Having grown up in the Episcopal Church, it seems to me the press struggles to get its arms around recent events.
Coverage of the gathering of the American Anglican Council (AAC) in Texas last week left a distinct impression that global church war and fracture were imminent. As I write this, it is still possible.
As Desmond Tutu’s successor, Cape Town Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, noted recently though, there is often a gap between TV-worthy sound bites and substance:
“GAY BISHOPS: for or against?” asked a South African current-affairs programme. Reducing issues to stark polarisations may make good television, but it is not a constructive approach for the Church to take on this, or any other, disagreement.
Christians must learn better ways of working through difference and diversity, in order to refine, enrich and strengthen the Church in its vocation to follow Christ and forward God’s mission in the world.
If not black-or-white, pro- or anti-gay, liberal or orthodox, then what? Can there be substance without sound bites?
I’ll be the first to admit that the immediacy of Exodus-style blacks and whites carries a certain allure. Its certainty implies authority, and like Randy and Alan, I need absolute confidence in some areas to be centered and grounded.
From a fundamentalist perspective, it is often suggested that folks like me rest on a foundation of Jello because we are Christian yet don’t follow a single unitary, purportedly literal interpretation of scripture. Where is our center? If it is not tidy and absolute, how can it have substance?
At the AAC gathering last week, Diane Knippers credited the support for the Bishop-elect Robinson to the current body of priests and bishops having been led astray by attending seminary during the swinging 60s and 70s. The not-so-subtle implication there is that Christians who disagree with the Knippers and the AAC haven’t been reading their Bibles, a much better cliche than a conversation-starter.
Here are a couple of glimpses into what it means to be intensely Christian without being fundamentalist. From The Center for Progressive Christianity (TCPC):
“To discriminate against some members of our congregation is to discriminate against us all. We choose to stand together. Since some of our members are homosexual, so are we all in the face of discrimination. Since some of our members are Jewish, so are we all in the face of discrimination. Since some of our members are children, so are we all in the face of discrimination. We are mothers, fathers, single, married, gay, straight, old, young, African-American, handicapped; we are many faces of humanity. As a congregation, however, we are one.”
As progressive Christians we are one. We will stand along side any of our sisters and brothers who have a legitimate appeal for justice in the church or in society at large.
And another glimpse: Rev. Dan Webster, an Episcopal priest and the Communications Officer for the Diocese of Utah, wrote from London yesterday:
One reporter, and I can’t recall who, asked about the intransigence of the conservatives in all this. “No one knows the mind of God,” I replied, “not one of us, not conservative, not liberal, not anyone of us. We only get glimpses. And that’s the tragedy here. If one or the other gets up and leaves the table then we are not able to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us through one another. We are not able to, together, work to know better the mind of God.”
Too big to be sound bites, yet barely a glimpse of faith that runs much deeper.
I think a simple faith
Isn’t very simple at all