Tuesday, March 29, 2011

  • For the most part, life at a House of Bishops meeting happens non-stop. Sunday morning and afternoon was set apart as "Sabbath" time, for which we all were grateful, and this afternoon is unscheduled as well. Beyond that, between worship, meals, and working sessions, there's scarcely time to turn around.
  • Sunday night we were visited by four bishops of the southern province of the Moravian Church. (They are spiritual descendants of the late 15th century proto-reformer Jan Hus, and the Episcopal Church as recently entered into full communion with them.) They led us in a celebration of Holy Communion according to their liturgy. It was quite interesting on a number of levels, very different in its details from the broad historic tradition of western eucharistic worship, but still preserving the rudimentary shape of Word followed by Sacrament. 
  • Yesterday (Monday) was spent considering the relationship between Christianity and Islam. We had two outside presenters, one of whom is a Pakistani Muslim scholar who is well-versed in Christianity. This is certainly a timely subject, not only on a global level (Christians in Islamic countries have been martyred this very month) but on a local one as well, as communities of Muslims are popping up all across the U.S. The question of inter-faith relations is delicate one. Certainly nothing is gained by a spirit of fear and an atmosphere of incipient violence, conditions that are always at least just around the corner in the minds of many Americans. And there is surely no shortage of opportunities for people from various religious traditions to cooperate in addressing some of the ills in our social fabric. That said, I believe Christian faithfulness calls us to resist the temptation to embrace religious pluralism as an ideal, an inherent good, rather than as a concession to the need we all have to live in peace and relative harmony. We must never coerce or manipulate, and we must treat the religions of our neighbors, as well as our neighbors themselves, with dignity and respect. And then we must, in love, call all people to repentance, faith in Jesus Christ, baptism, and discipleship in the communion of the Church. That may be an impossibly fine line for us to walk, but walking that line is nonetheless our call.
  • In the evening, we had "class dinners." Every bishop is a member of a "class" made up of those who were elected in the same calendar year (and then, for some unknown reason, they take the following year as the designation for their class, so I am in the Class of 2011). There are twelve of us--on the large side as classes go--but we seem to get on quite well and had a spirited time over dinner.
  • This morning the subject was the Anglican Covenant. The Bishop of Atlanta gave a lucid presentation, the main point of which is that ecclesiology, liturgy, sacraments, and polity are all systemically interrelated, and when we touch one, we touch all. The proposed covenant touches polity directly, but all the others indirectly. If we adopt it, it will change us. That's neither an argument in favor nor an argument against, just a statement of fact. I completely agree. The Anglican Covenant will change us in the Episcopal Church--in fact, it will change us even if we never adopt it (I tend to think we will not, but I could be surprised). And I think that change will be for the better. In the age of the internet, any distinction between the universal and the local is becoming increasingly meaningless. If we want to continue to cohere as a communion, we need to embrace the new reality that it's all local.

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