'The Centre Cannot Hold'?

'The Centre Cannot Hold'?

by Lee Tuck-Leong tuckleong-lee@stsams.org

Grace and Peace to my readers.

I am getting quite terrified with the path that our communion seems to be taking, and it seems to me that we are somewhat delighting in an apocalyptic situation imaged by Yeats when he wrote, 'things fall apart, the centre cannot hold'.

While I appreciate the document 'To Mend the Net' in its attempt to salvage the situation and bring about a cessation of the splintering and fracturing of our communion, I dread its premise to achieve this by authority and coercion. So far as we can define an in-group, there is a necessity to define who is out. While this holds much promise in securing our collective identity, history has taught us that so far it can only remain an ideal, and ideals has more often remained good ideas.

I am not suggesting that God does not, or cannot work through ecclesiastical policies. No. What I am suggesting, however, is a shift in perspective, a reorientation of our paradigm. For solely trusting in a structure to solve our problems, we are essentially expending our energies in a transient illusion, which birth much more difficulties than we originally have conceived.

Church histories have much to teach us. We are products of mutual anathemas and while we live often in pretense that they do not exist, attempts to remove our historical barriers are strangely difficult, however much convinced that they should not have been in the first place. One only need to look at the situation between Moscow and Constantinople, Rome and Greece, Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy, and not to forget the various descendants of the Protestant Reformation. We need to consider seriously that we too, in our immense capacity of freedom, craft our the future for our communion. And making an idol of our structures might only fix us in a situation much harder to undo.

I am asking us look seriously on ourselves, admitting that trusting in our own capabilities is probably just as efficient as trusting in the proverbial strength of horses. Rather than realizing in our own strengths a solution to our problems, we need to look to God, who suffuses and is the origin and being of our commonality.

By our common humanity and Baptism, whether we be Nigerians, Americans, Canadians, or Malaysians, we are individually icons of God and collectively the Body of Christ. Dare we say that we would relegate one part as 'observers when we are all called to be participants in the creating of God's reign? Must we forget the Pauline injunction that a part must not say to another 'we have no need of you?'

We must value each other first as children of God before anything else.

Of course we will then have to deal with our differences. Again historically we are shown to prefer the complexities of an unreal and dishonest unity to the simplicity of diversity. Are we called to be the bearers of our own agendas, or are we called towards the cardinal virtues of love, faith and hope? The Paradox of eschatology will remain with us. We are firstly looking through glasses darkly and that is just as true as we are transformed from glory to glory and at the same time sharing in the fullness of grace and truth in Jesus. Our certainty is not in knowing truths, but that we are rooted in Jesus, the Eternal Word. It is from sharing of that wellspring that we encounter life changing realities and the absolute Real. Hence the importance in a divine fellowship that must prevent the disenfranchising of another community. Even if we are convinced that another is in error, our response may be in rebuke, and certainly not in alienation. The final convictor of hearts can only be the Spirit of God and not in the terror of consequences. Our direction is still to love one another, have faith in a God that changes opinions and hope for truth to emerge by the mutual communion in our Common God.

This then is no longer a conservative or a liberal issue. The lack of charity is a liberal thing, just as much as it is conservative. The solution is really for all to accept the present situation, and instead of being reactionary, orientate ourselves to gospel principles and a commitment towards a love that dares to be patient, rather than trying to obtain a short-term solution. Enforced authority can only encourage a culture of distrust and dominance.

Our own cultures have much conditioned us to look for easy solutions. Too often we have been taught that to achieve results, we need to be assertive and influential. The radical teaching of Jesus still challenges us however much it singes our sense of logic.

'Blessed are the peacemakers. The meek shall inherit the earth.'

With love for the Communion,
Lee Tuck-Leong
parishioner of Saint Andrew's Cathedral,
Diocese of Singapore


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