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Learning from a negative example

This past week, the Episcopal Church bishops have been meeting in New Orleans. The Episcopal Church has been undergoing great trials over the last few years. The leadership of the Episcopal Church has headed in a direction that many dissidents in the Catholic Church would like to take our Church. Just read one of arch-dissident Joan Chittister’s latest columns.


So the question the Anglican communion is facing for us all right now is a clear one: What happens to a group, to a church, that stands poised to choose either confusion or tyranny, either anarchy or authoritarianism, either unity or uniformity? Are there really only two choices possible at such a moment? Is there nowhere in-between?

The struggle going on inside the Anglican Communion about the episcopal ordination of homosexual priests and the recognition of the homosexual lifestyle as a natural state is not peculiar to Anglicanism. The issue is in the air we breathe. The Anglicans simply got there earlier than most. And so they may well become a model to the rest of us of how to handle such questions. If the rate and kinds of social, biological, scientific and global change continue at the present pace, every religious group may well find itself at the breakpoint between "tradition" and "science" sooner rather than later.

There was much hope that at the meeting in New Orleans, the Episcopal House of Bishops would fall back into line with the traditional Anglican Communion. Unfortunately, no such movement was seen. This was lamented on many a traditional Episcopal blog. However, I think the following comment from a liberal visitor to one of these blogs is very informative.

Your response was well-articulated and I thank you for that. We do not agree on the direction the Church is progressing but continued dialog is important.

I think you are focusing too much on the after-life and not enough on living the life we have now. I understand how an argument can be created from many different sources within scriptures to support each point of view.

Jesus was a revolutionary for his time and flew in the face of what was accepted authority at the time, kicked the established order out of the church, and supported social justice well beyond what was known at the time for men and women.

People change, the world, changes and as we grow wiser, more intelligent and canny we set aside ideas that no longer hold merit. The Bible has many examples of this and though I could create a rather large list I’ll simply point out Levitical law as a glaring example of my point. These laws have been set aside as generations have passed. Some justify this as Jesus fulfilling the Covenant and that his words were the path on which we should follow now, and that to him the most important of the Commandments was (what you all Im sure already know), Love thy neighbor as thyself, and Love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, and spirit.

He did not say, love thy neighbor as long as he was a conservative, believed as you do, or any other pre-qualifier that to me conservatives seem to want to create. Nor is it a case of loving thy neighbor but if he disagrees with conservative viewpoints squelch his right to exist equally within his country of origin and deny him basic freedoms until he is forced to believe as you do.

The Episcopal Presiding Bishop has said something similar:

Critics say she equivocates on essential doctrine — the necessity for atonement and the exclusivity of salvation through Christ. They cite interviews in which she has said living like Jesus in this world was a more urgent task than worrying about the next world.

"It's not my job to pick" who is saved. "It's God's job," she tells USA TODAY.

Yes, sin "is pervasive, part of human nature," but "it's not the centerpiece of the Christian message. If we spend our time talking about sin and depravity, it is all we see in the world," she says…


Indeed, asked about her critics, Jefferts Schori doesn't blink. She leans in, drops her voice even lower and cuts to the chase.

She sees two strands of faith: One is "most concerned with atonement, that Jesus died for our sins and our most important task is to repent." But the other is "the more gracious strand," says the bishop who dresses like a sunrise.

It "is to talk about life, to claim the joy and the blessings for good that it offers, to look forward.

"God became human in order that we may become divine. That's our task."


The leadership of the Episcopal Church has substituted the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for the Gospel. They even have a Sunday feast day dedicated to the Millennium Development Goals.

This goes back to my last post about peace and justice ministries. Jesus did not come to eradicate poverty, win civil rights for the oppressed, and wipe out disease. Jesus came to redeem us from our sins. He is not calling us to keep our focus on this earthly world. He is calling us to pick up our cross and follow Him to eternal life in Heaven. In the process of following Him, we may very well feed the hungry and clothe the naked. However, I believe Jesus is far less concerned about the physical poverty of this earthly world than He is about the spiritual poverty. Physical poverty is not an obstacle to Heaven. Spiritual poverty is.

So pray very hard for our Catholic Church. Pray that our bishops, especially those in the United States, will resist the pressure to follow the worldly focus as the Episcopal Church has done. Pray that they are truly faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the teachings of the Magisterium.

Comments

I think you are focusing too much on the after-life and not enough on living the life we have now.

Yes, why worry about eternity when you can focus on the blink of an eye for which we exist on earth?

God help us all!
phbrown said…
Denise,

I think you're overstating your case when you say that "we may very well feed the hungry and clothe the naked", suggesting that those things are optional in the Christian life—remember the parable of the sheep and the goats, where feeding the hungry and clothing the naked was the differentiator between the two groups. Remember also St. John's admonition that "he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen," and St. James's tight connection between faith and works of mercy (which, note, he describes in almost exclusively corporal terms).

That said, you are quite right to note that loving our neighbors follows on loving God, not the other way around. The Lord Jesus did not put loving God before loving our neighbors by accident. The quotation you give from the liberal commenter about focusing too much on the after-life is indeed telling, because of course it is precisely a focus on the after-life that opens us up to be channels of true grace in the here and now.

Peace,
--Peter
Catholic Mom said…
Peter,

I didn't mean to imply at all that feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or any of the corporal works of mercy were optional. What I mean to say is that satisfying the physical needs of our neighbor is not the end point. It is not the focal point of our vision. Rather, it is precisely because we keep our eyes on Christ and follow him towards Heaven that our love for Him will bring us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
Hopeful Spirit said…
AMEN Catholic Mom - I understood what you meant, and I agree with you 100%.
God bless you, and let's keep praying for our Church!

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