"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
He talked about what binds us together being our common posture before Christ as "people who have not had the nerve to walk away from Christ."
"We are the people who have not had the nerve to walk away; who have not had the nerve to say in the face of Jesus, 'All right, I'm healthy, I'm not hungry. I've finished, I've done.' We have, thank God, not found it in us to lie to that extent. For all the lies we tell ourselves day after day, that fundamental lie has been impossible for us. Thank God.
"We're here as hungry people, we are here because we cannot heal and complete ourselves; we're here to eat together at the table of the Lord, as he sits at dinner in this house, and is surrounded by these disreputable, unfinished, unhealthy, hungry, sinful, but at the end of the day almost honest people, gathered with him to find renewal, to be converted, and to change. Because the hard secret of our humanity is that while the body has the capacity to heal itself, the soul itseems doesn't. The soul can only be loved into life - and love is always something that we cannot generate out of our own insides - where we have to come with hands and hearts open to receive.
"The people who didn't have the nerve to walk away. And because they didn't have the nerve to walk away, the people who not always in an easy or welcome way, find they have more in common than they might have thought. What do we all have in common this morning in this church? We are hungry for God's love, God's truth, and God's healing, and we have recognised that we cannot heal our own spirits, but must come to one another and to God for that healing. Hungry together, reaching out our empty hands together, we discover something about our humanity that we could in no other way discover, and we as an Anglican Communion, a world-wide fellowship of believers, we are saying that from country to country and language to language, and culture to culture, there is always the hunger, there is always the need for love, and at that level our human solidarity is revealed to us as it is in no other way.
"Just theology? Just pulpit talk? No. No, in a world where human solidarity doesn't seem so obvious. Next weekend, and the week after that, the wealthy nations of the world will be considering what particular crumbs from their table might fall somewhere in the direction of the needy of the world. In a world where such a meeting is even necessary, we need witnesses to solidarity. We need to remember that those who starve and struggle in terrible violence and deprivation are us, not them - part of one human community, loved equally with the passion of God, invited equally to the table of Jesus Christ. We are part of the civilisation which has somehow got used to the idea that what is good for us in the wealthy part of the world has no connection with what is good for anyone else. We have somehow got used to this, and we as Christians are all too seldom pained and angered enough by this.
"I spoke during the meeting last week of the vision of the Church as that of a community where the poverty of one is the poverty of all, where the wealth of one is the wealth of all. Where because we recognise our solidarity as human beings, our active compassion for one another is kindled. And in a civilisation that is deeply sick, we need the Body of Christ to be alive and well. And that too is what we celebrate this morning. Invited into the Body of Christ, into those who recognise together their need and their hunger, we proclaim to the world that it is God's purpose that we should live with and for each other; that it is God's purpose that each of us here to be a gift to the neighbour of whatever background, whatever race. 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.' And Jesus says to us, not only as individuals, but as a whole civilisation here in the northern world, the western world, 'So, you don't need me; so you are well?' God help us if we try to turn away from that challenge."
Big news is we have an offer on the house. Now, if you're thinking it's off the market, think again -- it's contingent on the sale of the buyer's house in California, so at best it's a maybe ('cause who knows what the housing market is like in Sacramento!). But a maybe is better than nothing. If this one falls through, I'm not too concerned. It really is a great house and someone is going to buy it. Waiting is no fun, but we're willing to wait.
As for the new place, it is slowly starting to come together. Instead of going to the gym, every morning, I've been getting up and over to the house at 6 for two hours of wallpaper stripping (yes, I have a second career as a stripper ... don't tell the bishop!). The master bedroom literally has five layers of wallpaper, most of which probably predates the Truman administration. But ... it's coming along.
Robin and Schroedter finished the boys' room. Schroedter chose the design and the colors. It's made up to look like the surface of the moon ... and looks pretty cool (I'll take a picture and post it). It's pretty much ready to move in, and some of the kids' toys are in there so they can play in there already.
