Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bishop Gray's Post-Lambeth Conference Reflections

The Faith Forum in today's Clarion-Ledger is written by my bishop: the Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray III. In it, he shares some brief reflections on his experience at the recent Lambeth Conference, reflections which he also shared in greater detail with a gathering of clergy and laity this past Thursday at St. Andrew's Cathedral. Brief as this is, it does a good job of putting the struggles we have within the Episcopal Church into the larger perspective of what it's like to live the Christian faith in very different social and cultural contexts, including contexts in which being a Christian can be dangerous.

I recently returned from a gathering of Anglicans/Episcopal bishops from around the world. At this gathering in Canterbury, England, the site of St. Augustine's first missionary effort to the people of southern England, I listened to story after story of people seeking to be faithful in an extraordinary diversity of contexts.

I listened as one spoke of the challenges of being a Christian leader in a community in Pakistan controlled by the Taliban. Another spoke of the uphill battle in India trying to get the government to ease the discrimination against the untouchables, the caste that makes up much of the Church of South India.

I heard the story of a bishop jailed for seven months in Sudan and every morning being asked with a gun pointed at his head, "Are you still a Christian?"

I discovered the serious efforts at peace-making and reconciliation being carried on by the Church of South Korea seeking a reunification with families in North Korea.

The Church of Myanmar told of its struggles to provide assistance to cyclone victims even as its government refused to allow much needed supplies to be brought in from the outside.
And in much of the developing world the clergy, including many bishops, received no salary for their work.

In the midst of such witness, the sharing of my own frustrations about the several institutions I inhabit seemed rather like the whining of an overly pampered child. The faith lived in a post-modern secular culture has challenges rather different from the faith lived in front of a loaded gun.

At our closing service in the ancient Cathedral of Canterbury, the site of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, we placed the names of seven Melanesian Franciscan brothers on the altar in the Chapel of Contemporary Saints and Martyrs. In the early 1990s, their simple faith had led them to pitch their tents between two warring communities as a testimony to reconciliation. Their deaths were a witness to a peace that this world cannot give.

May we, in our own context, have the courage of such a witness in our day.

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