4/30/2009

One of these days....

Tonight, in an evening of quiet after a week of travel, too much church, barely enough Jesus and no rock and roll, we sat and watched a Neil Young concert. Tonight too I got word of the death of a beloved parishioner, heard from an old friend in Texas who thought I was doing more or less good things, from a neighbor too long away from Lewes. Earlier today I thought of Jim who I miss (we've been wandering about these past few years), and remembered Robert who has gone a wandering down a path I would not take, and so many more.


And I received this blog comment,


"Could it be you think it a bad idea to be accountable to anybody outside the Episcopal Church? If so why not just walk away from those relationships including the Anglican Communion? I mean what is a relationship if there is no accountability?"



Dear friend: I am mostly accountable to people outside the Episcopal Church. You have no idea.



My heart is with a friend in Haiti, and the sweat of hot nights without fans is close on my arms and cheeks. I am at the holy table with the people at Resurrection Parish on the edge of Manila. I am wrapped in the arms of people who love well, but who love beyond the silliness of church.



I am accountable to Christ Jesus who is the Source of everything I am, and who would wonder that in any wise the institutional churches were confused for the people who are the living presence of himself, and would wonder why any accountability to those institutions would suffice even in the slightest for the accountability that is love.



I am feeling that accountability this night, and there is a deep death and resurrection in place.



Neil in that concert tonight sang this, one of his less known songs,



"One of these days,

I'm gonna sit down
and write a long letter
To all the good friends I've known
And I'm gonna try
And thank them all
for the good times together.
Though so apart we've grown.

One of these days,
I'm gonna sit down
and write a long letter
To all the good friends I've known
One of these days,
one of these days,
one of these days,
And it won't be long,
it won't be long.

And I'm gonna thank,
That old country fiddler
And all those rough boys
Who play that rock 'n' roll
I never tried to burn any bridges
Though I know I let some
good things go."


In spite of friends absent and present, I'm a bit filled to overflowing with a sense of blessing. Somehow there's the little boy still here, wanting nothing more than a place at the table. Anne (aka the sainted mother) is still here. She lived through the winter and next week, God willing, she will be 91. Meanwhile I've still looking to have a place at the table, and still having to learn to let some good things go. In the picture to the right Anne is 26 and I am 4. We did not freeze in time, but the two of us there are here as well.


Here on Preludium I am plugging along trying, in spite of the one who commented, attempting to be accountable enought to sundry folk to be invited to various tables where it is possible to encounter the Lord's people. But I must confess an agenda that has very little to do with the
safety of The Episcopal Church, The Anglican Communion, or any other mechanism of the outward and visible sign of that inward and spiritual grace we call the Body of Christ.


In the first place I have every confidence that should The Episcopal Church either succeed or fail, nothing finally about the Body of Christ will have been diminished or made more secure. And that confidence is only exceeded when I think of the Anglican Communion. Churches and Communions are organic things, and they come into existence and they will pass away. The object in considering TEC, the Anglican Communion, its several offices, the other Churches of the Anglican Communion, the many churches that have sprung from Anglicanism along the way, the new so called orthodox Anglican Churches, etc, is to secure a place of safety for people, not for the Churches.



It is folly and a great sin to be concerned for the safety of churches, with the propriety and prudence of its members for the church's life as the basis for our actions as or in these churches. The obsession with being wise as serpents has overcome us, and the serpent lifted on the pole has become an idol, as has the wisdom of the prudent.



Further, I have learned a bit in the sixty-five years since that picture was taken - not much but something. I have learned that piety is no help at all, as if it would connect our outward and visible churchliness with the inward and spiritual Body of Christ.



So I am not much help for those who want to talk about accountability to this or that church, or the Anglican Communion or any visibly right way of being church that would match the Body. The Body of Christ is too visceral, too much alive, too unseemly to be held by anything as starched and petty and pious, as propitious and prudent as the several churches. The Body of Christ is, in other words, too alive to be associated in too great convergence with the death which is most institutional church.



So the question is not the one the comment raised. It is not to ask if I am, or we should be, accountable to The Episcopal Church, this one or the Churches of the Anglican Communion together or separately. The question is, does our accountability to the Risen Christ engage us with the several churches - the one we belong to and others - working to find in them a place of safety, not for the churches themselves, but for the poor, the lost, the frozen out, the condemned, the joyous, the mad, the puzzled, the confused - in short for the whole people of God?