Robin pried up some of the carpet at the base of the stairs and found some nice wood floor -- in pretty good shape. We're hoping the stairs are the same way.
This Saturday, we're holding "Habitat for Kinmanity" -- inviting all the ECM folk (and anyone else who wants to!) who are in town to come help us fix the place up. Come on over anytime from 10 am to 6 pm. We'll provide food and drink!
Tomorrow, I'm driving to Indianapolis for the Global Episcopal Mission Network Meeting (www.gemn.org) It's a good chance to network for EGR with people who are already doing a lot of global mission. I'll be staying with Peggy and Jerry (Robin's aunt and uncle), which will be nice. Back Friday night.
*A diocese or province will announce it is not accepting money -- even money designated for important, life-saving ministries -- from parts of the Church it believes to be promoting teaching on human sexuality contrary to its understanding of Scripture.
*Those whose money is being rejected (and others who hold similar beliefs to theirs on Scripture's view of human sexuality) deride the primate or bishop for their actions, calling them unChristian, unconscionable and even evil.
*Those who are in the same theological camp of the diocese or province rejecting the money counter this by calling the act of rejection courageous, assert their trust in the power of God to hold, heal and sustain, and deride those whose money is being rejected for trying to use their money to force capitulation to theology contrary to the Gospel.
*Stories -- none officially substantiated but many told very forcefully and believably -- circulate that every dollar denied is being made up for by individual and corporate donors in America who share the rejecting diocese/province's views of Scripture's understanding of human sexuality. Vast conspiracy theories are promulgated, mistrust grows, and the gap between the two sides widens.
*After much sound and fury, the issue dies down until another diocese or province makes a similar announcement and it all begins again.
I find this pattern utterly predictable and entirely unhelpful. It represents an unwillingness or inability on either side to see nuance, to think creatively, and to live lovingly and sacrificially. I think we are all better than this. I know we are all called to be better than this.
First, for the sake of this conversation, let's assume that everyone's motives are the absolute best. Now, I can already hear the cries of naivete, but my experience has always been that the Gospel is always better served by attributing the best to people's motives rather than assuming the worst. There are certainly people on all sides who will use this or any situation for nefarious means ... but just as certainly there are many more people of great faith and integrity on both sides ... and these are the people in whom our hope rests anyway -- so let's just assume that's who we're dealing with!
Second, let's acknowledge that both sides have virtue and vice. Let's also take both sides at their word. That means recognizing that:
-striving to have your actions match your convictions is a laudable thing -- it is a sign of discipleship and it is what living with integrity is all about. Both sides are trying to do this. Those offering the money are trying to live out their call to help those in great need. Those rejecting the money are trying to live out their call to reject what they believe is false and harmful teaching.
-both sides are exhibiting sacrificial living -- a central part of our call to live in Christ. The dioceses offering the money are exhibiting great generosity in a culture that encourages self-aggrandizement. The dioceses rejecting the money are doing so at great personal cost (and anyone who thinks these bishops take lightly the extreme suffering of their people not only are not assuming the best from their motives, they haven't spent any time in these countries or with these bishops).
-both sides believe that feeding the hungry, healing the sick and lifting people out of extreme poverty are central to the Christian call. We share a desire to get this work done. The differences are complex. Among many things, they involve one side having a faith in God's providence that they believe will work outside what they see as an apostate church and the other side believing that God's providence is working through their living out their call and giving and that these people may not be provided for outside of that. This is where we have the impasse.
Third, we need to acknowledge that, whether or not this is the case now, our nation and our church have in the past used money as a hammer. That is part of our legacy. Likewise, we need to acknowledge that our legacy and our current life is much broader and deeper than that, and that there is a deep desire among many, if not most, to move beyond manipulation and paternalism to truly shared life and ministry in Christ.
