Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What People Are Saying About Our Structural Reform

Dear All,

As many of you know the committee I served on regarding structure (#6) proposed  CO95 which will create a task force (reporting back to the next General Convention for Action).  This resolution passed in the House of Deputies unanimously (800+ people voting) and in the House of Bishop's unanimously (200+ voting).  Below is an article highlighting the young adult leadership response; they have been very present, very vocal, and very proactive.  I was grateful that they and many others filled the rooms during the structure meetings.


The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle


Beginning to Turn Dreams into Reality

Center Aisle convened a roundtable discussion Tuesday night as a follow-up to the work begun last week by the Acts 8 Moment. Seventeen people gathered to talk about what they had heard at General Convention; ideas for changing and reinvigorating the Church; and where they thought the discussion they have been having might lead.

"I would never have guessed, coming into this General Convention, that there would be such a widespread desire to rethink our Church," said the Rev. Scott Gunn, one of the three originators of the Acts 8 Moment. "The fact that C095 (the resolution on creating a Task Force to restructure the Church) passed unanimously – when does that ever happen? … Honestly, it was astounding."

The Very Rev. Tom Ferguson, dean of Bexley Hall and another co-founder of the Acts 8 Moment, agreed.

"When I was coming to this General Convention," he said, "I confess to having some anxiety. On the one hand, I am pleased, thrilled, astounded. But I'm also realizing there's still a lot left to do" concerning changing the Church. "The proof will be in the implementation."

The Rev. Susan Snook, the third co-founder of the movement, warned that "change hasn't happened yet.  It is a hopeful moment. We set up the process for change. But we will see whether the system can sustain the change that we all hope will happen and what happens at the next convention. Right now, it was such a high today in the House of Deputies."

Those gathered at the roundtable agreed that this convention was filled with energy, and talked about what to do with that energy.

"It's like, 'Yeah, let's do it!'" said the Rev. Martin Yabroff, with the Episcopal Evangelism Network. "There is much less partisanship than I expected to find … there is fertile ground here. I'm not sure what the Lord will plant in it."

The Rev. Jim Papile, a deputy from Virginia, wondered how those interested in changing and reforming the Church would help the leadership of the Church "understand that this is something that will not threaten them but empower them too."

There also was discussion about how those who are what the Rev. Stephanie Spellers calls "margin riders" will deal with the "sea change" of having "bishops approaching them saying, 'Tell me what you people are doing.'"

"The Church that did not know what to do with these prophetic voices, rather than shutting them out, is now listening," said Spellers, a priest at the Crossing in Boston and co-chair of the Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism. "And we're saying, 'All right, you really want this? Here we come!'"

The Rev. Terri Bays, from Northern Indiana, who is also at convention with the Episcopal Evangelism Network, agreed with Spellers. "It hit me," she said. "What I have been witnessing – that there's this willingness to roll up our sleeves, and I think, 'Oh, we're not on the margins anymore,' and we have to make it work. We've got to build this new thing.

"We love this Church," she said, "and we're going to do what we need to do; do what it takes to make it work. I think there's a willingness to listen, to say, 'Oh, wait a minute …' It's really a beautiful thing."

Papile told a cautionary tale of having been "around in the late '60s and '70s … [after a while] we flinched. Somewhere along the line, we thought [everything] was done, or we got distracted or something. The people making change got to a certain point in the institutional Church" and all forward progress stopped.

"How do you maintain the flexibility and that optimism?" Papile asked.

Gunn said that before the Acts 8 Moment held its first open meeting at convention last week, "I had a number of conversations with people asking, 'What's the agenda? What's the plan?' The plan is to get together and pray and see what happens."

He said that what happens next is "maybe occasionally just gathering with complete openness and trusting that something will happen."

Snook said that at that first gathering last week she experienced "a real deep longing for a different kind of church. I experienced a deep inner longing for something new to come. … It seems to be the right time for that to happen. Apparently, the same thing is happening in other mainline churches. It's like the Holy Spirit is doing something."

Spellers pointed out that the conversations begun at this General Convention mirror what is happening in many emergent communities. "Over there, it just popped," she said. "There were people who had some skin in the game and were in a position to make a shift, and [there were] those margins riders. Those groups have merged and clearly something is emerging. What do you do? You link and watch it grow even further and the Holy Spirit does what she does. … Who knows what else is out there? It's exponential what the Holy Spirit is doing right now. It goes way beyond" convention.

Discussing what to do next, Joey Rick, canon for congregational vitality in the Diocese of Washington, wondered: "In all of these conversations, has anybody talked about what they are willing to give up? We have to say goodbye to something …"

The Rev. Canon Paul Lebens-Englund, who serves on the Structure Committee, said that convention would be faced with that very question when B027 – "a gift from Bishop Doyle of Texas" – comes to the floor. "Essentially it suggests that we cut all of the standing commissions except two, Canons and Constitution, and Structure," Lebens-Englund said. "We are well aware as a committee that this is a litmus test. It is intentionally provocative. … These are things we are suggesting are not helpful anymore. … There are a lot of sacred cows."

