4/02/2014

I am an Anglican, and Episcopalian, and a companion of Jesus.

I am an Anglican, an Episcopalian and a companion of Jesus (AEcJ).  All three.  At the same time.

I continue as an AEcJ in spite of various rants, mostly from the puritan / fundamentalist side of the aisle, but also a bit from the progressive / modernist gang as well.

It is, as far as I am concerned, a miracle that I have any time at all for the rants, or for that matter with most of what passes for righteousness in the organized church.

It is a miracle too that God gives the gift of the joys and that I can receive them.  Blessed be the Source that frees me from preoccupation with the ranters and the panters after right belief, right thinking, right being.

I am AEcJ because of rather simple joys, some exemplified by small events of this past week. I am an AEcJ by means of Grace. That's the way it is supposed to be.

Some simple joys experienced:

(i) Being an Episcopalian, whose church
"is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship; or further than local circumstances require,"
I was delighted to attend Sung Evensong this last Sunday at St. Peter's, Lewes, the little town on the bay by the big waters. It was both beautiful and simple, and spiritually very reviving.


It reminded me of walking down country lanes to Ripon Cathedral for Evensong in better days with friends who now are distant sometimes adversaries.  Perhaps in the future we will walk again on some village lane to Evensong.

But for the time being the continuation of what is true, and pure and lovely about prayer and song in an English Church is still available, still incarnate, on this shore, in small churches that live out what is fine about Anglican worship. And it is done by Episcopalian Anglicans, of which I am one.

Product Details(ii) I am just now in the middle of reading a rather impressive book by Lawrence Duggan, titled, Armsbearing and the Clergy in the History and Canon Law of Western Christianity. It is no one's idea of a mild book.  

It is robustly scholarly, filled with the assumption that the reader will spend the time looking up the odd word or two PER PAGE that is unusual and new. But it is fine, filled with a love of those people whose faith was mixed so completely with the foibles of being merely human as to make them interesting, even in the context of canon law and a seemingly arcane topic. 

The relevance of Duggan's research is for me its connection to the moral stance of the larger mass of Christian believers, the baptized, rather than that of the clergy. Armsbearing is a faith issue for the whole church. 

And it has made me think again about a project I took part in at the Church Center in the mid 1980's to revise the materials given to those considering conscientious objection to bearing arms. Our concerns were not about clergy bearing arms, but about Christians doing so. The issues raised in Duggan's book bear on this larger issue of faithfulness as Christians, and I wish we had had it then.  

The delight in this book, and the delight in receiving it as a gift from the author, again made me realize how much I am an Anglican and Episcopalian and a companion of Jesus, and how those facts are bound deeply to the long struggle of the "Western Church" to stay true to its rootedness in Jesus.  I am glad that as an AEcJ I belong to a community of believers that have a long history of trying to be true to the faith, not once delivered, but every day delivered, to the Saints.

(iii)  I've taken up another book, one which I only this week found, although it came out in 2006. It concerns the struggles to find a way to communicate beyond the limits of the various "positions" taken by Anglicans and Episcopalians on various issues. 

Common Prayer on Common Ground: A Vision of Anglican Orthodoxy written by Alan Jones, is a wonderful reminder that being an Anglican and an Episcopalian and a companion of Jesus can be an amalgam that serves the faith well.  

I have considerable problems with Dean Jones' decision to couch his argument in camps labeled "conservative" and "liberal."  There is a certain straw dog factor in his set up. But under the surface Dean Jones returns again and again to the notion that Anglican Orthodoxy is not about gnawing particular bones of orthodox doctrine, but about having doctrine in service to conversation, in service to a larger engagement that converts all who join to something greater that doctrine, to perhaps the Truth that is deeper than truths we hold. I think he is right on.

             (iv) In preparation for a Holy Walk with Lakota friends and young people from St. Peter's on Lakota land, I am reading "The Pipe and Christ," written by  William Stolzman.  It was recommended by Margaret and Joel Watson, and for good reason.

Anglicans, Episcopalians and Companions of Christ, all need to be clear that conversation, particularly with peoples informed by experience and the land in ways different from our own, must not  be a one way street. Perhaps the most persuasive conversations about Christian belief is dependent on first appreciating the world as others see it.  