So how do we approach this productively? A few suggestions:
*Assume the best and acknowledge the goodwill on both sides -- Those rejecting the money should acknowledge that, however vehemently they believe people in these dioceses giving the money are getting it wrong about human sexuality, at the very least a large number of those people are not trying to influence an agenda but are honestly trying to live out their Christian vocation and help those in need. If rejection of funds needs to happen it should be done with sadness and with gratitude and praise to God that, at least in this area of their life, these Christians are getting it right. Conversely, those giving the money should acknowledge that, however vehemently they feel the decision to reject the money is wrong, it is made out of a desire of Christians to live with integrity and is a decision made with great pain and difficulty for all concerned.
*Explore acceptable ways to work together on what we agree on -- Instead of shouting about whether this particular action is justified or not, begin (or continue?) a conversation about what, if any, would be acceptable ways to work together to accomplish the goals that we agree are part of the Christian call (basically, the Millennium Development Goals -- http://www.e4gr.org/mdgs.html). Can we honor each other and still work together? If money cannot change hands ... how else can we help each other?
*Don't let this be a barrier -- For the "givers" ... give the money anyway. Respect the right of those rejecting the funds to live out their faith the best they can -- that's what, at our best, we are all trying to do. But don't let that stop you from doing the same. If those dioceses/provinces won't accept it, find reputable NGOs in the same regions that will -- the resources will get to the same people. What about Anglican Relief and Development? If those giving the money aren't willing to go through ARD when doing so would get the money to those who need it, how are they any different from those refusing the money to begin with? For the "rejecters," redouble your efforts to work for the MDGs, recognizing that the responsibility that comes with your decision to cut off one avenue of help from your people is to discover two other ways that God can accomplish the divine mission of healing and reconciliation.
*Talk with each other. Pray for each other -- Resist the temptation to fall back into our own camps and demonize each other. Be honest about how you feel about each other's actions. Be honest about the sadness and anger the actions on both sides have generated. But always assume the posture of constructive engagement and listening. Continue to assume the best motives and intentions, continue to search for the beams in our own eyes even as we are driven crazy by the motes in each others, strive to live in holiness by living in humility, pray for each other -- not that God will change them to agree with us, but that God will use us in each other's life, will transform us through engagement with each other to mold us all into the image of Christ through which God will draw the entire creation into the divine.
In every moment of conflict there is the potential for destruction and the potential for the birth of a new creation. The difference is in the approach.
| Mike at 6/16/2005 10:21:00 AM
Thursday, June 09, 2005 Double Standards
From a post I wrote for the Episcopal House of Bishops and Deputies list...
Much of the conversation about sexuality that threatens to consume the Episcopal Church is concerned with standards of behavior – what they are, what they should be and whether they are being applied fairly and equally.
What makes this conversation most difficult for me is that the discernment and application of standards -- whether single, double or otherwise -- seems almost exclusively limited to matters of sex. I find that not merely curious, but in truth, quite dangerous.
There is nothing in our ordination vows or in our baptismal covenant that explicity establishes any one absolute standard specifically related to sexual behavior. What we believe is inferred from several broad questions and statements.
This conversation also usually involves Title IV. Among the things that Title IV says clergy can be brought up on charges for are violation of ordination vows and immorality (it also says that we can be charged with "violating the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer." ... as Dick Tombaugh used to say "...and the trial for that one will be held in the Louisiana SuperDome, 'cause it's the only place big enough to hold all the defendants!" -- talk about a double standard in applying the canons!).
In NONE of these places is sex specifically mentioned and in NONE of these places is our sexual behavior given a place of importance over any other type of behavior. (For example, Title IV doesn't say sexual immorality, it just says "immorality".)
Our baptismal and ordination vows and the canons of this church compel us to live lives that are characterized by the kenotic love of God expressed in creation by the incarnate Word of God, Jesus the Christ, born, crucified, died and resurrected. It is a call and challenge we as members of a body must engage with our whole lives -- certainly our sexual activity is a piece of that, but it is by no means the only piece and it is by no means the most important piece. And yet you would never know that by listening to us.
