General Convention’s Voice to the World

If General Convention is to play a significant role in speaking “peace to those who are afar off and to those who are near” it must be seen to be willing to challenge positively the powers that be in whatever form those powers may appear. Power is exercised not only by governments, but by oppositions, by segments of public opinion, by culture and region and not least by our own parties and segments reflected in the beliefs and passions of our own parishioners. In this respect I would concur that there are many crucial issues upon which Christians may disagree not only fundamentally but in the matter of how one witnesses practically to the watching world. Yet behind those disagreements there surely is to be found a common search for and listening to the mind of Christ.

We don’t seem very good at lifting up the “otherness” of the Church, of which our church is a local manifestation. By “otherness”I do not mean some detached and censorious body divorced from the market place, but our vocation to be the present cloudy manifestation of the alternative “kingdom” which is now and which will be eventually. Jesus is Lord. Surely our pilgrim, journeying church is the alternative to all power, in our collective priestly calling to be for the world to God and to be for God to the world? Not a form of fortressed ‘puritanism’ or of worldly accommodation, but rather a holy nation, a royal priesthood, involved sacrificially in the lives and destinies, tragedies and hopes of all peoples everywhere. Our hope is clearly expressed in the last paragraph of Eucharistic Prayer B.

Thus, for instance, where is our general voice being heard about the endemic corruption of our political system -surely not a conservative versus liberal issue?

Where is our voice about consumerism, about the dreadful and often corrupting influence of the media on young and old together? One could go on and on. And do we confuse the legal rights of a free people with our duty to speak the Word, in the Word? Where is our loving hope to change the minds of those we freely dismiss with demonizing terms, returning evil with evil? Is that not particularly so when we consign to our own hell those who, whatever their denomination have walked through the waters of baptism with us?

So often GC, in tackling a host of resolutions on social issues, without meaningful debate or in depth study seems to be preaching to that part of the choir involved in those issues. Few if any of our solemn pronouncements are noted beyond the Convention site. They are not even noted, by and large by our own parishioners, many of whom feel divorced from the whole process, and most of whom remain blissfully ignorant about our solemn pronouncements. Ignored prophets have nothing to say. And when we are heard, what we say is labelled as support for and conformity to extra-ecclesial lobbies and groups. Now it well may be that there is a similarity between that which we say as a church, and that which is being said in society at large. But the confusion is devastating.

I am quite sure that if our church was dominated by “conservative” pressure groups, given the level of our secularism the same impression would be at large and would be equally true. But if we are to be a microcosm of the Church, rather than an association for this or that secular power group or segment of culture, we must have a real internal debate about just how we go about being that which stands apart – that which is “holy” in the precise definition of that term – in order that we may be truly involved in the world to which we have be sent with a message of redemption.

2 Responses

  1. Oh, bravo, Father!

    You might want to point out that this is not a new thought; Rodney Clapp’s A Peculiar People and Hauerwas & Willimon’s Resident Aliens are both extremely profitable books that bear directly on your essay.

    For that matter, this line of thought goes back (through the Jansenists and Anabaptists and Franciscans) to the Desert Fathers/Mothers.

    Apologies for the anonymity, but I was referred here from elsewhere and will probably not be back. I’ve linked my web page, so as not to be hit-and-run.

  2. Right on Fr. Tony. Unlike Anonymous, I will be back! Great blog.

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