Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Gospel Perspective on General Convention

This past Sunday night, the Rev. Canon David H. Johnson (a member of the Mississippi deputation to General Convention) offered some insightful reflections on the character of the debates over various resolutions. I think the larger Church would do well to take these reflections to heart:

... convention is moving slowly but surely toward consideration of various "hot button" resolutions. The debate has been gracious and respectful thus far, and I am grateful for that fact.

There has been a bit of irony, though; one that has been reflected in the lack of personal insight on the parts of speakers from various perspectives. I want to be clear: This observation has applied to each end of the spectrum of these conflicted issues.

This afternoon, a speaker objecting to passage of D-025 referred to the saint whose feast day we observed yesterday -- St. Benedict of Nursia. In objecting to the resolution, the speaker cited St. Benedict's practice of "never moving on until the weakest member of the group could move along with the rest." He contended that passage of D-025 (and others like it) would leave many disaffected Episcopalians behind.

In committee hearings and in other venues, I have heard others -- who support repeal of the 2006 B-033 resolution and similar actions -- speak of the burden and the crosses they have had to bear because of B-033 and earlier actions which discriminated against the gay community.

The irony seems to be this: As arguments are offered, the advocates from each side seem to equate themselves with "the weakest" and those "who have carried the cross" and those "who have been persecuted." There appears to be a true absence of insight into the irony of their positions. The traditionalists appear to feel put-upon and persecuted, as do those who seek to bring about change in how the church values and recognizes gay and lesbian relationships.

My perspective on the gospel is somewhat perverse. It seems to be true that we, as Christians, should seek to outdo one another in showing respect and forebearance. We should be willing "to turn the other cheek." We should not so much "seek to be understood as to understand" (St. Francis' prayer). We should try to be like Simon of Cyrene, and pick up the cross and follow our Lord on the long, rough and winding path to the death of "our way" -- whatever "our way" might be.

The example of Jesus Christ is not one of willful victory, but of self-offering and sacrifice. As that wonderful Mississippi poet William Alexander Percy wrote many years ago, "The peace of God it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod. But let us pray for but one thing: the marvelous peace of God." Christ never promised us victory -- except over death. The quest for victory of self and one's own perspective is not, I think, divine in its origins. The ability to bear and understand one another's pain is profoundly Christian. That is a worthy goal for all sides of the debates which began today in the House of Deputies and will continue in the days to come.

There is plenty of pain, loss, grief and alienation on all sides. That, I think, is the common ground we can share at the foot of the cross. In that, we can find our unity. In sharing that, we can find community that goes beyond the need to prevail.

Read it all.


plsdeacon said...

I am not a victim. I am never a victim. I am more than a conqueror through him who loved us (Rom 8:37).

Even if my worst fears are eventually confirmed and the progressive wing works to get every conservative that opposes SSBs, I will still not be a vicitm - I will remain a conqueror because of the victory over sin and death that Jesus acheived in his death and resurrection!

This attachment to victimhood is simply falling back on the secular outlook that is part of the problem in TEC (whether progressive or conservative).

Phil Snyder

Christopher said...

This piece elides the sociality-in- Christ question of "How shall we be with one another?" in favor of a form of preaching the Cross that has been used to allow ill-treatment of others and a codependence to justify it. Benedictine tradition is far more complex than that, providing for accountability when others are done to as no one wishes to be done.

Bryan Owen said...

Then again, it's not a foregone conclusion that such preaching of the Cross has to be misused for the ill-treatment of others.

And it's not a foregone conclusion that a genuine "ability to bear and understand one another's pain" becomes a codependent warrant for ill-treatment.

Quite frankly, I see little evidence from the far Left or the far Right that this "profoundly Christian" approach to our common life has actually been tried. We're far too invested in our own partisan agendas.