Sunday, June 29, 2008

The church is a happening before it is an institution

Church, it has sometimes been said, is what happens when people are touched by Jesus, and I’ve always thought it is a happening before it is an institution." – Archbishop Rowan Williams

As my recent posts on GAFCON show - heck, as my recent posts on anything show - I can be strident and hard-changing, with a flame-thrower strapped to my back. Such tactics have their place, but they are undoubtedly the wrong approach for these probing spiritual issues that touch hearts in Rwanda as surely as they touch them here. There is something to be said for the Archbishop of Canterbury's calming, reassuring tone. This clip is admittedly four months old and unrelated to the Communion "crisis," but perhaps that makes it all the more important. Let us step back for a moment to breathe, and reflect on the deeper issues that bind us together in the first place.

I like the Archbishop’s reflection, although I have always been partial to the belief that the church is its members, doing what they do and going where they go. “We are the church,” so to speak. But that is, of course, the complexity of Christ and the beauty of the Anglican Communion: on an issue even as deep and touching as this, there is room for both of us to be right.

A hat tip to Father Warren of Breaking Fast on the Beach.


Anonymous said...

While that is very true, there is a vast world of difference between talking the talk, and walking the walk. Hypocrisy is pandemic in the Episcopalian and Anglican church, and too many of the church leaders (on the left, as on the right) as well as affluent followers are guilty of it.

In a previous posting, you talk about the issues of poverty, but in all honesty, those Christian leaders you reference are activist in rationalizing poverty, and the subjugation of the poor. Jim Wallis, for example, now rationalizes ignoring the poverty that exists among Americans. His activism is in aid of helping the corporate interests to destroy the wage standards, workplace and environmental protections of American citizens. He does nothing to demand that wealthy foreign governments, like Mexico and elsewhere do more to help their own people. To raise wages and increase opportunities. He has refused to even address that. He prefers the status quo, because he has found it profits himself and his business. He is as much a charlatan and a fraud as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Christ asked us to question priests, and not put them on pedastels, as they are as prone to sin as any other human being.

Regarding what is happening in Jerusalem it's hypocritical for anyone to demonize those Christian leaders who have attended GAFCon, and their right to be committed to their religious beliefs. I've read lies and false accusations by those who find their beliefs inconvenient.. and it makes me actually doubt those who do so as having any beliefs or commitment to Christ's teachings. As a true progressive, I find that those who label themselves these days "progressive" Christians, are the ones guilty of hatred, prejudice and corruption.

Many fellow progressive Christians of my aquaintance are sick at heart about the church leadership that prefers to redefine social justice to exclude poverty, unless it has to do with anyone other than Americans. A friend in Boston wrote to me about a conversation with her pastor (who is a woman and claims to be progressive herself) who claimed that there was no poverty in America, and when she couldn't hide behind that lie, stated that the American poor aren't suffering enough, and deserve to be displaced.

Frankly, I don't have a hard time understanding why there is a schism in the Episcopalian and Anglican church, and I would remind you that when the dust has settled, you and those like you will find yourselves in the extreme minority. Those like you have created divides and sought to hijack the church. You attempt to exploit Christ's teachings, while you actually ignore the substance of what he said.

Nathan Empsall said...

Your comments are well taken, but they are slightly misdirected. I’m with you in this, not against you. You have misread my blog. And I’m certainly in no minority – I stand by the past two democratically-elected Presiding Bishops. Poverty at home and abroad are both deep moral concerns.

It is odd that you would suggest the Bible calls us to fight poverty, and then lump me in with those who distort its meaning, or who don’t walk a walk. This blog started when I was in New Orleans for three months, working in the Lower Ninth Ward every day on hurricane relief efforts. At EPPN, my work so far has focused on (American) affordable housing, the (American) Indian Health Service, and the MDGs – so both global and domestic. I am 21 and in school so my resources are limited, but I do what I can when I can and the things I write online are only a small part of that. While I have no clue who you are, you should hold your tongue before making character assessments with such limited information.

Furthermore, I find a slight double standard in your comment. One minute you say priests must be questioned (and I agree), and the next you say they can’t be touched if they are attending GAFCON. If you take a careful look at my posts you’ll see that I have never demonized anyone for merely attending the conference or for their “right to be committed to their religious beliefs.” I have, however, criticized specific individuals at GAFCON who refuse to enter into dialogue, subtly encourage violence, or smear their opponents’ character. The problem, in this case, is not in what one believes, but in how one believes it. You won’t see me criticize conservative American Bishops Jenkins or Harrison; you will see me light into Bishop Duncan. I even have a few conservative positions regarding homosexuality myself. Neither GAFCON’s theology nor its atendees is the problem. The problem is the approach of the leadership.

I do agree that there are figures on the left who are as bad as these figures on the right. I don’t think Jim Wallis is one of them, but while I blasted Archbishop Akinola earlier on this blog for calling Bishop Spong a “typical” American, I will say that the Spong quote he was discussing was indeed disgraceful. And on a political rather than a religious note, you’ll find not only praise for some conservatives on this blog (Huckabee), but plenty of criticism of Democrats and liberals (Nagin, Nader, Jefferson), as well as in my posts at the more heavily trafficked

One final thought. My name, along with my place of work and general place of residence, is on this blog, attached to all the criticisms I make. I stand by the things I say. What about you, Anonymous? Going to stay hidden in Kalamazoo?