Saturday, June 27, 2009

Probably too late, but regional Episcopalians draw on Bible, Tribal culture to challenge denomination's conflict, lack of listening and rash actions

Representatives from the dioceses comprising Province VI of The Episcopal Church met in Minnesota earlier this month.

They issued a statement to the Bishops and Deputies of the denomination's General Convention, which meets in Anaheim, CA in July. The statement, with an introductory comment, is on the Diocese of South Dakota site's Message Board.


This has come from the Province VI synod meeting held last weekend and is the result of discussions by the coaches or trainers regarding the public narrative process of the National Church they used at the meetings.

June 13, 2009

To the Bishops and Deputies of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church:

We the members of the Synod of Province VI, gathering in our Annual meeting in Bloomington, MN, prayerfully considered our participation at our next General Convention. With all due respect, we offer the following for your consideration.

We the people of the church in Province VI, Land of Mountains, Lakes and Plains, are thankful for our church and its people. We wonder if we might, as members of the church, see the harm we do to each other because of what is often seen as our need to be right, or our need to win. Perhaps this is the time when we remember the lessons of our elders: instead of answering questions, we might first ask questions; not saying, “I think this is what we should do;” but sitting and listening; and after the listening, remember that everyone is related to each other.

We might remember that the establishment of honor and respect is the first item on the agenda of our “to do” list. It is simply good manners to be respectful of our neighbors in our dealings with one another.

Perhaps this is time when we don’t make the mistake of behaving like we believe that silence needs to be filled. That listening can come after we have created space for listening.

We recognize that we will share conflict with each other. Perhaps, this is the time when those conflicts rise, or tensions increase, that we might consider turning around and entering into an time of fellowship. Where we might look at how we go about our disagreements, our dynamics in our disagreements, and ask ourselves, “are we being fair?” If we are saying that we recognize the face and voice of Christ in each and every person, then perhaps we might act as if we believed it.

Finally, we have the collective wisdom of scripture and our elders which says that we are connected to the earth and to each other. We have the collective wisdom of scripture and our elders which says that God is with us. We have the collective wisdom of scripture and our elders which says that love is always victorious.

We have the opportunity as a church to make our life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world, so that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair.

Peace be with you.

The Members of the Province VI Synod


NPA comment: there is a sad irony in that last comment about "making our life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world..." That is a prayer from the Marriage liturgy, the very area of church life that has come under the most rash attack by the national church. And General Convention might well adopt one or more resolutions to make the Marriage rite "gender neutral," totally obliterating the Biblical description of marriage as a mysterious reflection of the love between God and humanity. The marriage rite leans on the reality that men and women are very different, and that their ability to make and keep a covenant is a God-given sign of "estrangement overcome."

The wider Anglican Communion spent years calling on TEC to enter a "listening process" and refrain from rash actions, but TEC only accelerated its unilateral agenda. All the while, the Presiding Bishop and other TEC leaders have been telling the church that "all is well" and covering up evidence of conflict and decline in the church. And the "coaches and trainers of the public narrative process of the National Church" know this.

All is NOT well, but all is not lost, either. Tonight I read Luke 22:31-38 at Evening Prayer:

'Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.' And he said to him, 'Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!' Jesus said, 'I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.' He said to them, 'When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?' They said, 'No, not a thing.' He said to them, 'But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, "And he was counted among the lawless"; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.' They said, 'Lord, look, here are two swords.' He replied, 'It is enough.'

Jesus warns Peter that Satan will rough up the church. Even those closest to Jesus - even Peter himself - will fall away. The church will "buy swords", and take to the world's fallen ways of conflict.

But, as the Province VI statement says, God will be with the church. Jesus has prayed for those who are about to betray him. And love will be victorious - Jesus does come back and make Peter a rock who rallies and strengthens the church.

I pray for pockets of faith, hope and love within the Episcopal Church and in the new Anglican movement (ACNA) that has walked away from TEC. Christ has prayed for both. Though we have smeared his good name, wielding the swords of our egos so that our Lord is "counted among the lawless," he has prayed for us, and he will preserve faith in some waffling leaders, and some of them will turn back when Satan's sifting is done and they will strengthen brothers and sisters in Christ to rebuild some better Anglican Christian witness, here on the Northern Plains and around the world.


Wilfried said...

Wonderful news, Tim.

This is a heartening statement by Province VI.

Anonymous said...

I heard some bizarre things were going on at the Province VI meeting. In fact, one delegate I know referred to the way the TEC hierarchs were trying to conduct the meeting as "brain washing small groups" until we "all agreed with their agenda."

TLF+ said...

Anonymous - yeah, that would not surprise me. TEC likes the appearance of "dialogue" but the assurance of a rigged outcome.

That makes this statement a pleasant surprise - the delegates seem to have read or at least heard about the State of the Church data and its dire news. They seem to understand that the national church has taken a bad situation and made it worse. I've heard that perspective from some surprising people here in SD... I hope it is spreading among deputies and even bishops.

By any measure of church health, the reign of this Presiding Bishop and bureaucracy is a disaster. They don't see it - they are among those folks that some behavioral analysts note for having minimal skill and acheivement yet very high confidence.

There's not going to be a sudden turn around, although if enough people of good will say, "The Emperor has not clothes" it might put the brakes on the madness.

But it seems more likely that God is going to permit the crash, and gather some folks to do salvage toward something new and better.