our life together in Christ.

The Episcopal Church, by way of the vision and insights of the  Presiding Bishop, has defined "The Jesus Movement" in the following way (from HERE).
 
What is the Jesus Movement?
 We’re following Jesus into loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, with each other and with the earth.
How do we join?
First, we follow Jesus. We are simply the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, seeking every day to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). Just like Jesus.

What’s our work?
We’re working on simple practices for each priority area – if it’s a Movement, then we should all be able to grasp the ideas and get on board. Then we’re mapping a strategy that inspires and equips all of us to join God and make a difference.

The Jesus Movement takes you places. For the Episcopal Church, it calls us to focus on three specific Jesus Movement Priorities: (Evangelism, Reconciliation, Creation Care)"

All of this is of course shorthand for a much more nuanced set of connections between being a follower of Jesus and a member of a movement. But it is a start.

There are problems, however, with the whole enterprise - the enterprise of understanding the work of the church as the work of the Jesus Movement (however conceived):

It is unclear who speaks for and who, if anyone, governs this movement, except of course Jesus. And, as you may recall, Jesus has returned to the Father, leaving governance of his community in the hands of the Holy Spirit.  It is unclear just how that Spirit acts in the Movement, and who speaks authentically with the Spirit's voice. 

This is not the first American expression of "The Jesus Movement."   The PB did not invent the phrase, "The Jesus Movement." There was a "Jesus Movement" which grew in the 1960-70's and which had considerable impact at the time and then subsided." (See the Wikipedia article HERE.) That Jesus Movement had local presence in Ann Arbor in 1968-72  while I was chaplain at the U. of Michigan. It was a very mixed bag indeed. It was both counter cultural and charismatic, communal, sometimes with authoritarian leadership. It was attractive and repulsive at the same time. This version of "The Jesus Movement" viewed being a member of an established church community (The Episcopal Church for example) as apostate.  It claimed to have the Spirit's voice in ways not available to the established church. I listened, but was not moved very much.

Surely this is not what the Presiding Bishop means by "The Jesus Movement." Still, when I hear people talk about "the Jesus Movement" with great facility and fluidity I become cautious and suspicious. The last Jesus Movement viewed my being an Episcopalian a visible sign of my being apostate. There was no "Episcopal branch" of that Jesus Movement then. This Jesus Movement seems more inclusive.

Having been accused of a "hermeneutic of suspicion" I am hesitant to voice my suspicions, but they are there.

My sense is The Jesus Movement (in both the 60's incarnation and in the present) is both life giving and also life absorbing, both enlivening and costly.  It seems a rallying phrase not to be used lightly or without cause.

Yet there is a lot of "climbing on the band-wagon" going on in the Episcopal Church these days. The phrase "The Jesus Movement" is invoked with considerable abandon, and I wonder about the sincerity of the invocation and wonder if those who lay claim to being part of the Jesus Movement have any sense of the costs of doing so.

Part of the problem presented by the "Jesus Movement" idea is that it is about personal life choices - choices to live in "liberating and life-giving relationship with God and each other and with the earth." At the same time the Episcopal Church, which is a institutional entity, is identified by its leadership as "the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement." But that is not true. The Episcopal Church is not the branch of The Jesus Movement. It might be the institutional tool for some people who are part of the Jesus Movement, but a church is not the incarnation of a movement.

It may very well be that some or even most Episcopalians see themselves as part of "the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement." If so they can move The Episcopal Church to institutional actions that support strategies held by those in the Jesus Movement. But we should be clear, the strategies are those of the Movement, not necessarily those of the Church. 

I find the whole notion that membership in Episcopal Church somehow means we are "a branch of the Jesus Movement"  problematical. The Jesus Movement is extra-ecclesial, that is it is not part of any church, rather churches are seen as institutional instruments for the furthering of the Jesus Movement's strategies and goals. That seems as true now as it did for the Jesus Movement of the 60's.

Beyond the question of the relation between "The Jesus Movement" of five decades ago and  the Presiding Bishop's "Jesus Movement," there is the question of how the Presiding Bishop's call to follow Jesus is picked up by church based media and how it is roundly applauded by various church sorts who in all likelihood have no intention of moving very far from the safety of the institutions of the church to take on movement status.

My diocese is in the midst of choosing a new bishop. Both its profile and the responses of many of those nominated reference The Jesus Movement as promoted by the Presiding Bishop.  The Jesus Movement, of which we are understood to be the "Episcopal branch," is similarly referenced by a number of dioceses and parishes around the country. All of which is fair enough, and indeed a sign that the Presiding Bishop's words have taken hold. Still, it is worth pointing out that the "we" in "we are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement," is not the Episcopal Church, but rather some of its members. And, in my local situation, I find it odd to think of the Diocese, in which I have served for 48 years, as a movement.

We live in a world where it remains true that " “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."(Matthew 7:21, NRSV) And, I suppose, not everyone who claims to be part of The Jesus Movement will enter either. Doing the will of the Father remains. And that will is larger and more life demanding than movement strategies of evangelism, reconciliation and creation care, or any other strategies.

Take care, lest the movement take the place of the Spirit, who as I remember, works through the Church, around the Churches, over the Church and Churches and underground, beneath every attempt to wall it in. May we always be moved by Jesus, and always moved beyond any movement, institution or cause.