Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More on mellow...

I can promise you that I will fall short of Christ's standard from time to time. The church, like the world around it, is so conflicted that temptations to nastiness are overwhelming.

Oscar Romero, who stood up for Christ in a polarized nation at the cost of his life, once preached

We shall be firm, yes, in defending our rights, but with great love in our hearts. Because by defending them in this way, with love, we are also seeking the conversion of sinners. This is the Christian's revenge.

With all its aggravations, I do not need to dig very deep to find my love for the church. The Episcopal Church shaped me as a Christian. It taught me to pray and to bring prayer into all of life, to make Bible reading a daily part of my existence, and to gaze into the mysteries of faith of which Christians are stewards.

True, the Episcopal Church is now led about by folks who either ignore or attack the precious things that the church once passed into my life. But I can - I must dig down and find love for those people, because to do that is to find Christ himself. He died for us while we were yet sinners. As we read in our churches last Sunday, By this we know love - that Christ laid down his life for us.

And really, a witness to the loving mercy of Christ is all the Episcopal Church has left to offer this nation. The country in which God has planted this church is polarized. There's plenty of sarcasm and mocking and no real discourse aimed at the common good - as is the nation so is the Episcopal Church and vice versa.

So if we can apply the truly radical teaching of Christ - the radical command to forgive - perhaps we can shut up long enough to be converted, and, in being converted, become something of real value to the polarized people around us.

Or we can accept the judgment that is already playing out in the Episcopal Church - and which it documents in its own materials for its upcoming General Convention. 19,000 more deaths than births each year. Remaining members way older than both national and interdenominational averages. Very few converts and very few congregations reporting efforts to make converts. More than 1/10th of our active Sunday attenders, including the critical mass of our few creative and energetic evangelists, splitting off to form a separate body. Millions of our donated dollars thrown into lawsuits over buildings that will stand empty.

I will not shrink from reporting these kinds of facts, but I will try to do so with greater love. This judgment is falling on the lot of us. God will use it in one of two ways: 1) As a tragic warning to those still sane enough to see our folly and maybe, in disgust, to look for something better, or 2)As a sign of triumphant hope if we are converted, and let our light so shine before others that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.

God's will be done either way.


Anonymous said...

What do you mean by converts? In my experience, there's LOADS of Catholics who have become Episcopalians!

TLF+ said...

Converts into the way of Christ. That can mean conversion from unbelief or the concept of "conversion of manners" - conforming our lives to Christ when he have been holding back from him. That goes by various terms around the denominations, I know.

Denominational transfers are not treated as "conversions" - even our Confirmation rite in the Prayer Book simply "receives" the people you describe.

But there are not "loads" of them - at least not enough to offset the attrition factors in the denomination. The General Convention's own report says that we are losing the equivalent of an entire diocese every year.