Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book .  Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:

Do justice

A series of essays in the Episcopal Church


The courage and the vision to be the GC of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

The courage and the vision to be the GC of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

By The Rev. Roger Ard
Rector of St. Peter's in Rome, Georgia

Trinity Sunday 06SPet

Trinity Sunday 2006
SPet, 6-11-06

© 2006 by Roger H. Ard

 

Today’s readings entice me to contemplate God:

          God so grand and so beyond our knowing

                    that the metaphorical hem of his garment

                             fills up entirely the very holiest place we can know.

 

Yet this God has in some way come among us, walks with us,

          and having created this world, loves this world so much

                    that God keeps on saving it.

 

Creator God, lofty, high, beyond us.

Yet close to us in spirit.

 

And mysteriously,

          God has adopted us as God’s own –

                    not slaves to be lorded over

                    but children to share the inheritance.

 

I experience God joyfully in the Episcopal Church, USA.

Despite our many bureaucratic follies and our unique pretensions,

          my life is being enriched and my soul is being fed

                    by life in this Episcopal Church.

 

Today deputies, bishops, volunteers, observers –

          and some fierce opponents –

                    will be leaving their homes and parishes and diocese,

                             heading to Columbus, Ohio for General Convention.

 

This Church that enriches my life and feeds my soul

          is under full attack

                    from the small minority religious right within the church,

                    the organized and well funded religious right

                             in American political life,

                    and the religious right embodied in the

                             fundamentalist leaning churches

                                       among the Anglican Communion –

                    some of whose leaders are easily co-opted and used

                             by religiously fundamentalist,

                             politically reactionary Americans

                                       with access to lots of political action money.

 

In Nigeria it is newly a crime,

           punishable by five years in prison,

              even to say supportive words

                       about gay and lesbian people.

Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola strongly supported this

       and helped it to become the law of his land.

              There are rumors that he actually helped to write it.

 

This is the very man

       hailed by the reactionary wing of the Episcopal Church

              as the savior of Anglicanism.

This is the man the Archbishop of Canterbury

              seems reluctant to displease.

This is the man who, in Time magazine,

           Baptist megachurch pastor Rick Warren,

              himself no friend at all of progressive Christianity,

                       hails as the example for all the Christian world.        

 

In the Episcopal Church it has been very difficult

         to critique the theological assertions of African church leaders

                without being labeled racist or colonialist.

We progressive Christians are sometimes paralyzed

         by our own good manners.  

 

The fact is that many leaders of the African churches

     are not very broadly nor very deeply educated,

     often trained in seminary schools that are more like Bible Colleges   

          than like graduate level theology schools in America or Europe.

                     Rarely are they exposed to historical/critical studies

                             of the writing and editing of scriptural texts;

                     to the theory of evolution

                     to psychoanalysis,

                     to the ethical dilemmas of

                             stem cell research and genetic studies –

 

in short, they are fervent in the certainties they claim

        for their own literal readings of scripture

                but are scarcely conversant

                with science or philosophy since the Enlightenment.

 

Some do not think that such education is important,

          being symptomatic of what they see

                     as the corruption of Western culture –

                             merely an artifact of human reason

                                       which they say must be subjected

                                        to the teachings of the Bible

                                                as they read the Bible.

 

These are generally contemptuous of Western thought and culture

          and contemptuous of American life in particular.  

 

These people and their U.S. allies

     must not be allowed to assume power over the rest of us.

Their movement is hellfire fundamentalism

          dressed in costly vestments.

 

I hope General Convention will have the courage and the vision

to be the GC of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

 

The present Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams,

          like George Carey, the Archbishop before him,

          appears more interested in evangelicals and fundamentalists

                    than in progressive Christians.

 

Many of the bishops and bureaucrats of our Episcopal Church

seem more concerned about the feelings of Africa and Canterbury

          than they are about the integrity and identify

                    of the Episcopal Church which, though small,

                             is a beacon in this country

                                       of thinking Christianity.