And that is what makes this seemingly endless conversation difficult for me -- and what I think is, in the end, most harmful about it. Each side in this debate claims that they are operating against the dominant (read: Hostile to the Gospel of Christ) culture and that the other side is caving into it. But it is the debate itself that is reinforcing a huge piece of our dominant culture that I really do believe is contrary to the teachings of Christ and contrary to our call to live a life in that Christ.
In elevating sexual behavior above every other type of behavior in our need to adopt and apply standards. In elevating sexual sin (if we could even agree on what that is!) above every other type of sin in litmus tests for things like ordination or lay leadership. In doing these things, we are reinforcing the current culture of obsession with sexuality that exists at least in America. In doing these things we are telling the world that they are absolutely on the right track to elevate sexual behavior to the position of most importance in their life and relationships ... because that's what we're doing, and doing it in a way that the whole world can see.
I'm not saying our sexual behavior is unimportant. Our sexuality is a gift from God and it is very powerful. But we act like it is our only gift from God, that it completely defines who we are and that our exercise of it is the most important determining factor for our individual and corporate salvation.
And it begs a question in which I believe our salvation is inextricably bound:
In a country where the emerging generations have the smallest percentage of commitment to a community of faith of any generations in our nation's history...
In a country where the past 50 years have seen us become increasingly isolated from each other in our nation, communities, neighborhoods and even in our own families...
How can we continue to act as if the elusive search for an absolute sexual ethic is the only task and the only ethic that matters? How can we claim to embody the transforming Gospel of Christ when our actions and inactions, when the topics on which we choose to spend our time, energy and money reinforce a culture that spends billions of dollars more getting Viagra in the hands of middle-aged white American men than antiretrovirals in the hands of terminally ill black African mothers and children?
This conversation is full of rhetoric on all sides about judgment. Judgment for behavior that is deemed immoral. Judgment for behavior that is deemed unloving. But if there indeed is judgment, and if indeed we look to scripture to tell us what that judgment is, while we're parsing through more debatable passages about sexuality, shouldn't we look more closely at Matthew 25 as to what the topic of conversation will be at the day of judgment when the nations are gathered around the throne (hint: it's not a three-letter word beginning with s!)
Because by acting as we are, we are not just subjecting ourselves to judgment, we are not just contributing to leading many others astray as well by reinforcing the cultural belief that sexuality is the be-all and end-all of life, we are robbing ourselves of the fullness of joy that comes from a Gospel FULLY preached, FULLY apprehended and FULLY lived. A gospel that, yes, cares about who we are as sexual beings but also cares about who we are as people of compassion and generosity and mercy and thought and a thousand other things.
And maybe that's the biggest sign I see. One thing that is consistently missing from this debate is joy. Even the celebrations each side has have a hint of the vindictiveness about them that comes from a victory OVER someone else. Where I see the joy is the many cases of people stepping outside of and beyond the narrowness of this issue to reach out in love and compassion across the street and around the world.
Where I see joy and where I feel joy is when people talk about the real ministries that are going on in their congregations, the lives that are being changed, the Gospel that is being preached and lived, the ways that so many types of hunger are being fed.
Should we strive for standards of just behavior? Certainly. Are there double standards out there? Absolutely. And in terms of a sexual ethic, if we ever come to terms with a coherent one we should make sure that it is one that is applied equally.
But when we act as if this is the only double standard that matters, we blaspheme against our Lord as he stands holding the hand of the six-year old girl in Ghana who is dying of malaria for lack of a treated bednet while my children sleep safe in their Ikea bunk bed in an air-conditioned house with more toys than whole villages I have visited in that country.
We will know we have emerged as a church of the living Word when our discernment over people's fitness for ordination or lay leadership involves prayerful conversation about their compassion, their dedication to the poor, their commitment to breaking down the power of loneliness and their ability to have their lives be carriers in a worldwide pandemic of God's joy.
And I take heart, because as I look around, I know that day is coming ... and sooner than we might think.
| Mike at 6/09/2005 09:25:00 PM
Wednesday, June 08, 2005 Beth tagged me, so...
