Sunday, October 11, 2009

Communion, Community and our Common Life

Three significant articles I want to link you to today.

Resist the Anglican Covenant - A retired English Bishop, Peter Selby, recently spoke to Inclusive Church's Word on the Street conference. His topic was When the Word on the Street is Resist, which was a response to recent ramblings from the Archbishop of Canterbury and from some other bishops who want to see authority in the Anglican Communion concentrated in the hands of Primates and Prince Bishops. Among his points:

His first key contention is that if Anglicans are to be a communion they need to set out what are the patterns and convictions that make them recognisable as such in a form to which the various provinces can sign up; and they need restraints - self-restraint principally but if need be imposed restraints - to prevent provinces from doing things which would make them unrecognisable to others.

There are several difficulties about this way of arguing, one of which I regard as fundamental. One might ask whether the history of the church bears out such a notion as having operated in the decision-making of churches over issues of considerable importance; and in particular one might ask whether the history of Anglicanism supports requiring that way of undertaking and then sanctioning developments. Is it the case that provinces have not acted on new ideas until they had consulted with other provinces and taken the teaching of ecumenical partners into account? Is it not rather the case that quite controversial decisions have been taken because they seemed to be right, and it has taken time for it to become clear whether they were legitimate developments or not?

In other words, a significant portion of the argument in favour of a punitive Anglican Covenant as proposed is based on revisionist history - or, to put it a little more frankly, falsehood.

Please go read the whole thing. And as this matter moves forward, many of us will have to consider the continuing steps of resistance to this curializing attack on Anglican tradition.

God and Politics - Former Member of Parliament Dennis Gruending, also a former official with the Canadian Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops, recntly wrote an article for the 20th anniversary of The Hill Times, the "local newspaper" on Parliament Hill, regarding the role of religion and religious groups in Canadian politics. He has reposted the article at his blog, Pulpit and Politics. Among his points:

The Conservatives are assiduously courting those evangelicals, Catholics, and certain Jewish voters as well to join their political coalition. That has caught the attention of other parties. The NDP has responded by creating Faith and Social Justice Commission, which attempts to mobilize a religious constituency on their behalf. Michael Ignatieff has given Toronto-area Liberal MP John Mackay the task of reaching out on behalf of his party to evangelical Christians.

The CCF-NDP had significant roots in the Social Gospel movement. The first leader of the party was a former Methodist clergyman. The second was an Anglican lay reader. The fourth a Baptist clergyman. Yet there is also a strong anti-religious (and specifically anti-Christian) element, seeming centred in the Ontario section of the party. I recall an attempt to hold an unofficial Christian Socialist Caucus meeting at a federal convention in the early '80s triggered a bitter and viscious debate on the floor where several speakers demanded such a group not be allowed to meet on the convention site or have its meetings announced, and one speaker even demanded that participants be expelled from the party. (Of course, federal conventions sometimes serve to bring together wingnuts who don't really represent anyone at all.)

Unlike that Christian Socialist Caucus (which never really became an organized group), the Faith and Social Justice Commission is an officially recognized group with a mandate which includes outreach to religious progressives.

One of the things I find curious in Dennis's article is that, while the Conservatives are, naturally enough, reaching out to religious conservatives among all faiths, and while the NDP is reaching out to religious progressives of all faiths, the Liberal Party version of religious outreach involves one MP and one subset of believer. Yet another example of the Liberal Party operating in a political paradigm at least 20 years out of date.

We do not walk alone - Apparently the newest Nobel Laureate and his family chose to worship at St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square this morning. To their credit, the parish did not adjust the preaching rota, so the Obamas (Obamae?) heard a sermon from seminarian Mike Angell. And, as befits his name, the preacher had a serious message. You can read the whole sermon here. And here is the closing paragraph and challenge:
We do not walk alone. Take a moment and look around this sanctuary. None of us walks this way alone. Christianity has consequences, and none of us can face those consequences alone. There is a danger to read the story of the rich man individualistically. We can make it a story about a man who has to individually choose whether or not he will follow Jesus. When Jesus invited the rich man to follow him, he invited him to join a community, a community boldly living life together in a new way. These followers of the way were later called Christians. Jesus walks beside us, and we walk beside our sisters and brothers, the body of Christ. Christianity has consequences, and none of us can face them alone.
Hat tip to Episcopal Café - The Lead.

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