Here on Preludium I have been writing these several years to do several things: (i) to speak out for a more inclusive church and against those who would shut down such talk as being unorthodox or heterodox or unchristian. (ii) To deny the easy capture of Anglicanism - as a way of being one of those "outward signs" - by those who would either toss out its classic reliance on scripture, sacrament, creed and episcopacy or those who would turn those into a tyranny for exclusion. (iii) To speak for a confidence in action and contemplation both - listening actively and with some vigor, conteplating what others say, what we say, and acting as we are called - so that we can better find Christ, who is after all not hidden, except from the fearful.



Over the years I have been blessed by friends, left and right, to attend to their words and deeds, to see The Episcopal Church in considerable agitation, to take sometimes a bit part in this or that action.



It appears the popular way of talking about the situation in The Episcopal Church these days is that it is in distress or in conflict, or in trouble. The agitation is seen as a bad thing, tearing the fabric of the church, leading to the decline of the church, etc. And the things spoken of as leading to all this trouble are - the 1979 BCP, women in leadership in the church, beginning with the ordination of women as deacons and priests and now as bishops, the increasing inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in ordained leadership, and the secret never spoken of deeply despised efforts (not always very successful) of including people of color in the leadership of the church. This last is the elephant in the room unseen because no one will remark on the fact. Having failed on the whole to find ways to heal the distrust and separation regarding color that makes our desires to be inclusive a folly we eat ourselves alive by marshaling our fears of THAT change into all the changes that have come.



We are not an inclusive church because we would rather be the church we became than the church we could become. Period. That being so, it is no wonder that accountability turns from being how to be with and for the people of God to how to protect and save the people of church.



So, at the end of a long rambling bit, I return to Neil Young's comment,


"One of these days,
I'm gonna sit down
and write a long letter
To all the good friends I've known
One of these days,
one of these days,
one of these days,
And it won't be long,
it won't be long."


The letter won't be long, either in coming or in length. It will begin,


"Friends, for years I have wanted to sit at table with you again. Perhaps we will. But know this: the table is least often in the house. It is most often in the field. There are fields of plenty out there, more than can be imagined. Even if we are not at the same table, we will find each other in others. You can count on it.....

31 comments:

  1. Well, Fr. Mark, now you have done it. I saw Neil when he was with the Buffalo Springfield away back when! I have followed his career most of his/my life but Wilma, she is a HUGE Niel fan -- so just for you here is one of my favorites:

    When God Made Me lyrics

    Was he thinkin' about my country
    Or the color of my skin?
    Was he thinkin' 'bout my religion
    And the way I worshipped him?
    Did he create just me in his image
    Or every living thing?

    When God made me
    When God made me

    Was he planning only for believers
    Or for those who just have faith?
    Did he envision all the wars
    That were fought in his name?
    Did he say there was only one way
    To be close to him?

    When God made me
    When God made me

    Did he give me the gift of love
    To say who I could choose?

    When God made me
    When God made me

    When God made me
    When God made me

    Did he give me the gift of voice
    So some could silence me?
    Did he give me the gift of vision
    Not knowing what I might see?
    Did he give me the gift of compassion
    To help my fellow man?

    When God made me
    When God made me

    When God made me
    When God made me

    Bless you and may peace be with you.

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  2. Amen and Alleluia, Mark!! Well said. A few quotes from an old favorite book of mine: God's Frontier, by José Luis Martin Descalzo, from his character, Don Macario, a dying priest to a younger priest:
    "Yes, my son. We are living on God's very frontier, and a frontier is never a comfortable spot."

    "This is not what your spiritual adviser said to you in the seminary. But if we were all sincere, we would confess that we could not stand Christ as a neighbor."

    Keep up the good work and writing!
    Harry

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  3. Thank you for your honesty, challenge, and sharing of your continuing quest for communion among God's people.

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  4. I wouldn't dismiss this as "rambling", Mark. You knew exactly what you wanted to say. It's just a lot and it takes a while to say it! Alleluia, alleluia, amen.

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  5. I think even many of us who don't agree with you would agree you do a nice job with this blog. I think a big part of that has to do with the sincerity of heart in evidence in this latest reflection.

    Keep going - God works all things for good.