The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel of Olympia warned of how easy it is to "be drawn back into the institution." Groups, he said, "become institutional after a while."

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton of Maryland agreed. He spoke of growing up in Washington, D.C., as a Baptist, where "everything was kingdom of God. It was Jesus. But then we would get out of church and be on the streets. And so what I'm about to say comes from living in the Kingdom but also living in the streets. Sometimes, to get things done, it's the rule of the streets. … Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do. What I wonder about is that sometimes I think the Holy Spirit, in order to make it so that we are not too elated … forces us into the streets and to things as they are."

Structures, he said, are necessary. "Unfortunately or fortunately, we only live in structures. We only live in systems. But no structure is going to bring in the Kingdom. We can think of new structures, and I hope we do, and it may be that some new things will emerge. But guess what's going to happen? They are not going to work forever."

What excites him, Sutton said, is that there are "newer voices in the Church saying, 'You know, we want to do a mission enterprise zone kind of thing,' and then us old fogies go, 'You know, give them a million dollars and then we can get some things done.' That's what excites me. In the old structures, I see sprouts of green. We don't have to tear the whole system down. We grow what we can in the cracks of that cement and see what happens."

Bays agreed. "Part of what cracks that cement so those sprouts can grow," she said, "is the insistent return to prayer. Again and again and again. That it's only God in whichever person God shows up in that's going to make that space so the sprouts can grow. That's going to take hard-packed ground and beat it up. Some things are going to have to go away. Some things are going to be broken. And some things are going to grow strong and we're going to have to graft on to it. We have to have willingness and wisdom to figure out which we're being call to do in which place."

The Rev. Otis Gaddis III, with the Episcopal Evangelism Network, wanted to ask, "What do we think the Church actually needs to move forward? What do we need to do to accomplish it? … There's probably some concrete things we want to see, and to say those things and what we can do to make them happen. What are the resources in this room? How can we use the energy in this room?"

The Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde of Washington was clear that "the Episcopal Church is never short of vision and visionaries and really great moments. But," she said, "what we lack are moments that build on each other into something that lasts. This feels to me like my life's work. I don't want to invest in [things] that don't bear fruit somewhere down the line. I want to put my oar in the water with things that build upon each other.

"Yes," she said, "it is messy and imperfect, but in some ways, it is coherent and strategic. … If the Acts 8 Moment is so powerful, how do we keep those things going? We talk and pray together."

Gunn agreed. "We create these moments, ideas, and people," he said. "One of the things that was great about" the Acts 8 Moment meeting last week "was where people described in one sentence their dream. Taken together, this is a vision of the Promised Land – if we were all those things that all those people said.

"Acts 8 showed us the Promised Land; how do we get there?" he asked. "The first thing we have to do is to let things go. … What if we say we are willing to give up everything except Jesus? It can all go. There's the Promised Land, and we're willing to go there. I know this is dreamy metaphorical language. But with that direction we can start to make concrete plans."

The Rev. Canon Preston B. Hannibal, canon for academic and transition ministries in the Diocese of Washington, said that "one of the things that we don't do … [because] we spend so much time on parishes that are hurting … we don't lift up parishes that are doing really good stuff in our dioceses." He spoke of parishes that are lay-led, "but we don't lift those parishes up enough as models for other parishes, for what other churches can do."

Ferguson said that "one of the more specific dreams was that Acts 8 might be that group that continues to call the Church to accountability for what it's trying to do. One thing we learned from Exodus is that the fleshpots of Egypt start to look really good after a while. … There is still a whole lot of follow-up and implementation" that needs to take place.

Gaddis concentrated on the need for creating a plan for action, and spoke of the group with which he has been working that created a design "which is flexible and open." It was a group of people, he said, "who have an interest in actually getting something done."

"It was our sense that what is needed is to gather the missional people in our Church," he said. "The first thing that needs to happen is really gathering and networking organizations … that can create the resources we want. And then there are the people. We are a church filled with community organizers. With evangelists. [we believe] that if they were all directed in the same course of action, there would be no way to stop the missional direction of this church."

Snook agreed. "What I think you're talking about is church planters and new missional communities. How do we turn people in our church from chaplains into missionaries so that we're all missionaries, not focused on just taking care of each other? I would like to see somehow this become a movement that helps reawaken the spirituality of everyone in the Church."

