Monday, December 14, 2009

Yes, Virginia: There IS a via media!

Convergence trumps compliance in Dallas debate
-- by Susan Russell

Giving up on the television news this morning when I couldn't find anyone talking about anything other than Tiger Woods, I turned to cyber-news land and found this feature on Saturday's "debate" between bishops Katharine Jefferts Schori and William Frey in my inbox. It is totally "a keeper."

I'm posting the whole piece below and hoping you'll not only read it but forward it and save it for future reference re: the story I'm more tired of than I am of Tiger Woods. And that story is: "The Episcopal Church Splits: Film at Eleven."

Or not.

In spite of the uber-efforts of the schismopalians to spin that story for lo these many years now, the truth reads more like this: "The Episcopal Church Stretches: And there's room for you." Really.

If a three hour theological debate between Bishops Jefferts Schori and Frey can end with a hug and Bishop Frey's summation, "I heard a great deal of convergence," then I say we declare victory for the via media and get on with the mission and ministry of the church!

Because here's the real "breaking news:" If there's room for Katharine and Bill then there's room for you -- and for me. And for countless hungry souls out there yearning for hope and community and the spiritual sustenance that will empower them to go out into the world as agents of love, joy, compassion and justice. And that is precisely what is on the menu for the feast "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" to!

There is some sad news: There are going to continue to be those who put themselves outside that banquet hall because their criterion for being included is being agreed with and because convergence isn't enough for them: they need "compliance."

But no matter how much we yearn to gather absolutely everybody into this Big Fat Anglican Family of ours, the gospel we serve will NOT be served if we allow it to be hamstrung by those who insist our differences have to be divisions. The church will not grow if we focus more on those who might leave if we include everyone than we do on those who will come if welcome all. And the kingdom will not come closer if we allow the mission of our church to be held hostage by fights over consents to a qualified and duly elected bishop in Los Angeles when the world is calling us to fight injustice & oppression.

Yes, Virginia: there IS a via media. It is ours to rejoice and be glad in. AND it is ours to protect and preserve. And may the God grace give us the grace we need to do both of those things as we celebrate these waning days of Advent and look forward with joy to coming of our Lord Emmanuel!


No fireworks at Episcopal bishops' debate in North Dallas
By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News

[Dallas - source link] One bishop spoke deliberately, professorially, with flashes of droll humor and poetic phrasing. The other told stories from his long ministerial career, rounding them off with insights into Christian faith and practice.

But what had been billed as a debate between the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and the Rev. William Frey, retired Episcopal bishop of Colorado, yielded much common ground and no outright conflict on the identity and meaning of Jesus.

"I heard a great deal of convergence," Frey said afterward.

The three-hour Saturday morning event packed the 700-seat sanctuary of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in North Dallas, which brought the speakers in as part of a lecture series.

Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Church's first female presiding bishop, has been criticized by theological conservatives on a number of fronts, including for refusing to say that belief in Jesus is the only way to heaven.

The Rev. Robert Dannals, rector of Saint Michael and All Angels, sought to balance the program with Frey, a longtime leader of the Episcopal Church's traditional wing.

That wasn't enough for one local Episcopal priest, who said he and five colleagues wrote a letter to Bishop James Stanton of the Diocese of Dallas, protesting his decision to allow Jefferts Schori's visit. (Under Episcopal law, a diocesan bishop must give permission for a working visit by another bishop.)

"She hasn't guarded the faith. She has attacked the faith," said the Rev. Canon H.W. Herrmann, rector of the Church of Saint David of Wales in Denton.

But at times on Saturday, Jefferts Schori sounded like a pitch-perfect voice of orthodoxy.

"Jesus is the ultimate sacrament of God in human flesh – that's what we're getting at when we say he's the only son of God. He's the unique demonstration of divinity in human flesh," she said.

Other times, Jefferts Schori took risks, including referring to Jesus as the "green savior" who requires that Christians protect the environment as part of God's creation.

She also wasn't afraid to get topical.

"The challenges of our current age include the ancient human desire to find a scapegoat, with the familiar targets in this society right now being Muslims and immigrants and gay people," she said. "Jesus' own witness is to continually reject that kind of response, for it always ends in violence and diminution of life."

Frey, much more anecdotal, also noted the requirements of Christians to work for justice and help the poor and marginalized.

But he stressed fidelity to the Bible, the personal transformation offered by faith in Christ and the importance of sharing the gospel.

"The church that doesn't evangelize will be evangelized by the culture in which it finds itself," he said.

During questions and answers, the bishops took on abortion, the role of faith in healing and whether non-Christians can get to heaven.

"It's not up to us to say this person's out" of heaven, Jefferts Schori said. "It's up to God."

At the event's conclusion, the bishops embraced and drew a standing ovation. Among those who were pleased was Stanton – the Dallas bishop and a well-known conservative who has differed with Jefferts Schori on church issues.

"I thought it was a very constructive dialogue," Stanton said. "It was nourishing to everyone, I think."

At a news conference afterward, Jefferts Schori would say little more than that "prayer and discernment" were needed as Episcopal Church leaders decide whether to approve the recent election of a lesbian as bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

The question of gay bishops has roiled the Episcopal Church and exacerbated its tensions with the worldwide Anglican Communion.

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