Chapter eight of The Pipe and Christ, "Lakota Spirits and Christian Theology" is a fine example of speaking of Christian truths in a way that is open to Lakota spiritual experience.  

The book is by a Roman Catholic, but the spirit of the book is, I think, shared by the Anglican and Episcopalian tendency to a generous orthodoxy, one in which the way forward is always in community and conversation. 

(v) And from there I think on being Anglican and Episcopalian and a companion of Jesus and the experience of little things in the blog world:  

I am delighted to be listening (deeply I hope) to a bishop, Dan Martins, who sits far from me, as pertains to the surface of the current unplesantlnesses, and learning from his growth into that office how close we really are. 

It has been a delight to see the development of Peoples Prayers as a home grown theologically interesting source of reflective engagement. 

I find Margaret's  "Leave it lay where Jesus flang it" perhaps the most consistently deep source of reflection on the life of a country priest that I read these days. 

Each of these continues the ongoing effort to be Anglican, Episcopalian and a companion of Jesus, in remarkable ways. And of course there are so many more.

What is most encouraging about these writers (and the many others out there) is that they all believe it is possible to be the amalgamated union of these strands - a church grounded in the English faith experience, a church American in its actual experience, and a church whose members care more about being a companion of Jesus than they do any of the above.

So I leave Evensong refreshed, find connection with ancient struggles to be in the world but not of it, remembering that the doctrines may not have been as important as the Holy Spirit present in the words formed in song, and that my companions of every stripe are singing as they can in this strange land where we are not finally at home.

The Joy, I suppose, about being an Anglican and an Episcopalian and a companion of Jesus, is the joy of knowing that in the long run (perhaps the very long run) all our efforts will be some sort of reasonable faith offering.

A Practicum on being Anglican, Episcopalian and a companion of Christ in a time of controversy:

There is very little of the Archbishop of Kenya's recent letter on marriage to commend it as Anglican, Episcopal or Companionable to Jesus, at least it seems this way to me. Read it HERE

His opinions about marriage,  homosexual unions, the changes in English and Kenyan laws, polygamy and so forth are his opinions. Good conversation can result from such opinions being clearly stated. Fine. But I believe his underlying stance towards Holy Scripture and its meaning is astoundingly mistaken.

And, yet my sense that the Archbishop is wrongheaded is unsatisfying. Division doesn't seem to be enough.  I think  Margaret is right,

"Division is the worst statement church can make. Each of us running to our own corner. Because that is merely living in to the Lie.

The Great Lie that we can be happier, more fulfilled and live as the Body of Christ without each other.

What do we need to do for that sea-change --that culture shift in the church?

I am not entirely sure. Frankly, I don't have the time to think what the church might look like and how it might function in order to engage in the necessary reformations of our time (I just do too many funerals to do so... really.) But I am confident that all the energy to reform the way the church functions is merely a distraction until and unless we put the gospel --and Christ crucified and Christ resurrected right in the middle of it all."


And so, in a good Anglican, Episcopalian and Companion of Jesus sort of way, I have to ask, when and how can the Archbishop of Kenya and some of the rest of us connect by way of Christ crucified and resurrected "right in the middle of it all"?  Until that happens his rant, and mine, just sit there, smoldering.

And then there is the effort to reform the structures of the Church by way of a re-imagining process. TREC (the Taskforce on Re-imagining the Episcopal Church) is hard at work. 

The question is, is it a distraction? Is Margaret right? I think so. And not simply because the distraction draws us to the peculiarities of conflict in this particular time in Anglican Episcopal land, but because it distracts us from death and resurrection.

No resurrection, no re-imagining.  But no death of the old (the bones of dearly hoarded doctrines), no resurrection.

So we find ourselves back to doing the ground work in which we really have to engage others.  

In a simple church where people sing and pray and bleed out their lives and hearts, we hear just now some ancient ones. We engage for a moment the aspirations of so many whose positions on issues of the day are very unlike our own. And yet the ancient words are a comfort.

We engage a whole host of fellow travelers, the people of the history of the church.  Many of them were cranky sinners, but then again, so are we. In their struggles we see our own.  

Hopefully we engage people we grievously wronged and try to find a way to walk and talk together on their land. Perhaps there is conversation that will contribute to our healing and theirs.