Lebens-Englund added, "I want to reinforce again what Susan is talking about. The reality is that we need to be grounded deeply in the work of the Spirit … if we can be a non-anxious crowd that is going to really trust that there's room [in the Church], that's powerful. There's this notion of this new apostolic age that everyone is talking about. It means that you travel light, because your essentials are really basic. … To be that in the midst of all this would make a difference."

Gaddis concluded that "whatever we decide to do will require organization .. the organization of the people of the Church. There has to be a way for us to basically have the scaffolding; that means structure among people, and among organizations not tied to the official structure of the Church."

–Lauren R. Stanley

• • •

The Acts 8 Moment will hold another gathering Wednesday night in the Indiana Rooms A and B at the Downtown Marriott. The meeting will be held at 8 p.m., unless there is a late legislative session. If there is an additional legislative session, the meeting will begin at 9:30 p.m.



Anglican Communion Post On Covenant

I wanted to share with you this post today that talks well about the action taken yesterday regarding the Anglican Communion.  I think this gives the reader a clear sense not only of the intentions of General Convention but also how the Communion is reporting our decisions. 


The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle


 

Posted On : July 11, 2012 11:41 AM 


ACNS: http://www.aco.org/acns/news.cfm/2012/7/11/ACNS5146

Bishops and deputies affirm Continuing Indaba, communion relationships

[Episcopal News Service – Indianapolis] The House of Bishops concurred with the deputiesJuly 10 to affirm their commitment to building relationships across the Anglican Communion, especially through the Continuing Indaba program, and to decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant.


After considering eight resolutions, the General Convention's committee on world mission recommended adoption of two resolutions on Anglican Communion relationships and theAnglican Covenant, a document that initially had been intended as a way to bind Anglicans globally across cultural and theological differences.


Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, chair of the World Mission Committee, told ENS following the vote that the resolutions are "a genuine pastoral response because we are not of one mind, and to push a decision at this time would cause hurt and alienation in our church on both sides and instead we chose to stay in the conversation."


Resolution B005 portrays the decision not to take a position on the covenant as "a pastoral response to The Episcopal Church."


The resolution acknowledges that, following extensive study and prayerful consideration of the Anglican Covenant, there remains "a wide variety of opinions and ecclesiological positions in The Episcopal Church."


It also calls for the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies to appoint a task force "to continue to monitor the ongoing developments with respect to the Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation." That task force would report its findings to the next convention.


In both houses, an amendment to remove the section that declines to adopt the covenant, as well as to set up a task force, was defeated.


The Rev. Mark Harris, deputy from Delaware and a World Mission Committee member, told the deputies that he came to convention wanting to say no to the covenant. "[But] this is not about our wants but what we need … We need a place where we can continue to listen to the wide divides across the Anglican Communion," he said. "Why must we provide an answer now…when we are in a massive effort to re-envision and restructure the church? We don't need more division."


Deputy Jack Tull of Florida, a member of the World Mission Committee, had submitted an earlier resolution (D006) that called on the church to decline to adopt the covenant "as I did not want to see us expend any more energy on this. But coming here has shown me and other committee members the proper approach to take. That insight is reflected in this resolution."


Council has been studying the covenant progress for the last six years, most recently through its D020 Task Force (called for in Resolution D020 from the 2009 meeting of convention). That task force recommended, and council agreed, in October 2011 to submit a resolution (A126) to this meeting of convention that would have convention state that the church is "unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form."


B005 expresses the convention's gratitude to "those who so faithfully worked at producing and responding to the proposed Anglican Covenant."


Resolution B005 initially was submitted by Douglas. The original language encouraged the church to embrace the preamble and first three sections of the four-section Anglican Covenant. This, Douglas told ENS prior to convention, would ensure that the church does not remove itself from the ongoing covenant process.


The document's fourth section, which outlines a disciplinary method for resolving disputes in the communion, has been the covenant's main sticking point.


Resolution D008, also proposed by world mission, has been revised from the original legislation proposed by the Rev. Tobias Haller, a deputy from New York. Neither Haller's nor the current version specifically mentions the covenant, but the original was modeled on legislation adopted by several Church of England dioceses that have opposed adopting the covenant.


The resolution calls on the church to "deepen its involvement with communion ministries and networks using where applicable the Continuing Indaba process: conversations across differences to strengthen relationships in God's mission" and encourage dioceses, congregations and individual Episcopalians to educate themselves about the Communion and "promote and support the Anglican Communion and its work."


Haller serves on the Continuing Indaba reference group alongside representatives from Africa and the United Kingdom. He said the program is "catching fire and inspiring people around the communion. It's now being explored as a way for parishes within dioceses to spend time with one another and to learn from one another. Continuing Indaba will be the lifeblood and breath of the Anglican Communion."


