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Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book . Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:
A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
A Meditation on the Eve of Lambeth
Lawrence L. Graham, B.A., M.A.
Emmanuel Church in Athens, Georgia (USA) used to be known as "the Country Club on its Knees." It was as white as a lily, with not a single black, brown or yellow face to be seen anywhere. It was the place for the really important people to be seen on Sunday. And, of course, they were all white.
One Sunday morning, when the procession entered the church, there were two priests instead of the usual one. And the visiting priest was as black as black can be. It was something of a shock for a white Southern congregation in the 1970s.
The leading matriarch of the parish always sat in the front pew on the Gospel side of the church. The visiting priest was to administer communion on the Epistle side. When the matriarch rose to go to communion, she stepped to the center of the aisle, bowed, and crossed to the Epistle side.
That day, by crossing over to the other side, Emmanuel's circle of inclusion was made wider. For the matriarch, it was a simple act. But unlike the priest and the Pharisee of Jesus' Good Samaritan story, she crossed over to include, not to exclude.
It would have been easy for her to receive communion on the Gospel side as she did every Sunday. Instead she received communion from a black African. And by so doing she turned her face against the Southern culture of the time.
That day she lived out the Gospel.
In Revelation 22:17, John says:
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.In this invitation neither the Holy Spirit nor the Bride of Christ place conditions on who may come. Instead what is offered is a free gift. There are no preconditions.
John the Seer worked in the salt mines and almost certainly did not belong to the equivalent of the country club of his day. Jesus' cousin John the Baptist wasn't country club material, either. And, for that matter, neither was Jesus. They were all odd. They didn't conform to cultural norms or follow the rules of polite society. They stood outside those circles, not within them.
Now, on the eve of the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Communion faces the matriarch's choice. Will it stand within the circle of cultural norms and polite behavior? Or outside with Jesus, to draw the circle wider?
Will the bishops just drink tea with the Queen, or will they offer the whole world the water of life? Let us pray that like the matriarch, they will live out the Gospel.
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