The Episcopal Church and the New Reformation

While it is sad to see the unraveling of the Anglican Communion we are witnessing today, it is really part of a larger reality. In “The Great Emergence” Phyllis Tickle speaks of (roughly) 500 years cycles in the life of the Church when enormous reformation occurs. We are in the birth pangs of such a reformation today.

For example, younger/emergent Christians are not interested in our church wars over human sexuality or worship or women’s roles or hierarchical, usually patriarchal, structures which operate top-down to control the masses. What they are interested in is Jesus Christ, his message about the Kingdom of God, and God’s mission of justice, peace, and the new creation. They are interested in radical equality and “flattened” leadership and communication structures which allow everyone to have a voice. A “theology of hope” informs their every prayer.

I have spent my entire life and ministry trying to help lead The Episcopal Church toward some of those same ends. From the renewal of worship and spirituality, to the empowerment of women, to  work for justice and peace, to dismantling hierarchical forms of leadership by the ministry of all the baptized, to fuller inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the Church, to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.

I had hoped that The Episcopal Church might provide some leadership in these areas to the rest of the Anglican Communion of which we are a part and indeed to the wider oikoumene, the Body of Christ, whether Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal just as we have learned from and incorporated elements from them. However, today we are widely misunderstood, caricatured, and criticized in many circles.

So, it appears to me that our role today is to be simultaneously one of humility, boldness, and patience.  We need to have the humility to recognize that we probably do not have all this right, and it is not necessary that everyone agree with us anyway. But we also need to have the boldness to follow where we believe the Holy Spirit is leading us and be prepared always to “give a reason for the hope that is within us.”

Finally, we need patience. We are only at the beginning stages of this new reformation. God’s future is in fact rushing in upon us. We can lean into it. But we cannot force it to come any faster by our actions or our anxiety. What we do know is that God’s Kingdom is coming and that, one day, God’s will will indeed be done on earth as it is in heaven.

May we be faithful until that day.

One Response to “The Episcopal Church and the New Reformation”

  1. MSriver Says:

    And so while we know so little before Him, the liklihood of ‘scarcity among His own for salvation is. But this is most unfortunate, a ensuing battletime brink where the cost can’t help but be heavy. The two schools of thought therefore continue to grind away to reject the other’s “sins”.

    Because of the severity of this, each vantage point feels duly justified in complete separation. Well, is it time for a church funeral yet and thereby sever for yourself a “new lump” elsewhere, or would you consider one more bit of reasoning?

    Before leaving, allow me to the space of your most reasonable frame of mind. For in doing so, I would hope to highlight one other thought for the Christian and hand over to you a possible plus.

    You recall the biblical admonition, “if we would judge ourselves, we would not come under the condemnation of the world” (ICor11:31) sets in place the healthy spiritual environment one allows to be governed by. Still with me? For regardless of the text you have a habit of employing to that advice from the God of love, the two schools of thought are quite likely still present.

    At some point we send ourselves into understanding the things of God in the best, most undiluted manner possible. We trust the Lord to invigorate that understanding within us to attend to the very things that please Him, or not. But now, collectively we direct “affection”, “for all”(Ph.1:8) His people but, we begin to see a fork in that old road, don’t we? For some, the entreat upon which to discern is literal, for some cognitive; A rather unhealthy extent of the natural laws of reason which in some cases the Apostle Paul did use for Christian instruction, sparingly (ICor7:2,11:14). But who is that that would reach only (transgress) for the cognitive? Especially when those decisions are of church decorum of conduct? For if a deliberate and continual effort is made to do what seems right in one’s own eyes for whatever the reason, unknowingly grants “the god of this world” access to blind oneself. Why would we want to grant any measure of a chance to him, our mortal foe? And how deep, and how deceptive is that blindness. Do you know how to spot the signs of being tripped up in your best of logic. One of the most subtle (by way of excusing) yet disastrous for so many is isolation theology, which is just another skill developed to “wrest the scriptures” (IIPet3:16). If it were not possible, He would not have warned us. Lord help us to understand.

    If we find we are continually responding to only the laws of nature without the applicable mixture of faith in all His admonitions, we do so heartily, so easily, throw off and forfeit any shred of a healthy self-examination. No, much worse, we unknowingly delve deeper into self-deception, when that matures, we spring wide the gate to “wrest” our study in the Word to full-blown self-exaltation, a mark left unchecked and unattended results in a spot left on one’s faith.

    Anyone who has inwardly spent time considering the likelihood of the traditional outlook as being less than applicable, outdated and in need of change isn’t necessarily cause to depart from so quickly. God knows the heart. And His word is most positively for us today. For as it says of our Lord while He was on earth “in all points tempted” just as we are, “yet without sin”. As far as we are concerned, an impossible proposition on our own. But if honest with themselves that just maybe these things are so, the “power” granted since the book of Acts, awaits those who “seek and “ask”. “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord”(Zac4:6).

    Peace.

    Mike.

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