7/13/2005

On the Virtue of Silence:

“Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge-to the great amazement of the governor.” Matt 27:14 NIV

“But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” Mark 15:5 NIV

In the current difficult time in the Anglican Communion, the actions of the General Convention of ECUSA have been soundly criticized, and those who voted affirmatively on the consent to the election of Bishop Robinson have been accused of everything from immoral action to doing the work of the devil.

The response of the ECUSA team at the ACC Meeting and the document entitled “To Set Our Hope on Christ” were responsible and important efforts to engage the issues with honesty. The Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged the value of these presentations. But these efforts also met with an extraordinary hostile reception by others.

At some point we must decide that we have made our reply – that the words of those presenting at ACC were enough, or if not them, some wider set of responses – but at some point, enough.

At that point we might take our lead from Our Lord Jesus and stop speaking. His yes had been yes, and his no, no, and that is sufficient for the day. Jesus embarked on a silent vigil, not long lived, in which events and actions play out to their end. The spiritual said it best, “He never said a mumblin’ word.”

I was reminded of the power of such a vigil by a letter received this morning from a friend, Patricia Kerby Gibler, who leads a Silent Vigil here in Lewes, Delaware, where every Sunday from 1 to 1:45 PM we hold signs with names, pictures, and numbers of Americans who have died or were wounded in Iraq, and Iraqi civilians who have been killed. This vigil has been going on for ten months now and will continue while events and actions play out to their end both in Iraq and here in the U.S. There is another group, not silent but noisy and hostile, across the street. They make the silence difficult.

Here in part is what Patricia said in her note:

“Dear Friends from the Silent Vigil,

Last weekend, I had a conversation with a man about the guys across the street. It went something like: how can we have world peace if we aren't able to dialogue with the guys across the street. This could be a good purpose for some. It's not the purpose of the silent vigil, however. Our purpose is to stand, silent, for 45 minutes with our distractions, as much as possible, in a place that brings us to a bigger awareness, out of which can come all sorts of movements toward peace.

I suggest we look at the distractions from across the street and elsewhere as ways of increasing this awareness for the dead. The guys across the street stand in presence for the dead also, with an awareness which is kind of like a banked pool shot that hits the edge of the table and turns, perhaps, to drop into this place of compassion. As has been true for some of you, I try to let them be a tool for deeper silence. One woman said, every sound is a prayer.

So the distractions...the police and where they are and who they're talking to, our issues of freedom of speech and assembly and where we stand, the guys shouting across the street, and the honks for democracy, can be mirrors reflecting back an energy that can work to move us toward the end of the counting of the dead. This energy is very illusive and fragile but also reliable and trustworthy. It's a peace that does not come in a way that rips kids from the streets, and wastes their life.”


In the effort to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in the Episcopal Church’s decisions so hotly contested these days, I wonder if our spiritual welfare might require that at some point that we know that we have said enough and, as regards the matter of defense, let the defense rest. From that point we might verbalize our concerns for the sufferings of the world, but keep silent vigil on the defense of ourselves against our fellow Anglicans.


At some point the constant hostility and criticism we face in the Anglican Communion controversies becomes, like the protests from across the street, a distraction from the realities of God’s suffering world. May we take those distractions and turn them to further spiritual grit, food for peace in our souls.

2 comments:

  1. The pharisees, be they across the street, across a country, or across an ideological ocean, always seem to need to make a lot of noise. Through facetious, scurrilous, and spurious debate, intended to distract those whom they themselves turned into adversaries, their intent is to lure ones who attempt compassionate dialogue into dead-end alleys of circular argument and personal attack so antithetical to the Gospel message it is difficult to believe that everyone is reading the same words. Mumble not a word, perhaps, but by all means "Pray without ceasing". While we on all sides may feel on edge it's not a bad place to be because: Every Day Grace Expands.

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  2. So you recognize that Jesus' No was NO and His Yes a Yes - but you still insist that those who recorded those answers lied or were too blind to see?

    As for the war in Iraq - all those who are lost are a cause for grief. Were you as diligent about your protests when their deaths were so much more numerous and arbitrary at the hands of Saddam?

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