I usually don't do these things, but Beth Scriven "tagged" me on her blog to answer these questions and, hey, they're about books, so why not!
How Many Books Do You Own? Wow ... not off to a good start ... your guess is as good as mine ... especially since most of them are in boxes right now. COunting the ones that are at Rockwell House, it's got to be 300-400 .. give or take a thousand.
I read two disturbing stories online yesterday... stories with a pretty clear cause and effect (see below).
The first reports that President Bush is resisting Tony Blair's call for all G8 countries to double their aid for Africa.
The second reports Kofi Annan and UNAIDS chief Peter Piot as saying the funding gap between what is being given and what is needed is making it unlikely for the world to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.
Martin Luther King said
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Articles like these are stories not of lack of resources but of lack of will.
It is encumbent upon us as Christian Americans not to be silent about things that matter.
Please, contact your government officials and demand a commitment in the G8 Summit of doubling Aid for Africa.
If you haven't joined the Episcopal Public Policy Network, please list of Episcopal members of Congress: -------------------------------------------- First article -- from yesterday's New York Times
WASHINGTON, June 1 - President Bush refused on Wednesday to budge on his administration's opposition to doubling aid for Africa, a major proposal on the agenda for a summit meeting of industrial nations next month in Scotland.
The long-simmering dispute could culminate next week when Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who has advocated the plan, visits Washington in advance of the July session, a meeting of the Group of 8. As host of the meeting, Mr. Blair set the agenda, and he argued during his successful campaign for a third term in office that the world's richest nations had to make a $25 billion increase in support for Africa. But Mr. Bush has been cool to the idea from the start and has resisted making new aid commitments.
Asked Wednesday about the issue, Mr. Bush said, "It doesn't fit our budgetary process."
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday told a U.N. special conference on HIV/AIDS that the global response to the disease was insufficient, saying "the epidemic continues to outrun our efforts to contain it."
The executive director of UNAIDS, Dr. Peter Piot, also told the conference that the AIDS epidemic needs to get the same attention from world leaders as "the most urgent security threats and crises" and "not an iota less."
Piot said a funding gap of billions needs to be closed to ensure universal access to HIV prevention and treatment.
"Nothing less than universal access to effective HIV prevention and treatment will be sufficient if we are to keep this epidemic from engulfing the next generations," he said.
The one-day gathering of representatives from more than 120 nations, including 40 health ministers, is gauging progress in meeting commitments made at the first global gathering at the United Nations on HIV/AIDS and spelled out in the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.
Annan praised prevention programs in Brazil, Cambodia and Thailand.
In a report released at Thursday's gathering, Annan said that "the overall epidemic continues to expand with much of the world at risk of falling short of the targets set forth in the declaration."
"While political commitment to the AIDS response has become significantly stronger since 2001, it remains inadequate in many countries in which the epidemic is emerging as a major problem," Annan said.
"Strong and energetic leadership is especially vital in all countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, where the opportunity to prevent the epidemic from becoming generalized is quickly vanishing."
The following are key findings of the U.N. report:
Many of the most affected countries are at risk of falling short of the target of reducing by 2005 the level of infection in young men and women 15 to 24.
While those on antiretroviral therapy increased by nearly two-thirds during the second half of 2004, 12 percent of people who need such treatment in low and middle-income countries were receiving it as of December.
Many countries have yet to adopt legislation that will prevent discrimination against people living with HIV, and even fewer have enacted measures to promote and protect the human rights of vulnerable populations.
There is a growing crisis of HIV/AIDS orphans and vulnerable children, but "national efforts and the level of donor support are currently not sufficient."
There is an "acute shortage of trained personnel who possess the requisite skills and expertise."
Spending trends will cause a "significant shortfall" by 2007.
Piot also said that "over the past four years two disquieting facts become evident: One is that AIDS is an unprecedented global crisis. There is simply no other example of that kind."
"The other is that until and unless we control this epidemic, it will continue to expand [and] worsen for decades, killing unbelievably large numbers of people and wrecking societies."
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."