    One thing I really disagree with here - and maybe it's a generational thing - is what you perceive as such latent anger over "people of color in the leadership of the church." I have never heard one thing negative said about it in "real church life" in forty years.

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  6. Without doubt the best post I have read in months, perhaps years. You tell it exactly like it is. Many thanks! Rex Gaskill

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  7. Joe the Bartender1/5/09 10:47 AM

    In reading your blog for this day I noted with respect the richness of the relationships you have. I hope that all of God's creatures are blessed by such richness. And I am glad that my comment evoked your sharing that richness for us all to enjoy and honor.

    My comment had to do though with the Episcopal Church's relationships particularly with the Anglican Communion. I note the clarity with which you have said [the section starting at, "In the first place"] that that relationship is of no real value compared to your and hopefully all our relationship to our creator. I, for one, [but I am not alone I am sure] think that the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church as a part of it and both as a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church is a gift from that creator allowing its members to live more fully and faithfully into that relationship with God and each other that we have been called to than we can outside it.

    Again I wonder out loud if you think the Episcopal Church's relationship with the Anglican Communion is of no real importance why not simple advocate for the Episcopal Church to leave the Anglican Communion. Certainly with your prayerful and tireless help and that of others the Episcopal Church would be better off without the Anglican Communion.

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  8. Well said! "The Body of Christ is too visceral, too much alive, too unseemly to be held by anything as starched and petty and pious, as propitious and prudent as the several churches." In my understanding, to know the Living God is to be of love, integrity, honesty. It is to be about loving neighbor as self.

    I am so weary of the conflicts within that Body of Christ over who is right and who knows the "true" way. It is a waste of our energy and intellect and there is no love in it.

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  9. Deacon Charlie Perrin1/5/09 3:27 PM

    Well said Reverend Sir, well said.

    And Mr. Bartender, TEC told no other church what they must do. TEC has called no other church apostate, unchristian, heterodox, pagan, or any such slanderous name. TEC has not refused table fellowship with any other church's members or leaders.

    And yet TEC must be held accountable?

    The mind boggles.

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  10. Mark, God blesses you richly! Your words, spoken in weariness yet burning with the fire of the Spirit, are like a great light in the darkness for me. This is why your blog is "must read" for me every day. Your gift of separating wheat from chaff and gold from dross. Amen. And let the people say: Amen!

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  11. Certainly with your prayerful and tireless help and that of others the Episcopal Church would be better off without the Anglican Communion.

    Without TEC or ACoC the Anglican Communion would be very much diminished! And the worse for it.

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  12. Wow!

    That was amazing!

    I've met the Risen Christ while assisting at Mass, and I've met him at 1AM in bars in the East Village. I've felt the Holy Spirit move in morning Eucharist and at Union organizing meetings. I've felt the power of Agape in hospital visitations and at after-work parties. I've read about the Heavenly Jerusalem in Scripture, and I've seen it marching in the streets.

    The Risen Christ is greater than Christianity, greater than religion, for He is the end of both.

    A priest friend of mine once said that Christ shall be raised up in this world by the power of the Spirit, and not on the hydraulics of doctrine.

    I also agree with you about the race issue. The gender and sexuality issues are a piece of cake compared to the challenges of race and ethnicity that this church must face.

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  13. Lovely, Mark. Just what I'd want to say, but I'd never find such eloquent words.

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  14. Deakin Charlie Perrin - I think you have misunderstood the nature of the offence that ECUSA has caused the rest of the Anglican Communion - it is not that ECUSA has levelled accusations against any other provice (it hasn't), but that ECUSA has gone beyond accepted Christian doctrine and praxis to consecrate an openly homosexual man, against the clear warnings of the ABC and the primates that to do so would tear the fabric of the communion. That has deeply offended the vast majority of members of the communion, and the expression of regret for the damage it did by the HOB when they met in New Orleans was wholly inadequate as a sign of repentance to repair the offence. This is what really makes us wonder does ECUSA really care about its mutual relationships within the communion when it is prepared to risk so much for so little?

    From Mark's earlier posts on his analysis of the latest draft of the proposed covenant document, it seems to me that ECUSA is still trying to avoid any form of accountability to the other provinces and to uphold the canons and constitution of ECUSA as its supreme authority - I assume in order for it to continue doing more of the same without fear of any discipline from the AC. How does that help build a relationship of mutual trust and ministry?