Deputy Josephine Hicks from North Carolina, a member of convention's World Mission Committee, endorsed the Continuing Indaba program, which is facilitating ways of enabling Anglicans to learn from one another and communicate across different contexts. "We heard on the committee a resounding support for maintaining relationships in the Anglican Communion," she said.


Hicks, who serves as the Episcopal Church's lay member on the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion's main policy-making body, said that it's important for the Episcopal Church to continue to be a part of the various councils of the Anglican Communion because that is "where relationships are forged, where our voice can be heard, and where we have the chance to dispel inaccurate perceptions."


Some deputies said that the Episcopal Church does not need pieces of paper, such as the Anglican Covenant, to be in relationship.


The resolution celebrates "the great blessing of the Anglican Communion in its diversity within community as autonomous churches in relationship bound together in our differences in service to God's mission."


It also states that the Episcopal Church will "hold fast and reaffirm our historic commitment to and constituent membership in the Anglican Communion" as expressed in the preamble of the church's constitution, and that it would "maintain and reinforce strong links across the communion" committing itself to continued participation in its councils.


Douglas told the bishops that the resolution "gives gratitude for diversity of churches, celebrates relationships across differences, reaffirms our membership in the Anglican Communion, promises ongoing participation in the councils of the communion, and also lifts up and supports the good work that our church and other churches have been doing in the Continuing Indaba and commits us to educating our own so that we can deeper support the Anglican Communion.


Communion-wide consideration

Throughout the Anglican Communion, seven provinces have approved or subscribed to the Anglican Covenant. They are Ireland, Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia, Southern Cone of America, and the West Indies.


Two provinces – the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia – have voted against adopting the covenant. The Episcopal Church in the Philippines bishops also have rejected the covenant.


In March, it became clear that the Church of England could not adopt the covenant in its current form when a majority of its dioceses voted the document down.


The Anglican Church of Southern Africa has adopted the document pending ratification at its next synod meeting later this year.


The Church in Wales last April gave the covenant "an amber light, rather than a green light." The church's governing body said it feared the recent rejection of the covenant by the Church of England jeopardized its future and clarifications about that were now needed before a decision could be made. It sent questions on the matter to the Anglican Consultative Council, the church's main policy-making body, which meets later this year.


Article from ENS – Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service. The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Texas Plan for Unity Supported by Former Secretary of State James Baker Supports Publicly

Texas' All-Are-Welcome Approach to Same-Gender Blessings

By Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III

The bishop of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Andrew C. Doyle, has embarked on what I believe is a promising approach to a serious problem causing great consternation inside the Episcopal Church. Specifically, Bishop Doyle hopes to deal with the question of blessing same-gender relationships in a way that will eliminate or diminish the schism within our Church over the issue. This divide has threatened not only our religious harmony, but our church membership and its financial well-being. And if nothing is done, we can expect the split to grow wider after General Convention.

Through Bishop's Doyle's leadership, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas will allow clergy in conversation with their parish to make their own decision about whether or not they want to bless same-gender relationships. (Same-gender marriage is prohibited by law in Texas.) A congregation could either vote to support the blessing of same-gender covenants or vote to prohibit them. Or, it could do nothing at all. Either way, the oversight of each parish by the bishop of Texas would be consistent with the vote in that parish. Liberal parishes could vote to bless same-gender relationships under procedures authorized by the bishop of Texas. Traditional parishes could amend their governing documents to provide that they would never permit such blessings and would be supported in such a decision by the bishop of Texas.

Bishop Doyle asked that I support his approach and I have done so wholeheartedly. I have watched as our Church has been torn apart by this issue and now faces the prospect of continuing disunity because of it. Bishop Doyle intends to establish an all-are-welcome approach that will allow parishes within the Diocese of Texas to make their own decision on this issue. This approach comports with a longstanding tradition inside our Church for some decisions to be made at the local level while others are at the level of General Convention.

Hardliners on both sides of the issue may find fault with this proposal. But to me, it seems the best way to establish a win-win situation in which there is not one set of winners and one set of losers. If our Church continues to remain split between two sides that take an either/or approach to this issue, we all will be the losers as our membership continues to splinter and lawsuits over church property continue to mount. Bishop Doyle's approach is an opportunity to take a middle way in a manner which respects and brings all voices to the table. If we cannot do that on this critical issue, we risk further division on other matters.

Hopefully, Bishop Doyle's proposal for the Diocese of Texas will work as intended, and will become a model for dioceses in other states where congregations are grappling with this issue. His approach is based on mutual respect and understanding, and it allows our Church to remain united during this trying time. I encourage members of our Church to read Bishop Doyle's Unity in Mission statement, which more fully explains the approach the Diocese of Texas will follow. It can be viewed at epicenter.org/unity.