We blog forward into unknown places with companions of Jesus whose wisdom makes us wiser.






Maybe the place to begin the practice of being Anglican, Episcopalian and a Companion of Jesus is to pray and sing and listen to stories of death and resurrection. There is always time to converse and be converted, but let those conversations grow from the deep soil of holy living.

And I am Anglican, Episcopalian and a Companion of Jesus.

Mostly.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mark, thanks for this wonderful, insightful post. I love your expression "blogging forward"! Truly, you and Margaret and others are helping to blog us all forward, carrying our imperfections and wounds with us but also the wisdom of our ancestors. And the music and liturgy bear us along and keep us linked together despite disagreements. Bless you.
Mary Clara

Christina Brennan Lee said...

Thanks for the reminder of what we are really supposed to be about! And for Margaret's excellent commentary. It is quite amazing that across Anglican/Episcopal land the opinions of what Jesus would actually do are poles apart. Well, it's always good to see what "they" are saying however discordant and even painful. While we do tend to flock "together", at least we know as companions of Jesus - we'll all be sorted out by the Truth eventually. And, as always, thanks, Mark!

Peter Carrell said...

You have got one over us who cannot be Episcopalians for geographical reasons!

The Rev Canon David Wilson said...

As someone on the opposite side of the theological aisle as you Mark, pls know I appreciate your always thoughtful posts. Your graciousness and, yes, your rants against people like me. It shows you have conviction even when I disagree!

BTW, a couple of typos "horded" should be "hoarded" in 10th line from bottom. "fine" should be "find" 3rd line from the bottom. you must have been getting tired of typing!

A cranky sinner,

The Rev Canon David Wilson

JCF said...

"I find Margaret's "Leave it lay where Jesus flang it" perhaps the most consistently deep source of reflection on the life of a country priest that I read these days."

ITA!

Mark, I hesitate to bring this to your attention---but your doppelnamer has been behaving badly:

http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2014/04/north-carolina-candidate-for-us-senate-to-join-deeply-anti-gay-event.html

" am an Anglican, an Episcopalian and a companion of Jesus (AEcJ). All three. At the same time."

I will be, Lord, with Your help.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

It is you who is always more than fair and always willing to look from side to side (and glance behind).

You give others a break. You set a standard for fairminded in my book. You don't write words void of REAL meaning. Thank you for always being honest with us.

You listen to the re-written song of demeaning and the dangerous hatred from those who preach defective versions of life. You do it quietly (mostly) and fairly. I admire that.

You are extra accepting of those who demand their ¨place to stand¨. They stand apart from me, apart from people like me and our life support family of people like you. They cluster in a kind of pasturized/idealized wishful place.

For me I can no longer pretend those who outcast others are different than they REALLY are. It's deadly to let them, or me, think they are, extra holy, more orthodox, more ¨normal¨ because they are all the same with their imgined desire for love(?) and/or sexual intimacy..the band plays on and I have taken the cotton out of my ears. The music is flat.

I can't PRETEND being hated and abused is normal anymore. I have escaped from my crowded/shadowy corner and jumped into the center of life ring with EVERYBODY ELSE. No more last row/smokey balcony seats for me. No more strangers in the night (or on Sundays) lurking both in any out of collars, mitres and such...adjusting their ¨being¨ as they creep along.

Rant or not, ready or not, I cry too hard when I read of the murderous heterosexuals(?) who torcher, arrest and disfigure the likes of me. Bloody murder is happening and I will not look away. It's not O.K. It's not o.k. no matter what fella, and they are mostly fellas, has/have to say.

No more pretend. No more holy sounding or not, easing my/our burden or not, will cure the spiritual/religious and emotinal illness/injustice surrounding human sexuality issues.

Not one more camoflauged word or demented version of human/religious balance and tolerance will satisfy me.

I WILL NOT believe those who deceive and twist minds at Church. I don't believe they will set themselves free by rationalizing their beliving while tormenting people like me.

Thank you.
LeonardoRicardo/Leonard Clark Beardsley
Guatemala

Mark Harris said...

Peter... perhaps being Episcopalian is not about being part of The Episcopal Church, but being a church with bishops, and in our case bishops with some (read this with caution) accountability to the whole. NZ seems Episcopalian to me.... but still, I know what you mean.