    Mark - I am astounded that you think there is a deep underlaying resentment about the inclusion of "people of colour" (what an odd term - I thought every person had a colour, why not just say black people if that's what you mean, as we do here in Australia) in the ministry and leadership of the church. Personally I rejoice over this and pray that there are more indigenous and people of more different racial backgrounds in leadership in our Anglican churches to reflect the mix of the society we live in. Is racism really still alive and well in the church in the USA or is this a false diagnosis of the real problem - changes to its theology?

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  15. beautiful, honest and true

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  16. Brian F.
    I think that those in the Anglican Communion fail to realize how much physical, emotional and spiritual damage you continue to do to those individuals who you all continue to denigrate including women, LGBT persons, handicapped, and persons of cultures that are not considered majority cultures. Sometimes, we here in the the United States will surprise most of the rest of the world and actually stand up for the right thing. When we do it seems to catch the rest of the world unaware, it seems including you good folk down under. When that happens, albeit a rarity, the rest of the world reacts like little children declaring that they are going to pick up their marbles and go home. Problem is they DO NOT OWN the marbles! Let's not obfuscate. The Episcopal Church is all inclusive believing that ALL means all and that all should and can participate fully in God's love and God's salvation and "the faith once delivered".

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  17. Brian F, your ignorance of speaking half a world away from cultures of which you obviously have little understanding is embarrassing. Please stick to pontificating about that which you seem to know best, our sinfulness and obstinacy. Because then you only appear to be a bigot, but not completely foolish.

    In North America the all encompassing phrase people of color refers to anyone who is not white/caucasian. It includes those of us who are indigenous to the Americas, who are seen as red or brown, as well as folks from Asia and the Pacific Islands, who are yellow or brown and those from Africa, whether historic or recent, who are black.

    Yes, racism is very much alive in most aspects of United Statesonian culture, including its churches.

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  18. Thanks for this post!

    FWIW
    jimBB

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  19. breathless --wow!
    thank you.

    --it's margaret

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  20. Hi Mark--Well, I add my "just WOW" along with others and an "Amen" to Counterlight's post.

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  21. "Oh, to live on sugar mountain,
    with the barkers and the colored balloons!

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  22. Mark, you obviously have been communing with the angels. I am stunned by these insights -- it feels like the ground has shifted a bit.

    "One of these days. . ." would constitute a perfect substitute for the proposed Anglican covenant.

    briefly on the subject of accountability --if we as TEC have discerned a different calling or vocation for ourselves regarding inclusivity and other matters than other parts of the Communion, who are these other parts of the Communion to tell us that we must not follow that calling or vocation?

    Lastly, thank you, Susan Russell, for your eloquence in the previous comment!
    Tom Woodward

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  23. Thank you for this post.

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  24. Mark:

    As a bit of a maverick myself (albeit in a different direction than yourself) I warm to a lot of what you are saying here.

    However, I am also aware that when I was ordained I promised to conform to the 'doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Anglican Church of Canada', and I took an oath of canonical obedience to my bishop. Does not that, in some sense, make me accountable to an institution? I am assuming that you took a similar vow, and I have no reason to doubt that you take those vows very seriously. Are you not, then, in some sense, accountable to 'this or that church' (TEC) - to a form of the 'death whicvh is most institutional church'?

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  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  26. A wonderful and blessed post on which to fall asleep. THANK YOU!!!
    Andee Zetterbaum

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  27. Mark, this post has added a wonderful dimension to my Sunday morning meditation. Clearly the Holy Spirit was at work again in the blogosphere. Peace.

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  28. Mark, this poetically eloquent statement of where you are coming from accounts for the prophetic, in the biblical sense, character of your ongoing comments. Lloyd Patterson used to say that it is precisely their commitment to THE Church that accounts for both Anglicans' ecumenical activism and their backing off from signing on to agreements (covenants?) to unite with other denominations. He might have used "accountability" in place of "commitment." You obviously hold yourself accountable at a truly Anglican depth missed by those whose false prophecy is, "Accountability, accountability, accountability is this." Shalom, Harvey Guthrie

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  29. Mark, thank you for putting these lovely feelings into words.

    Count me among the many that do not think "accountability" to those we love - and indeed, treasure - requires agreement at all times.

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