We are told in Ephesians 4:5 that we are united by "one Lord, one faith and one baptism." If we adopt the thoughtful approach that Bishop Doyle has proposed, we can remain united, allowing us to dedicate ourselves fully to our mission of advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
IX Bishop of Texas
Sent while out of office.

Yesterday's Vote in the House of Bishops regarding Same Gender Blessings

As many of you know, yesterday the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church voted (with 41 bishops dissenting/111 in favor) to approve the rites and materials for the blessing of same gender covenants.

As I have explained this will be passed by the House of Deputies.  The Diocese of Texas has a plan for dealing with this. Our plan, rolled out in April, communicated to all Diocese of Texas clergy, and posted for the diocese in order to have access to the materials is available at: http://www.epicenter.org/unity

In our plan the progressives will be allowed generous pastoral provisions to respond to gay and lesbians while the traditionalists who oppose the blessing of same-gender blessings are protected by the legislation and by my desire to make room for all people of many views on this subject within our diocese.  In the Diocese of Texas we have a way to move forward with our continued work of proclaiming the uniqueness of Christ Jesus and participating in God's mission of salvation.

Our goal is to keep the church together for the sake of mission. In the past we have not had a plan that enabled us to stay together, so people on all sides have been frustrated, fearful, and suspicious of one another.  Traditionalists and progressives alike have left as our church because of a lack of direction.  The Texas plan offers a vision of unity for the sake of mission of God; it reminds us that our future resides in the arms of God and God's kingdom.

The Texas plan makes room for the consciences of all our people.  And, all people are encouraged to be involved in discussions with their leadership.  Read our plan, pray and think before acting, and let us work together to grow God's church.  You will find the plan here: http://www.epicenter.org/unity

We in Texas are taking the opportunity to say to the world that the greater mission of God's church is the essential unifying factor.  This is not to say our differing theology on sexuality is not important but rather to say that GOD'S MISSION IS ESSENTIAL for us all regardless of our view.  We proceed into our future of mission under the Lordship of Christ Jesus and his mission.  I believe that it is on the ground doing God's mission, building up the kingdom of God, that each person can find and discover our unity.

A great deal of listening by the committee allowed for several important pieces of language which supports both the desire for the church to remain together and support the Texas plan.

1) Ensuring that this liturgy did not kick off Book of Common Prayer revision
2) Limiting the use of this new liturgy to same gender couples
3) Leaving the use of the rite to the bishop's discretion
4) Authorizing local adaptation by the bishop
5) That clergy may not be forced to do this liturgy

These key pieces of the legislation support our plan and also support the careful attention to the theological diversity of this house and our church.

The discussion was less of a debate on the piece of legislation and more of a time in which the House of Bishops, though divided on this issue, listened to one another as we openly and prayerfully, and humbly offered our different opinions.

As of today, 16 other diocese have distributed, used, encouraged reading, are haing their clergy read, or are developing parallel plans to the Texas plan.  Several deans of seminaries have also spoken to me and have applauded Texas for our work together.  

Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
IX Bishop of Texas
Sent while out of office.

Well, We've Been Busy

Dear All,

My work on the Committee on Structure has kept me pretty busy. I apologize to my readers and thank you for the reminder to do a journal entry.

Yesterday afternoon I did do several video pieces that you can see on the Diocese of Texas web site. And, a reminder that you can get up to date information on what is happening through a variety of media by going to: http://www.epicenter.org/gc2012 The twitter feed is an excellent way to keep up.

A couple of items to report.

First is the wonderful work that Mary MacGregor did with the ECW Triennial meeting. She coached and guided them through a rethinking of their life and ministry. I, and I think we, can be very excited and proud to have leadership like Mary's affecting the ministry of the church. We have a strong presence here in Indianapolis at ECW, Altar Guild, and Daughters of the King.

In the House of Bishops: Yesterday we elected the House of Bishops representatives to the discernment committee for the Presiding Bishop.

In the House of Bishops: We sent over to the House of Deputies a resolution to leave dollars on the ground level of ministry by decreasing the percentage of giving to the Episcopal Church from 19 to 15. The resolution also allows for people a process to deal with the fact that not all diocese give their full asking.

Today we passed a resolution encouraging everyone to read the bible in a year. You can find a great program here: http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/bible-challenge-invitation/

I will write a separate blog entry on yesterday's action by the House of Bishops on Same Gender Blessings and another on the allegations regarding the 9 bishops.




Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
IX Bishop of Texas
Sent while out of office.

Guest Column: Presiding Bishop Sermon from Festival Eucharist


 

Office of Public Affairs

 

NOTE the following is presented in English and Spanish

 

General Convention July 8 Sermon:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

 

[July 8, 2012] The following sermon was presented today at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, meeting in Indianapolis IN through July 12.