My essay is, no doubt, written from particular location. We are all doomed to speak form location. You have one of the better ones - at least it seems that way to me.

Mark Harris said...

David.. thanks for the corrections. It wasn't just being tired of typing, it was typing before morning coffee. And, of course, I can't spell. (Sigh.) Yours in cranky reality.

Mark Harris said...

Leonardo Ricardo...you are right - in the land of no pretense there are those who REALLY are filled with hate and abusive and murderous and it is not OK at all. You are brave. I am merely getting along, mostly.

I think the place where we come together is in that peace that passes understanding... far out there beyond the pretensions of tolerance and the demands for an end to the violence and torment, beyond the "spiritual / religious and emotional illness / injustice surrounding human sexuality issues."

In order to get there we have to do precisely as you say - have no peace with oppression. None. At the same time we can not become instruments of our own oppression either (to quote Ed Rodman). The hate of the hateful can rot the just and the unjust alike.

You are a wonderful example of someone who has found a way to hate the injustice and yet live beyond hate. I look at your art and I am astounded by your love of the whole world - seen in your explosive use of color. You may hate the sin, and even the sinner, but you love the world and both sin and sinner are part of that. You love the world even more than you demand justice from it. At least that's the way it appears to me.

I don't think we've ever met (is that true?) but I hope to do so. And I long to see your art in person.

Meanwhile, you set a high standard for truth telling. On some matters I may be fairminded, but fair is not necessarily a passion. Since it appears in this world that struggle happens first, and then peace, I believe you are right. We cannot give way to those who deceive and twist minds at Church. We can work for and hope that we too do not become twisters of minds as well.

As always you bring me up short. (Sigh). Thanks.


Leonardo Ricardo said...

Thank you, steady, honorable, welcoming and TRUTHFUL Fr. Mark.

We have never met in person but I have always been here at your blog...I feel as if we are friends. We share love for Puerto Rico...it's always beating its rhythm somewhere deep inside of me. I feel Puerto Rico in me, in Guatemala or anywhere else. I know you were ordained there, extra nice.

You, in my opinion, are kind to others. That is a big deal, an inspiration to me. My fuse is short/none as I know lifetimes of LGBT people being demeaned/worse and I no longer bury that brutal and personal awareness...enough is enough pretending things are different than they are. Denial is not good for me.

I say NO! Before ¨no¨, I just sat quietly and listened to the fogfiltered at Church and played pretend that others MUST NOT BE PREACHING about people like me -- they didn't really *know* me).

I always tried to discern right from wrong and it had to do with examing my own character and self-searching. I couldn't trust others to do it! I came to RESENT anyone doing it for me...usually they were just plain stupid or uninformed about most people like me.

Without getting into the naming of anti-LGBT grandstanders/slanderers at Church I say: NO MORE listening the nonsense when grouping LGBTI Christians/others together at Church/other. It is beyond worrisome to me that whole Holier-than-thou cults of difference have formed at the Anglican Communion. LGBT people continue to be isolated and disfigured/worse because of that!

No amount of ¨covering holylike/sounding tracks will change the fact that, DAILY, LGBT Anglicans/others suffer greatly in Nigeria, Uganda and other places with legalized LGBTI pogroms.

Our, people like me, blood is flowing in Anglican Africa. Those are the facts and many with Anglican/Episcopalian Mitres on harm others...everyday they are accomplices to the generating of fear, hate and worse.

They are the unholy amongst us and blood drips from their words filled with anti-LGBTI hate. I have no words to make that sound nice.

You know me. Thank you. I can see that you know that I am not consumed with hate. I lost a partner about 17 years ago who was murdered in his home...we will never know why. He was kind, loving and generous by helping poor folks in a very stratified society. The crime was not investigated. I believe his well known family background stopped the investigation. I believe that some were afraid of any possible ¨Gay¨ connection=disgrace. That troubles me but I paint my colorful paintings and the sadness fades away. Since childhood. I have been awestruck by the greatness beauty of life and the world around us, all of it. My God, a loving God, leaves me overwhelmed by the infinity of it all.

I have TRUST in GOD no matter whatever else dangerous nonsense is twisted into appearing wholesome and godlike around us (and at the Anglican Communion).

Yes, I hope we meet, what fun that will be!

Leonardo/Len