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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
Responding to the ++ABC
I am currently in England, working on RIchard Hooker and just soaking in the riches that London (at the moment) has to offer. Last week I went to Lambeth for the exhibition of their library's treasures. Today I wandered about the exhibition of the treasures of the British National Library. The tiny Lambeth exhibit had some lovely jewels in it, including the order for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots signed by Elizabeth herself. But it was the National Library's exhibit that pondered these reflections.
There was a large section devoted to religious texts. Two codexs of the New Testament, plus other manuscript fragments were there. But those delights were surrounded by ancient manuscripts of the world's major religions: Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism of various flavors, Islam, Taoism, Jainism, Sikhism as well as Christianity. It was marvelous to stand in one room and see the manuscript history of humanity's hunger to be in relation to the divine and to note the common threads that united them as well as some that divided.
Then I walked in the room with the Magna Carta. There has been a big discussion of late in Britain over whether or not it actually has a constitution at all. Indeed the new sitting parliament made up of a Conservative-LibDem coalition is noting that it has the power to change nearly anything in the way England is run just by voting for it. In fact there is no Constitution as we know it, but an evolving body of law and rights descending from the Magna Carta. According to the exhibit only three of the provisions of the original are still in effect, all the others have been eclipsed as the body of law has evolved.
As you left the exhibit the wall panel showed some of that evolution, but the curators continued it beyond England to include the US Constitution and Bill of Rights and then the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In all it was a powerful witness to the evolution of a body of law that moved from protecting the rights of Barons and Lords to protecting the rights of the marginalized and the weak.
Hold those two in tension for a moment. The manuscripts of the world's religions and the evolution of Human Rights theory and practice. They and the tension among them, represent the finest most shining light of the history of our civilization. They are not uniform, but pluriform and any possibility for peace in the world radiates from savoring the beauty and integrity of each of these expressions.
That savoring is what used to be known as latitudinarian or broad church but which has been shorthanded by ++Rowan as liberal. I reject that characterization. Anglicanism at its best embraces the latitudes and longitudes of humanity. We do not have to surrender our convictions about Jesus, nor do we need to pander to the drumbeats of narrowist partisans. You can hear the drums beating even as I write and you read this, the drums of the narrowists who believe their orthodoxy must prevail in the world be it Christian, Islam, Buddhist or any of the others. The narrowists are a deadly threat to the quintessence of humanity expressed in those documents and in the evolution of Human Rights. And that is why ++Rowan is disastrously wrong in what he is doing.
Just as no gay person anywhere believes that the narrowists mean what is said in the pastoral sections of Lambeth I:10 or in the anathema of Dromantine, none of our brothers or sisters of any other faith believe that narrowists respect the integrity, beauty or truth of what they believe. Daily they see the proof in the murderous actions of one narrowist religious group against another. There is no love for others there, just contempt and condemnation of what they profess. The proposal of the Anglican Primate of Nigeria to pull Nigeria from the UN is itself a gesture towards negating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, just as his theology treats anything different as the work of the devil.
As Broad Church, Latitudinarian Anglicans we need to be more visible and vocal in embracing the treasures of humanity that seek peace, understanding, and good will among people. Likewise we need to support civil structures that protect the marginalized and the minorities from being trampled by narrowists. The ongoing attack on glbt communities is just the wedge for a more sustained attack on human religious, artistic and intellectual diversity.
The ++ABC has shackled himself to a narrowist interpretive scheme for reading scripture for the cause of some form of unity in the Communion. But narrowist decisions never lead to unity, because narrowist decisions dismiss that which is not of like mind. In seeking to narrow the voices that represent the Communion in talks with other Christian kin he merely perpetuates and enables narrowness of more sorts. It is sad, really, he should drop by the library.
Michael Russell, Rector
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