 

 

UTO INGATHERING AND FESTIVAL EUCHARIST

Sunday, July 8

 

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

 

Did you hear Ezekiel?  Mortals!  Stand up and listen!  God is sending you to a rebellious house, full of impudent and stubborn folks.  Your job is to go tell them, "listen up – here's the deal, from the Big Man himself."  And if they don't listen, at least they will have met a prophet.

Garrison Keillor is famous for noting that nobody wants a prophet at a birthday party.  Our image of prophets is something like fire-breathing dragons or maybe Nunzilla, but a prophet is simply somebody sent to speak for God, to tell it like it really is.  Sometimes prophets speak words of comfort and strength, the kind of words the psalmist is asking for – mercy and relief.  And sometimes the prophet speaks words that are harder to hear, reminding us that we're supposed to love God with all we are and have and love our neighbors as ourselves.  The reminder usually comes because the audience hasn't been living up to that expectation.  Whatever Jesus said in the synagogue seems to have been that kind of challenging word. 

Jesus' friends and neighbors obviously don't expect to hear anything prophetic from the ordinary carpenter down the street or from the brother of their friends.  He has never stood up in their synagogue before and said anything particularly challenging – so who does he think he is?  Mark doesn't tell us what he reads or says.  Luke says that it's the part of Isaiah that says, "the Spirit has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, healing to the blind, justice to the oppressed, and to announce the year of the Lord's favor."  And his friends and neighbors are offended.

It is offensive – and confronting and challenging – to hear that even though you think you're getting along OK, you've missed the boat.  Yet until we can see the chasm between what is and what ought to be, we don't have any hope of changing.  Indeed it is the act of crossing that boundary between what is and what ought to be that is so characteristic of prophets.  When Jesus is called a prophet, it has to do with erasing the boundary between God and human flesh.  Prophetic words of comfort or challenge urge a kind of frontier work – getting across the fence between fear and possibility, reconciling division, transforming injustice, urging the lost onto the road home.

Sometimes those encouragers of boundary crossing come in very ordinary, even quiet, packages – and that may be what the people in Jesus' hometown were so annoyed about.  It's harder to ignore somebody you respect or know pretty well.

A prophetic invitation arrived in my inbox a couple of months ago.  A group of Christian leaders and politicians was asked to come to Washington, DC, to consider the state of public discourse in the United States.  The invitation made reference to one of our better known political figures, Senator Jack Danforth.[1]  A conversation about civility seemed a highly appropriate endeavor, but as the day grew closer, getting ready for this gathering seemed a lot more urgent, and I came very close to canceling.  But those who went heard a prophetic chorus of voices – Roman Catholic clergy and religious, Southern Baptist preachers, Senators and Representatives from both parties, Lutheran and Methodist bishops, evangelical pastors from the Assembly of God and Pentecostal traditions.  Each one lamented the loss of respect for political opponents and the inability to make common cause for the greater good.  We didn't read today's psalm, but it certainly fit the conversation: 

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy, we've had more than enough contempt.

Please!  No more ridicule from the arrogant,

or abuse from proud and conceited people!

          We started our gathering by talking about the hope of Americans and indeed people across the world for change, in the face of the contempt and arrogance they hear from Congress and other politicians.  We soon moved to talking about the abuse and ridicule we hear from our brothers and sisters in Christ.  That sort of confession brought hope, and urged us into other kinds of frontier crossing, beginning with finding a prayer partner.  Mine is the Rev. Franklyn Richardson, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Mt. Vernon, New York and Port St Lucie, Florida.  Other kinds of prophetic action and word are going to emerge from this process, including a statement and a number of positive actions to encourage more civil and effective discourse in politics and in our religious lives.  Words matter profoundly, and as Christians we affirm that every time we gather to give thanks for the frontier crossing incarnate Word in our midst.

          Prophets speak and act for God, with spoken and incarnate words of strength, hope, and challenge.  That ministry comes in many forms.  Today we're going to give thanks for the prophetic work of the United Thank Offering, reaching out in creative possibility around the globe.  Each triennial gathering of the Episcopal Church Women begins with a blessing and distribution of crosses, and the hands that are extended to receive them are a sacrament of blessing for this kind of prophetic work.  When Jesus lays on hands and heals a few, even in a place that doesn't think he's got much to offer, he's doing something prophetic.  The work those hands of ECW members do in gathering and blessing ministries around the globe is another way of reaching out across borders, boundaries, walls and fences of division.

          What about your hands?  They, too, are instruments of healing, reconciling, re-creation – let's see those hands!  Here is a sacrament of God's mission.  How will you use those hands in an impudent and rebellious house?  These hands can be instruments of warning, or to comfort and strengthen the wavering.  Hands can be instruments of prophetic communication, a gift only some among us have learned. 

