Monday, April 13, 2009

The Missionary Bishop to the Dakotas: Easter, 1891

From "The Life and Letters of Bishop Hare" By William Hobart Hare, Mark Antony De Wolfe Howe. (A new paperback edition came out last year).Hare celebrated Easter, via a translator, near Yokohama in 1891. His reflections on that visit speak to South Dakota's upcoming election of a new Bishop:

"Let us never in the midst of the business of the Church lose sight of the fact that there is such a mistake as that of being very busy with the affairs of the Kingdom of heaven and yet of possessing very little personal knowledge of the King; nor let us forget in trying to fit our work in with the conditions in which we find ourselves that the supreme need of men everywhere, whatever may be their superficial desires, is just that need which certain Greeks expressed, as we are told in St. John's Gospel, 'Sir, we would see Jesus.' I feel sure that the highest conviction of us all is, however much passing things may for a time divert us, that the supreme desire and effort of a Christian should be to fix his own full gaze, and to fix the gaze of others, upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man.
"But it is the real essential Christ that the Japanese need to know. Christ, not as though the nature which He assumed were merely an Oriental or merely an Occidental nature, but a human nature. Christ as uniting in Himself the common properties of humanity; Christ, not a son of a man, but the Son of man. And Christ not as Englishmen or Americans find that they can appropriate Him, but Christ as the Japanese mind can appropriate Him—Christ seen by the Japanese from their own point of view: but yet one and the same Christ for all; Christ as the Catholic Church presents Him; Christ, 'The brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His person'; Christ 'manifested in the flesh,' and 'obedient unto death,' Christ 'raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father'; Christ 'set at His right hand as the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body'; and Christ in the Church and by means of the Church filling the earth with His gifts of grace."

Sailing from Yokohama on July 29, Bishop Hare reached South Dakota in time to take part in the Convocation of seventeen hundred Christian Indians on Rosebud Reserve, beginning August 29, 1891.

Organizations suffer when they depart from their foundational "DNA." Hare was an amazing blend of Gospel clarity, Episcopal Church distinctives and cultural sensitivity. His is a foundation worth reclaiming.

The profile for the next Bishop of SD calls for "spirituality." This is an important but potentially troublesome word. For White Episcopalians today, it means "feelings." For L/Dakota Episcopalians, it means a clear, sincere and transcendent message - the kind that Hare embodied as he travelled the State, baptizing and confirming tens of thousands.

These are hard times in The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Dakota. The temptations are to a) tell an aging, declining membership to throw more money at propping up what is falling down or b) to give up on Christian mission altogether and cobble together enough of the remaining resources to subsidize a small clique of clergy with common social opinions but little effort to help others "see Jesus."

May we choose well and find a Bishop with Hare's devotion to the Biblical revelation of Jesus Christ, "the Son of God made man."


Scott said...

Thank you for your positive admonitions Tim. Bishop Hare was truly an amazing man. The level of devotion to the people here has probably never been matched.

During tough economic times, he even wrote a letter to the vestry at Calvary to inform them that he was reducing his pledge, so that he could keep money flowing to keep his schools open. I recall reading that letter twenty years ago. His strength during tough times...and they were ALL tough times back then...should serve as a model for us all now.

His biography is still available (chunks of it online for free) but I would encourage anyone to search Amazon for a copy. I bought a great first edition from 1911 from a used book seller through Amazon this past year.

TLF+ said...

Scott - you are so right. When an organization needs renewal, going back to the sources is the right direction. There is a heritage available here if we will just uncover it.