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A MORE EXCELLENT WAY

A growing number of (mostly) younger clergy and laity are signing a statement urging all sides in our present conflicts to cease using the secular courts to enforce canon law or challenge canon law. You may find the statement ashttp://www.thepetitionsite.com/233/377/858/bearing-with-one-another-in-love-toward-reconciliation-in-south-carolina/  I believe that many Episcopalians find themselves challenged by the present policy of the TEC leadership to rely on the secular arm. For some this is a scriptural issue, perhaps encapsulated in the Pauline requirement that Christians not involve the secular world in its internal struggles, in itself St. Paul’s thoughts on our Lord’s teachings about how we deal with each other, and with those we perceive to have wronged us. For others, the issue hinges on how our internal struggles affect our ability to faithfully portray to the watching world how we manage to be faithful to the reconciling, caring Gospel, how well we walk those extra miles, or forgive ‘until seventy times seven’. Perhaps there are also those who feel strongly that the legal costs incurred call into question our stewardship of our resources, which are of course, God’s resources. Some of us think that recourse to the state to enforce godly discipline further erodes separation of Church and State. In this respect secular courts, I believe, should intentionally absent themselves from matters which compromise their neutrality in church matters.

 

Nor are these matters solely a problem for our leadership. Those who have left TEC must similarly question whether their assets are best spent in resisting attempts to recover the buildings and funds they seek to retain. If one believes it intolerable to remain within TEC one must consider whether attempting to hold on to real estate is worth the expenditure involved or whether leaving bricks and mortar isn’t an appropriate symbol of a determination to begin afresh in mission. “Where your treasure is….”.  Many who have left all behind find the experience liberating, find their new church buildings affirmations of their intention to go into the world traveling light. The legacy of these battles over material assets is sure to hamper future reconciliation when God’s purpose for the church triumphs over out time-based divisions. In this Week of Prayer for Unity, surely the legacy of our unhappy divisions are in our focus. The history of such battles in the North African churches of early years, left the church so weakened that it was unable to resist near extinction. In a growingly secular Western world, one may have sympathy for those who look at the church and say “who needs this?”

 

I by no means seek to trivialize the theological divisions which beset contemporary Anglicanism. Rather I seek to stress a simple truth. God will work his purpose out. We see “puzzling reflections in a mirror” but inevitably it will be self-sacrificing love which prevails for that is God’s purpose. Those of us who believe that God has revealed his will in scripture, in the light of tradition, through our collective use of sanctified reason must also understand that while we apprehend, as best fallen creatures may the will of God, we haven’t the foggiest idea of just how God intends to utilize that which he reveals.

 

Both sides in our present troubles are often guilty of assuming that we have apprehended that which God is actually doing. We confuse legislation with revelation: we claim that the Holy Spirit endorses not only our attempts to be faithful, but also the programs we impose on the Divine Agenda. As moderns we love pre-packaged solutions, peddled by synods or by persons and groups who have produced these programs. We “buy into them” because that is how we run our governments, schools and communities. Revive a parish or a diocese? Purchase a program. We are incapable of addressing almost any activity without looking for or purchasing a ready-made solution. And so we can’t just do that which we have been called to do. We can’t pray, worship, evangelize, care for the poor without adopting a method, even if such a method becomes a substitute for the deed, and even if that method itself becomes a matter of controversy and division. Underneath all the issues of the moment lies our desire to be as God, to be in control, to protect ourselves and enforce our will.

 

We are where we are because we have failed to submit ourselves to God, and because we dare not love.

 

 

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