Archive for January, 2007

Welcome To “That We All Might Be One!”

January 27, 2007

Scrolling down through a few entries below will introduce you to some of my “reflections on unity.” Thought I’d add a few categories. I look forward to the conversation!

The Ecubishop

The Quarry From Which We Were Digged

January 27, 2007

“…look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were digged. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you…” (Isaiah 51)

What a marvelous image for Abraham and Sarah — rocks from which we were hewn, quarries from which we were “digged!” And who is the “we?” Who has been mined from such a quarry?

The Jewish people certainly, and it is to them that this text applies directly – descendents of Abraham. But do not Christians also look to “the faith of Abraham?” To the one whose relationship to God was based solely on “faith,” and do we not see a similar faith in the one God raised from the dead? And Muslims — do they not also look to Abraham as the first model of complete “submission” to the one God, which is central to Islam?

Of course, all three faiths have strayed from that pure and simple faith. Jews are divided into at least three camps and many more gradations of so-called “secular” Jews. Christians have splintered what we call the “Body of Christ” into thousands of competing (and sometimes warring) “denominations” (where do we find that word in the Bible?). And Muslims are pitted against each in quite literal wars, Shiites against Sunnis most notably.

Yes, we have all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But it helps to remember the essence of that originial Abrahamic (and “Sarahic”) quarry. It is “simple,” naked faith (radical trust) in the One who was at the dawning (or rather explosion) of creation itself; Who yet guides its unfolding; and Who will still be sovereign at its final culmination.

We trust that One…for there is no Other…   

      

Signs Of Unity

January 26, 2007

      Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Concludes With Special Liturgy 

At the invitation of Presiding Bishop
Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishop Jeremiah Park of the New York Conference of the
UnitedMethodist Church, the Rev. Dr.
David Henritzy joined Bishop Christopher Epting at the altar of the Episcopal Church’s Chapel of Christ the Lord on January 25, 2007. Observing the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Eucharist also concluded the celebration of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Dr. Henritzy, a Methodist minister, former hospital chaplain, and long time staff member at the Church Center publicly thanked Bishop Jefferts Schori for initiating the idea and Bishop Park for granting permission and encouraging the joint celebration in compliance with the interim eucharistic sharing agreement achieved by the United Methodist and Episcopal churches. The agreement, approved at the 2006 General Convention, is similar to the stage of Eucharistic sharing engaged in by the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, leading up to the declaration of their full communion in 2001.

Such interim Eucharistic sharing is a stage along the way to full communion and marks sufficient agreement in doctrinal and theological matters to begin sharing the Eucharist in this way on a regular basis. Permission by bishops of both churches must be obtained, an authorized eucharistic liturgy of one of the two churches must be used, and an ordained bishop or presbyter of each church must stand together at the altar for the Eucharistic prayer. This symbolizes that the two churches have reached the point where ordained ministers can stand together at the Table, but not yet interchangeably.

In this first celebration at the Episcopal Church Center, Dr. Henritzy preached the homily, focusing on the importance of personal conversion as evidenced in the life of both Paul the apostle and John Wesley in the face of conflict in the institutional church.

He pointed out that such conflict often arises from within the institution rather than outside and calls for an even deeper commitment and faithfulness to Christ in the face of such division.    

The congregation for this service on January 25 included The Rev. Doug Mills and Mr. Tim Yeo from the United Methodist headquarters, who brought greetings not only to Dr. Henritzy but to Bishop Jefferts Schori who attended the celebration which she had encouraged in the first place! 

 

Outcasts

January 25, 2007

It may be extremely presumptuous or just plain crazy, but — as one in the midst of the Episcopal Church’s current struggles with the Anglican Communion with respect to issues of human sexuality — I sometimes feel like Paul in his struggles in the early church. To paraphrase him in Philippians 3:4 and following:

“If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: baptized and confirmed a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion; member in good standing of the Episcopal Church; ordained deacon, priest, and bishop; thirty-five years of service to the church as curate, mission vicar, church planter, cathedral canon, parish rector, diocesan bishop, and national church staff person; absolutely committed to the mission and ministry of the church.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I am willing to suffer the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may be faithful to Christ not having a righteousness that comes through the institution, but one that comes through trusting Christ.”

If God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, demonstrating love for all people, offering forgiveness to sinners, and eternal life for those who trust in him, no longer judging us on “a righteousness of our own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,” then we must welcome and fully include all those who confess “Jesus as Lord.” All of them! Absolutely everybody!