          When Jesus goes off to other villages to teach, he is using words and hands in prophetic ways, announcing the reign of God close at hand, healing, feeding, and drawing people into community.  He sends his friends out to do the same things:

          to announce the good news of the reign of God

          to teach new believers

          to heal the hurting

          to challenge injustice

          and to tend the garden we share with all the rest of creation.

Those five marks of mission are the work and mark of prophets, of all Jesus' friends and their partners.  All of his commentary about what to take on the trip across the border is a reminder to keep it simple – to go as emissaries of the incarnate word, to be a gift and to speak and act for God's dream – to GO into the world of God's dream.

          When we gather like this to make Eucharist, we offer all that we are and have for this work.  That little exchange that starts, "lift up your hearts," is about entering another reality – some old translators put it, "hearts aloft!"  Get moving!  Go cross the frontier between heaven and earth – boldly go where Jesus has gone before – and invite others to go with you to help build the world that God intended at creation.  

So – mortals, prophets – stand up!  God is sending you to a rebellious house, full of impudent and stubborn folks.  As the prophet Pogo said, "is us."[2]  Your job is to go and say, "listen up – here's the deal, God's got a better world in mind, and you are needed to help make it happen."  And once you've started the conversation about good news, keep moving, keep showing and telling the world what God's dream looks like.

Eventually, the world will know they've met a prophet – a whole community of prophets.

 

1  An Episcopal priest as well, he's been a prophetic force in the search for peace in Sudan.

2 "We have met the enemy, and he is us."  Walt Kelly, cf. The Pogo Papers, 1953.http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Walt_Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

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Oficina de Asuntos Públicos

 

Convención General Sermón predicado

por Obispa Presidente Katharine Jefferts Schori

 

[8 de julio de 2012] El siguiente sermón fue presentado hoy en la 77a Convención General de la Iglesia Episcopal, que se reúne en Indianápolis, Indiana, hasta el 12 de julio.

 

REUNIÓN DE LA UTO Y FESTIVAL EUCARISTICO
Domingo, 8 de julio

La Reverendísima Katharine Jefferts Schori
Obispa Presidente y Primado
Iglesia Episcopal

 

           ¡Mortales! ¡Levántense y escuchen! Dios les está enviando a una casa rebelde, llena de gente insolente y terca. Su trabajo consiste en ir a decirles: "Escuchen, este es el pacto, del Gran Hombre en sí mismo". Y si no escuchan, por lo menos sabrán que han conocido a un profeta.

 

Garrison Keillor es famoso por señalar que nadie quiere un profeta en una fiesta de cumpleaños. Nuestra imagen de los profetas es algo así como la de los dragones que respiran fuego o Nunzilla, pero un profeta no es más que alguien enviado a hablar en nombre de Dios, para decir las cosas como son. A veces los profetas dicen palabras de consuelo y fortaleza, la clase de palabras que el salmista está pidiendo: misericordia y socorro. Y a veces, el profeta dice palabras que son más difíciles de escuchar, nos recuerda que se supone que debemos amar a Dios con todo lo que somos y tenemos y a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos. El recordatorio generalmente nos llega porque los oyentes de los profetas no han estado a la altura de esa expectativa. Lo que Jesús dijo en la sinagoga parece haber sido ese tipo de palabra retadora.

          Los amigos y vecinos de Jesús, obviamente, no esperan oír nada profético del carpintero ordinario de la misma calle o del hermano de sus amigos. Él nunca antes se puso de pie en la sinagoga y dijo algo particularmente retador, ¿quién se cree que es? Marcos no nos dice lo que Jesús lee o dice. Lucas dice que es parte de un pasaje de Isaías que dice así, "el Espíritu me ha ungido para dar la buena nueva a los pobres, la liberación a los cautivos, vista a los ciegos, justicia a los oprimidos, y para anunciar el año del Señor". Y sus amigos y vecinos se sienten ofendidos.

 

            Es ofensivo - y confrontador y desafiante - el saber que a pesar de que creemos que nos hemos estamos llevando bien, no hemos dado la talla. Sin embargo, hasta que podamos escuchar el abismo que hay entre lo que es y lo que deberíamos ser, no tenemos ninguna esperanza de cambiar.

           A veces los profetas que anuncian tales noticias aparecen de una manera muy normal y tranquila, y eso puede ser lo que molestó tanto la gente de la ciudad natal de Jesús. Es más difícil hacer caso omiso de alguien a quien respetamos y conocemos muy bien.