 

I deplore the fearfulness I sense in some of our leaders

          as much as I deplore the theology

of those who would take us back

          to the pre-Enlightenment days

          of confessions of faith and tribunals for heresy.

 

For St. Paul has written,

 

… you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.

 

I hope the General Convention

          will clearly reveal us as children of the loving God

                    and not slaves to some foreign or home grown

                             ecclesiastical authoritarianism,

                    not slaves to some foreign or home grown

                             biblical fundamentalism.

 

The God portrayed in today’s scripture readings

          is the God I have known through this Church.

I believe the Episcopal Church is a gift of God to many of us,

          and that we scarcely have begun to tap

                    the richness of what we can offer others

who are weighed down by repressive religion.

                            

I grew up among people who said God loves the world.

          In fact, they hated many of the details of their life in the world

                    and they really believed that God hates the world, too.

 

I read the same words and I hear the same voices

          in the publications of the American Anglican Council

                    and in the bitter tirades of some of the Primates.

 

In my early childhood, in our evangelical church,

          I learned much about Jesus and about God‘s love.

But it was an evangelical church I grew up in

          and it believed everyone, sometime late in childhood,

          becomes responsible for sin at an age of accountability,

          falls in danger of hell, and must be saved through submission.

 

I would wonder:

Where went the loving God they first introduced me to?

          Did God abandon us in the vague years of middle childhood?

          Why did the angry God who first loved us,

                    rain such wrath on adolescents at adulthood’s brink?

 

My loving childhood experience of God in church

was eclipsed by more revealing condemning tirades against sinners.

I heard fierce revival sermons

          so evocative of hellfire and so filled with God’s harsh demands

                    that either the God they described

                    or the devil they described

                             could keep me fearfully awake all night long.

 

As an undergraduate at Presbyterian College

          I was first exposed to the writings of William James.

He was one of the founders of a modern psychology

          and his distinction between

once-born Christians and twice-born Christians

          was an illumination for me.

 

I had long since been manipulated into an emotional experience

          of what people said was salvation and second birth –

                    and frankly, the experience meant something to me,

                             and it still does –

                    but I recognized, as I read William James,

                    that actually I had been a Christian since I was born –

                             always loved by God, always God’s child.

 

That same year

          there was a big evangelistic crusade.

                    Clergy in the town were invited to a preparatory meeting.

I was not there – I was not clergy –

          but I heard about the Episcopal priest.

                    He stood up angrily in the evangelical meeting

                             at the point the leader invited people to stand up

                                       when he named the day of the week

                                                when God saved them.

 

Alan said, Good Friday and stalked out of the meeting in disgust.

 

No original insight in what he said,

but it was the first time in my life I had heard it, and I felt its truth:

          here was a church for once-born Christians,

          where no child would languish

                    outside the God‘s loving embrace –

                    all growing in knowledge of God’s love and grace,

                             always children of God.

                             Responding to that love with service and devotion.

                             Not living in fear, not defined by fear.

 

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.

 

I did not become an Episcopalian just yet.

          By then I had awakened to the cry for justice

                    in the Civil Rights movement.

          By then I had awakened to see the tissue of deception

                    that underlay the tragedy of the Vietnam War.

I was becoming a Christian social activist.

 

I found attractive the social creed of the United Methodist Church

          and the charisma of the local Methodist Clergy.

                    I joined the Methodist Church and in time,

                             I went to seminary.

 

But love for liturgy

       and the consistently broad-minded theological questioning

              I saw among the Episcopalians

                       made me want to be one.

 

I love the liturgy still - but I could live without its pleasures if I had to.

       I gradually have discovered spiritual energies

                 in solitary prayer and contemplative rhythms.

 

But what I cannot live without in my spiritual life

     is intellectual freedom,

     spiritual autonomy,

     and a zeal for theological questioning.

 

I do not want any part of a church that scares children

     that teaches children to hate other religions

     that teaches children that God loves Christians

          but condemns all others to a fiery hell.

