Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Floods and controversy

Last night I got word from some parishioners that our little corner of heaven here in Bucks County had received a flood warning. We got smacked last night with the sort of rain that is not supposed to happen but once in a long while. After a week of rain, having a deluge on top of that literally added insult to injury. I sent off some emails to parishioners that came to mind right away who had been affected by the floods last year in April. The Stockton Bridge looks much now like it did a year ago. Scale and reference are hard to gauge in the photo above, but the sight today of the rising, roiling water, the tumbling debris and the sheer magnitude of the sound of the water rushing by is more than enough to create a sense of awe in even the most jaded observer. Crossing the river, and being in Stockton, NJ to help some parishioners move things from the ground floor of their home to the second...And helping them to find their escaped cat, cart off their garbage and get their appliances out of the house and up the hill to a pole barn of a neighbor's for storage was intense.

L described it to a couple of people in the parish office as something "like the apocalypse." The whole neighborhood was packing to get out. Furniture and appliances, personal items and precious things were being loaded into trailers. People were out in the streets in the middle of the day, atypically just milling around. Some were walking down to the river to see the angry water. Some were just wandering. Some were moving with purpose. All were wearing faces creased with the solemnity of the experience of an impending flood.

Not an easy time to live near the water.

Just before I got that email last night about the impending flood, I was working through +++Rowan Williams' response to General Convention's actions around reaction to the Windsor Report. Rowan Cantaur (old practice among Bishops to take the name of your see as your surname), had something to say to the primates of the Church and their respective provinces.Thing is, I think he did all right. His job as primate of the Anglican Communion is to be, if you will, first among equals. He is not the man/woman who sits at the head of the table and says "what's what." His task as the ABC is to be a teacher, a preacher and one who attempts to draw others into relationship around the ideal that a communion might exist across cultural, theological and emotional points of view. The message to the primates, coupled with GenCon's expressions around the Windsor Report and in light of where the Anglican Church of Canada might go next makes more sense than not, really. You will have to scroll down for the full text of his musings.

The challenge in dealing with the issues around Anglicanism and its global ideal is that no one has a corner on the market of defining the Church. Many are willing to draw lines in the sand and espouse a particular stance toward "what is truth." This resolve may lie in the acceptance or rejection of women, or people of diverse sexuality or sexual identity, having full inclusion in the roles of the ordained. Some express anxiety over the issues pushing in from the world with regard to class, post-colonial politics and multi-culturalism and the "relevance" of the Church in its ability to act as a critique to the injustices that humanity perpetuates upon itself.

What does that mean? That means that the bishops and standing committees of the diocese of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, South Carolina and San Joaquin presume to reserve the right to withdraw from fellowship with the wider Episcopal Church because they perceive the wider Body as having departed from faithful teaching in Christ. Because the Church embraces the election of a woman as Presiding Bishop, because the Church chooses to embrace the full inclusion of the LGBTQ sector of human society, because of issues with the expressed authority of the current majoral leadership...They choose to seek "alternative primatial oversight."

What does it mean to be a Church, if we reserve at all times the right to take our toys and go? I admit that I enjoy for the moment of "being in the majority" of those seeking to create an inclusive Church. I celebrate that my denomination is engaged in seeking to boldly and radically express Christ's love for the world by throwing open the doors of the local parish in order to welcome all who come seeking Jesus. That means that my job is much harder than if I chose to limit and restrict the welcome to align more closely with canon and current convention. It means that I need to lead myself, the vestry and the wider parish into deeper theological reflection on our common actions.

Not an easy engagement.

It means that I pray for ++Akinola and his ministry, as well as +Iker of Fort Worth and +Jefferts Schori, +Croneberger and the rest...Everyone on each side of the proverbial aisle. It means that my parish will be a place of inclusion, both now and later. My experience of Christ calls me to account. I am called on to welcome all and to forge community out of the people God gives me to work with, as opposed to creating litmus tests of grace mediated by literal readings of scripture, the thirty nine articles or the social conventions of a particular culture.

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