Monday, June 29, 2009

Thoughts on General Convention

Some thoughts I shared with parishioners in the current parish newsletter...

“Summer time is busy time.”

Even though the Christmas and Easter holiday seasons are behind us and school classes are largely over for the summer break, I am constantly amazed at how busy summer time can be. Gardening in the community garden, mowing lawns, working on building projects, and vacations never cease to end their constant drain on our precious summer time before the South Dakota winter returns all too soon.

Life in the church is not much better. Ironically, church leaders often are the last to heed the advice of our Saviour when he says, “Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” This month the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church will be in full swing in Anaheim, California. As one delegate to General Convention once told me upon his return, “It ain't for the faint of heart.” Trying to fit in three years of national church business into less than three weeks is a sure fire recipe for long days, flaring tempers, and general disillusionment when action or inaction is taken with which we do not agree.

Unfortunately, only the most controversial topics and resolutions are what most parishioners hear about once General Convention has ended. Naysayers within the church love to focus on those issues in which segments of the church disagree. What we lose sight of sometimes is the very good things God is doing in our midst through General Convention: reestablishing connections in other geographical places, funding of missions and outreach, but most of all remembering that we are all one family. We may not get along all the time nor agree on everything, but our mission is the same.

Thus, please pray for all delegates attending General Convention, both for strength and encouragement but also for the renewal of familial ties. We are all one body for we all share in the one bread and have more in common with each other than we sometimes realize in the heat of debate over this resolution or that proposal. We are called to share the love of Christ with the world, and as long as we continue to do that, God will lead us where we need to be as a church body.

3 comments:

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

"Trying to fit in three years of national church business into less than three weeks is a sure fire recipe for long days, flaring tempers, and general disillusionment when action or inaction is taken with which we do not agree."

Currently (and for the last year or more) I have been collecting and reading every book I can find written before 1900 on the early Church, specifically the ecumenical councils one thru seven, especially their minutes and their canons. Reading the passage quoted above, reminded me of much of my discovery about the early Church, for which we could rewrite the passage thus…

"Trying to fit in three hundred years of international church business into less than three weeks is a sure fire recipe for long days, flaring tempers, and general disillusionment when action or inaction is taken with which we do not agree.

At General Convention, do we ever have people shouting like this?

“And when the most reverend bishop Theodoret entered, the most reverend the bishops of Egypt, Illyria, and Palestine shouted out—‘Mercy upon us! The faith is destroyed! The canons of the Church excommunicate him! Turn him out! Turn out the teacher of Nestorius!’…

A post in which I wrote about some of my discoveries is here…
http://cost-of-discipleship.blogspot.com/2008/06/church-fathers-and-councils.html

It seems that the institutional form of the Church has never ceased being a hotbed of contention and controversy, yet as the old hymn has it…

"But saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, 'How long?' and soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song."

Christ save us!

The Archer of the Forest said...

I do have to remind myself from time to time, especially during General Convention that as weird and hotly contested as some things get, at least we are not burning each other at the stake anymore.

Perhaps that's progress...

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I think, of course, as an Orthodox, and this burning at the stake thing has never taken hold in the East, though my readings of such books as Foxe's Book of Martyrs has taught me the case is far different in the West.

In the East, we just suspend people who offend the "mind of the Church" and then hand them over to the secular authorities who imprison, torture or exile them. Of course in a state-church-less society, we have a new method—just bad mouth them and cold shoulder them until they get fed up and leave.

Though burning heretics is a bit extreme, the root cause of all our hatreds remains the same, love of self.

Where is the Church that Christ prayed for, asking the Father that we all might be one as He and the Father are One?

I find it hard to believe that the Father has not granted His Only-Begotten Son's petition. If Christ's prayer from the Cross, "Father, forgive them," has been granted, then surely the other petition has been granted as well.

The Orthodox have a saying, "The Church has never been divided, and never shall be. If you think the Church has been divided, you have a problem." I agree with this saying, but I don't think that I agree with the triumphalist attitude that produced it.

The Church has never been divided. It's us, it's our problem, to believe that we can take the seamless robe of Christ and rip it apart as we do. That way none of us has a garment to cover us. Yet the soldiers weren't any cleverer or more fortunate than us. They may have gambled to let one of them keep the garment in one piece, but in the end all were losers. The have and the have-nots, none of them had anything of the Lord that mattered.

Just as Christ eluded the corpse cleaners and slipped away through the crowds of the dead, so may we slip through the pews and escape, to join Him where He lives forever and is all and in all. And may the darkness of the caves of false religion be forgotten forever, when all faithful people come at last into the full presence of the glory of Him whom they only saw from the back, as He passed by.