 

All this leads to this invitation:

 

Go online.

Please investigate and think for yourselves.

     Read carefully and fully

           the documents of the American Anglican Council.

     You will find that sexuality has been used as a front,

           as an intentionally divisive wedge issue.

 

You will find statements

     against open communion;

     you will find statements friendly to theologies

          that reject the ordination of women;

     you will find anti-feminism;

     you will find statements against

               every aspect of progressive Christianity,

                that emerged from the nineteenth century onwards.

 

You will find instructions and tactics

         for how to aggravate the professional life

                of a progressive rector.

 

You will find statements that claim the American Prayerbook of 1979

          revises the faith and twists it into a form

                repugnant to those who hold the true faith.

 

You will find Christians

     who desire a theological litmus test

           for priests and bishops to serve

                and who want the laity to conform

                        to a narrow theological perspective.

 

You will find these things called orthodoxy

          and you will read about a necessary embracing of

          the literal truth of the Bible

                including a literal Adam and Eve and inherited sin,

         you will be told there is one faith once delivered to the apostles

                absolute in its truth and unchanging forever.

         You will be told that to reject or to question their principles

                is to fall outside the realm of grace.

 

The editors of Anglicans Online note that

     After the Council of Trent (which ended in 1563),

         called by Rome to respond to Luther’s Reformation,

          the church where the council met was inscribed with the words:

           here the Holy Spirit spoke for the last time.

 

The Episcopal Church is under full attack by people

         who think just like that.

                They will take us back to 325 and beyond if they can.

                They would saddle us with a mini-Pope

                        out of Canterbury or out of Africa.

                The one in Canterbury and the one in Nigeria

                        both seem willing to serve such a role.

 

Already Nigeria speaks of the hope of a new primacy

     headquartered in or around Alexandria, Egypt.

 

The American Anglican Council

     and their associated organizations, dioceses, and parishes,

speak of their reactionary Christianity,

their evangelical, fundamentalist, theologically regressive Christianity,

          as renewal of the Church.

 

It is no such thing.

 

The Episcopal Church is living its renewal every day.

     We are not English.

     We are not African.

     We are not evangelical

           in the contemporary American political sense.

     We are not fundamentalist in any sense.

We do have room, if they wish,

                for individuals who are any or all of these things.

 

But I pray we continue faithfully as a progressive Church

I pray we reject any and all voices that claim to define life’s vitalities

           in the name of an authoritarian God

           and an authoritarian and absolutist Church.

 

 

I pray we continue to respect and to embrace the insights

     of research and human intellect,

          unthreatened by science

          unbowed by intimidation,

          undaunted by history,

          unafraid of the future.

 

I we pray we continue our church life

     with no pope, no curia, no magisterium

          under whatever new name,

                pretending to be Anglican,

                while destroying the Enlightened spirit of Episcopalianism.

 

I pray we continue

     in the conviction

         that each person, in the light of reason,

         with the guidance of the Spirit of God,

         in the love of Christ Jesus,

                may live one’s faith alongside others

                        in a fellowship that brooks no authority

                             beyond the spirit of God,

                            the sincere seeker,

                            and a salvation history witnessed in scripture

                             but not confined to scripture.

 

The reactionaries detest people like me as revisionists.

     I embrace and claim the label as proudly as my own name.

 

They call themselves reasserters.

The reasserters,

       as they like to call themselves,

           the absolutists,

              have     won some battles

              and no doubt they will win some more battles –

 

                       there are psychological types of human beings

                          that want to be ruled,

                            want to surrender thought, will, choice

 

in hopes that such surrender will bring certainty, utopia, heaven.

 

But never will they triumph finally.

      

There always will be some among us

         who never once

                will kiss the ring of the Inquisitor.


You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to lcrew@newark.rutgers.edu Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.

------------------------------------

Please sign my guestbook and view it.


My site has been accessed times since February 14, 1996.

Statistics courtesy of WebCounter.