If that makes us outcasts, then — as Paul clearly says in his case — so be it!   

    

Justification By Faith; Not Works

January 24, 2007

“…when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.” (Galatians 2:11-12)

Hmmm. A church leader who used to be sympathetic to the outcast, to the last and the least, caves in to pressure from conservatives and begins once again to rely on purity codes rather than the grace of his Savior, Jesus Christ!

Sound familar to anyone? 

I’d love to hear from you…

Discernment Takes As Long As It Takes

January 23, 2007

“Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days…” (Galatians 1:18)

“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. (Galatians 2:1)

When reading the Bible, since so much ground is covered in a few chapters or even a few verses, we have a tendency to think that things happened very quickly. But consider this: Paul waited three years after his conversion to visit Peter and James — the so-called “pillars” of the church in Jerusalem. And, it appears little happened that time.

Then, he waited fourteen more years before trying it again! This time he took Barnabas and Titus and, after a little conflict around circumcision and about who was “in” and who was “out,” there was a somewhat uneasy truce and a division of labor between Peter and Paul occurred. The “right hand of fellowship” (Galatians 2:9) may have been extended, but it only took two verses (how many months or years was that?) for Paul to write:

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face…” (Galatians 2:11)

What can we learn from all this?

1. Far from being in perfect harmony, the early church was filled with conflict and suspicion. And yet, the gospel was proclaimed.

2. Discernment of God’s truth takes as long as it takes. We can be patient. Meanwhile, the gospel can be proclaimed!    

Breaking the Silence

January 21, 2007

Jesus once said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those that are oppressed; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

The theme of 2007’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “Breaking the Silence.” Among other things, it refers to breaking the silence with respect to HIV/AIDS and other issues related to human sexuality — the silence which only serves to reinforce and foster ignorance while increasing the danger, particularly to vulnerable women and children who are often the innocent victims of this pandemic.

Surely, in our day, this is yet another way to continue Jesus’ mission to open eyes that are blind, preach deliverance to captives and good news to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted and set at liberty those who are oppressed.

All to prepare the way for “the year of the Lord’s favor,” to prepare the way for the Kingdom, the Reign, of God. 

Vines and Branches

January 20, 2007

At a recent dialogue meeting between Episcopalians and Presbyterians, a scholar from the west coast shared insights from a friend of his who owns a vineyard. Three things:

When a branch is grafted on to a vine, it becomes identical to that vine, it becomes part of the “adoptive parent” vine and shares its life in every way.

Secondly, grape vines should be planted in good soil, but not “too good.” Otherwise, the plants become “lazy” and do not work hard enought to send their roots deep and wide.

And fiinally, the old vines are the best vines!

I wonder how much of this Jesus had in mind when he said “I am the vine; you are the branches?” (John 15:5)

What are the implications for our mission and ministry as members of his body, as branches on the vine?

Commitment and Conversion

January 18, 2007

Today begins what is known as The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Observed for decades by Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, it begins on the feast day commemorating “The Confession of St. Peter” and ends on the feast day commemorating “The Conversion of St. Paul.”

In other words, it begins with Peter acknowledging Jesus as God’s Anointed One and ends with Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, becoming a follower of this same Jesus.

The road to unity among Christians is not an easy one. At its core, it must be a kind of “spiritual ecumenism” — a renewal of our commitment to One we all follow and an openness to conversion…a willingness to change!

May God hear our prayers for unity this week!  

The Death Penalty – Justice or Revenge?

January 16, 2007

From today’s New York Times: “After executioners in full-face balaclavas pulled black hoods over the two men’s heads (Saddam Hussein’s half brother and the former chief judge of his revolutionary court), tightened nooses around their necks and pulled the heavy lever opening the trapdoors, both fell like weights. But the hangmen’s calculations of weight, gravity and the momentum needed to snap their necks…appeared, in Mr. Ibrahim’s case, to have gone seriously awry.”

Yes, apparently: “The video showed his head being snapped off as the rope went taut, and ending up, still inside the hood, lying in the pit of the gallows about five feet from his headless body.”

An Iraqi staff member reported from Basra, “Some people noted that Barzan’s head was separated from his body during the execution, and said that this was God’s punishment for his crimes.”

Can there be any doubt that the point of the death penalty is revenge, not justice? How can people of faith support it?

How can the United States remain on the same list as Iraq and Iran as countries retaining this barbaric practice?