             Oí una invitación profética como esa hace un par de meses. Se me pidió que participara en una reunión de líderes cristianos y políticos para tener en cuenta el estado del discurso público en Estados Unidos, y la invitación hacía referencia a una de nuestras más conocidas figuras políticas, el senador Jack Danforth. La reunión estaba programada para celebrarse en Washington, DC, justo antes de que yo tuviera que partir para ir a la Convención General. Una conversación acerca de la civilidad parecía una tarea muy apropiada, pero como el día se acercaba, yo estaba mucho más centrada en los asuntos de esta reunión. Estuve a punto de cancelar el viaje, más de una vez. Pero fui, y oí un coro de voces proféticas: clero y religiosos católico romanos, predicadores bautistas del Sur, miembros del Congreso de ambos partidos, obispos luteranos y metodistas, ministros evangélicos de la Asamblea de Dios y de tradiciones pentecostales. Cada uno de nosotros estaba allí para lamentar la pérdida de respeto hacia los oponentes políticos y la incapacidad de crear una causa común por el bien mayor. No leímos el Salmo de hoy, pero sin duda era apropiado para la conversación:

            Ten piedad de nosotros, Señor, ten piedad, hemos tenido más que suficiente desprecio. ¡Por favor! ¡Que no haya más ridículo por parte del arrogante, o abuso por parte de un pueblo orgulloso y engreído!

          Comenzamos nuestro encuentro hablando de la esperanza de los estadounidenses ante el desprecio y la arrogancia que escuchan en el Congreso y en otros políticos, pero pronto empezamos a hablar del abuso y ridículo que escuchamos de nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Cristo. Mantuvimos unas conversaciones animadas, y terminamos por aceptar orar con y por un compañero, comenzamos a dar forma a una declaración común, y desarrollamos una lista de acciones positivas que podríamos tener para el fomento de un discurso más civil y efectivo, tanto en la política y como en nuestras vidas religiosas. Las palabras importan profundamente, y como cristianos afirmamos eso cada vez que nos reunimos para dar gracias por el Verbo encarnado en medio nuestro.

 


          Los profetas hablan y actúan en nombre de Dios, con palabras habladas y encarnadas de fortaleza, esperanza y desafío. El ministerio profético se nos presenta de muchas formas. Consideren la obra agradecida de la Ofrenda Unida de Acción de Gracias [UTO] y de las Mujeres de la Iglesia Episcopal [ECW], ayudando en una posibilidad creativa aquí y en todo el mundo. La reunión trienal comienza con una bendición y distribución de cruces, y las manos que se extienden para recibirlas son un sacramento de bendición. Cuando Jesús pone en las manos y cura a algunos, incluso en un lugar que no creía que tenía mucho que ofrecer, está haciendo algo profética. El trabajo que las manos de mujeres de la iglesia Episcopal hacen en la recolección y en los ministerios de bendición en todo el mundo es también profético.

          ¿Qué pasa con las manos de ustedes? Ellas también son instrumentos de sanación, reconciliación, y re-creación, ¡veamos esas manos! Eso es un sacramento de la misión de Dios. ¿Cómo va usted a usar esas manos en una casa insolente y rebelde? Estas manos pueden ser instrumentos de advertencia, o de consuelo y fortaleza para los indecisos. Las manos pueden ser instrumentos de comunicación profética, un regalo que no todos hemos aprendido.


            Cuando Jesús se va a otros pueblos para enseñar, está usando las palabras y las manos de una manera profética, anunciando el reino de Dios ya cercano, la curación, la alimentación y llamando a la gente a reunirse en comunidad. Envía a sus amigos a hacer las mismas cosas:
            a anunciar la buena noticia del reino de Dios
            a enseñar a los nuevos creyentes
            a sanar al herido
            a combatir la injusticia
            y a cuidar del jardín que compartimos con todo el resto de la creación.

            Esas cinco marcas de la misión son la tarea y la marca de los profetas, de todos los amigos de Jesús y sus socios. Todo el comentario acerca del equipo de viaje es un recordatorio para que sea sencillo, vamos como emisarios de la palabra encarnada, para ser un don y hablar y actuar a favor del sueño de Dios.

 

             Por lo tanto: ¡mortales, profetas, levántense! Dios les está enviando a una casa rebelde, llena de gente insolente y terca. Algunos de ellos, como el profeta Pogo, dicen: "Somos nosotros"[3].  Su trabajo es ir y decir: "Escuchen, este es el pacto, Dios tiene en mente un mundo mejor, y les necesitamos para logarlo". Y una vez que hayan comenzado la conversación acerca de las buenas noticias, sigan mostrando y diciendo al mundo cómo es el sueño de Dios.

           Con el tiempo, la gente de todo el mundo se dará cuenta que han conocido a un profeta, y a toda una comunidad de profetas.

 

 

[1] "We have met the enemy, and he is us."  Walt Kelly, cf. The Pogo Papers, 1953.http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Walt_Kelly

 



[1] An Episcopal priest as well, he's been a prophetic force in the search for peace in Sudan.

 

 

Blog Archive

Quotes

  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball