Sheep In The Midst of Wolves

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves…” (Matthew 10:16a)

I spent last week at the General Seminary attending a Concordat Council meeting with representatives of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (the Philippine Independent Church) and our own Episcopal Church. We have had a full communion relationship – like we do with the Lutherans — with the IFI since 1961.

It’s a church of nearly 5 million people in the Philippines and it was borne out of a fierce independence movement which was tired of the Roman Catholic Church’s perceived complicity over the decades with every invading and occupying power from Spain to the United States. So, the Philippine Independent Church has steadfastly stood for civil rights for all, for worker justice, and for the dignity of every human being ever since its founding in 1903.

The last time I met with this group, we were in Manila and one of their council members was Bishop Alberto Ramento, a retired “presiding bishop” (or Obispo Maximo) of their church. I remember him as a tall, courtly gentleman who was nonetheless focused on the issues of human rights and who would not let us stray very far from those concerns in all our discussions.

His parishioners used to warn him about being so vocal and for speaking out in a country not known for its toleration of dissidents. He used to say, “They won’t shoot me in the public square…I’m too well known for that.” He also said, “I know they are coming for me next…but I will never desert my people.” On October 3, 2006, just over a year ago, Bishop Ramento was assassinated in his rectory, found by members of his own family with seven stab wounds in his frail body.

Part of our discussion last week centered around the possibility of having his name included in the calendar of saitns in our “Lesser Feasts and Fasts” (LFF) and those of other full communion partners. If that were to occur, he would join the man we remember today, Edmund of East Anglia.

In the year 870, Danish armies invaded England. When they reached the area of East Anglia, they offered King Edmund a deal. “They would share their treasure with him if he would acknowledge their supremacy, forbid all practice of the Christian faith, and become a figurehead ruler. Edmund’s bishops advised him to accept the terms, and avoid further bloodshed, but the king refused. He declared that he would not forsake Christ by surrendering to pagan rule, nor would he betray his people by consorting with the enemy.” (LFF, page 434)

He was captured by the Danes after a brief battle, torturned, beaten, shot through with arrows, and finally beheaded on this day, November 20, 870. The cult of his martyrdom grew rapidly and his remains were eventually enshrined in a Benedictine monastery — a place today known as Bury St. Edmund’s.

That’s how he became part of our church calendar. It’s too soon to know about Bishop Ramento. A 9th century Englishman…a 21st century Filipino…both “sheep sent into the midst of wolves.” I wonder if I would have the courage to follow where these men have led?

2 Responses to “Sheep In The Midst of Wolves”

  1. muthah+ Says:

    +Chris,
    We certainly have plenty of wolves in the Church at present. Perhaps to serve “for a season” with the Lutherans is a way to survive when one is not called to martyrdom

  2. darbs Says:

    Remembering the third anniversary of the brutal killing of Bishop Alberto Ramento, D.D. (+)

    Here is the link: http://exodians.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/remembering-the-brutal-killing-of-supreme-bishop-alberto-ramento-dd/

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