After the usual early morning routine, and working on a few details of the Chrism Mass liturgy, I once again joined the virtual Day Two of the spring 2020 House of Bishops meeting. The presenters today consisted of a trio of (I must say, impressively young) members of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff–Program Coordinators from his reconciliation team. Archbishop Justin has, from the time he took office (and before) been vigorously committed to the ministry of reconciliation among any who are, as the Prayer Book puts it, “at variance and enmity.” To that commitment I must add my own pale shadow of the same. For many years, I have come to increasingly understand that reconciliation is not some aspect of the gospel, some adjunct of the gospel; it is the gospel. It’s explicit all over the writings of St Paul and implicit throughout the rest of holy scripture. So, for the second day in a row, I was glad to see what the focus was, and our presenters made a solid contribution.
I am moved to add, however, that, for the most part, the Christian community deserves to hang its head in shame. We are so divided into our various brand names, and so divided even among those who share the same brand name, that it’s amazing the Holy Spirit can get anything done at all by way of calling women, men, and children to become disciples of Jesus. The actual disciples of Jesus can’t stop fighting. Just this morning, there was a reading at Morning Prayer from I Corinthians 6, in which Paul laments that fact that Christians sue one another in secular courts. A good bit of the Bible is difficult to interpret and apply. This is not one of those passages, and we who bear the name of Anglican in North America have a great deal about which to be embarrassed.
It also became clear in the material that was shared with us today (especially a short film clip from a Palestinian Christian who is involved in reconciliation work with Israelis and Muslims) how important it is to be tell hard truth and hear hard truth. I’m afraid we have done very little of either in the Episcopal Church over the last couple of decades (at least). We are nowhere near able to articulate one another’s truth in ways that the other can see himself or herself in the way we tell their story. We have made great progress, I can say–in some quarters, at any rate–in learning to speak to one another civilly and charitably. This is good. But we are still not able to deal with how people holding profoundly different conceptions of what the Christian faith is, what the gospel is, can begin to share the same institution.
Once again, with only a minor glitch, the technology worked well enough to permit another hour-long table group interchange. When we actually do meet in person, at a literal table, we will have been well-served by this experience.
In other news … aside from keeping on top of the non-stop inflow of email, the main accomplishment of the remainder of the day was to wrestle with my exegetical notes for Matthew’s passion narrative and come up with a homiletical message statement for my Palm Sunday sermon (at the cathedral in Springfield).