“Blimey” is a Cockney expression indicating surprise. My last blog provoked some incendiary responses on a blog site frequented by many who have left TEC or contemplate so doing as soon as possible. Now I do realize that Christian character is something we all have to work on. Even those who believe in instant conversion, and surely there are those who are blessed in this way, expect that the road to sanctification is long and often uneven. Yet I remain astounded at the lack of self control or self-evaluation on the part of those who are so ready to condemn sexual failures and yet who indulge in anger, gossip-mongering and a love of exposing what they believe to be the sins of others with little or no readiness to confront their own demons.
The watching world, no stranger to the sort of hypocrisy that delights in the misdeed of politicians and pop stars, while indulging readily in the freedom modern American society provides, remains rightly offended by the sight of Christians going after each other with abandon. Non Christians have little equipment or inclination to decide which of us is the more orthodox or progressive. They do detect humbug and nastiness and we are the ones who provide them with adequate reasons not to contemplate the richness of the Gospel.
Perhaps “witness” is something we have largely forgotten in the midst of the fight. We may have success in “converting” people who are by temperament not adverse to the judging business, or who share our social or political views. But what of those who fit into neither category -how we love categories – who yearn for a greater meaning in life than that which they have, but see our Church as an unsafe place for anyone who is not a crusader for this, that or the other? And what of those who have left our parishes, not to start a new fellowship, but to escape the sort of fanatical hatred they have witnessed as parishioners take up arms against each other, and shower the emails and the tract rack with polemics.
Our Anglican/Episcopal tradition at its best has been a gentle, worldly-wise, patiently pastoral faith, developed by the realization that the principles of the few are rarely embraced by the many, to whom their parish church has been a place in which the important events of their lives have been celebrated and where, in the liturgy and the Christian Year they have found comfort and solace. True such a religion is small beer to the enthusiast and not the stuff which changes the world, or does it? Yet our tradition has produced a legion of unsung saints, nurtured by Prayer Book Christianity, parochial life, and the rhythm of “Catholic” devotion. Perhaps that which is taking away from the Episcopal Church its authenticity, is not the causes and the trumpeting of agenda, but the eradication of that quiet space in which women and men and young people may find the Lord of the Church in unspectacular devotion and service.
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