Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Another South Dakota Priest on the General Convention Aftermath

Fr. Jeffry Barnes served many years as Vicar to the Cheyenne River Mission, a widespread group of Reservation chapels in the Northwest Deanery of South Dakota.

He and his wife retired to Sioux Falls, where he has been providing interim sacramental ministry to Church of the Holy Apostles, an historically Anglo Catholic church.

I am excerpting some of his personal reflections from their recent church newsletter.


...the fights over sexuality and gender have lasted my entire ministry. I was ordained deacon in 1976, just two weeks before General Convention approved the ordination of women and the current Book of Common Prayer. Every diocese I've served fought over these and over sexuality. I am tired of the fights. I am tired of the anger, the loud voices, the claims to have heard and to definitely know the ways of God. I need the peace and quiet of a deserted place.

That's what I decided when I retired. And yet, like the disciples, I am here. I will remain here - in this congregation, in this diocese, in The Episcopal Church as long as you and it will have me. Here I will try to witness by thought, word, deed and example to the love of Christ, to the God who heard my prayer in a lonely place west of Two Harbors and said, "Follow me, and I will be your God." To the congregations that over the years have let me serve them and served me, who have put up with my loneliness and struggle and disabilities. To the people who have been my friends.

Over the thirty years of this dispute, I have seen the issues consume so many people. They have become bitter and angry. Some have gone off in a huff. Some have urged others to go away. Some have found that they were filled with such bitterness and anger that they couldn't attend a mass without the bile rising at every possible indication of heresy or prejudice. Some have left and now spend their time talking bitterly, not about the new place to which they have gone, but the apostasy where they left...

For me, my primary spiritual task is to not let that happen. Anger kills the spirit. Resentment blocks the heart's awareness of the divine. Condemning keeps us from seeing Christ in our neighbor. All these are spiritual death, and come from the Adversary. One must instead turn to Christ, to continually say "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." To say it again and again and again until it becomes not just the worlds of our lips, but also the prayer of our heart. There is nowhere to go. God has not abandoned us. I do not know if he approves of us or what we, as a church have done. But he has not abandoned us. His love endures.


Anonymous said...

Pathetic. Not a very good shepherd of his flock. He apparently is unaware of what Jesus said to do to unrepentant sinners. He said to love them but shun them until they mend their ways.

Fr. Barnes is a good example of what ails the Episcopal Church: no backbone to follow what the gospel says to do. He should preach about loving your adversaries and enemies as well as repenting of all sin.

Woe is Fr. Barnes. He just sounds too tired. He should rest and learn to do what the Bible says to do. Not many in the Episcopal Church know much about the Bible, including its clergy.

TLF+ said...

Anonymous - Paul and his missionaries felt the same thing as Fr. Barnes, and it is expressed in II Corinthians 1:8...

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.

Fr. Barnes has served well under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable, and in "retirement" is helping out with the lack of clergy here by caring for the unique congregation at Holy Apostles. And he sees his efforts essentially squandered by a denomination that is involved in conflict and decline.

Sometimes it is just such weakness that is necessary for any of us to die to self and receive more of Christ. His power is made perfect in our weakness.

Anonymous said...

The comment "Some have left and now spend their time talking bitterly, not about the new place to which they have gone, but the apostasy where they left..." I find most insightful coming from a similar experience.

Terry Finley