Monday, April 30, 2007

Focusing on What We Share

One of the most repeated false claims in the on-going debate within the Episcopal Church is that liberals/reappraisers have a different religion than conservatives/reasserters. The extreme camps have driven the difference engine to stir up anxiety and to keep their constituencies unified. Those who practice wedge and/or single-issue politics in the church need this myth to stay alive.

I have said before on the HoB/D list, in sermons, in classes and coffeehours, on blogs and blog comments, that this myth is at once unfair and inaccurate. Perpetuating this myth has been destructive to our common life. It is not new to the church, going back to the earliest church, but it is still wrong. I know that I am not alone in this assessment. While it is untrue to say that the two generalized camps have a different religion, it is correct and important to not that the two broadly defined groups draw differing conclusions from the beliefs we share.

Today in my parish, I began a four week Bible Study on Spiritual Gifts in our Adult Forum. This morning we looked at 1 Corinthians 12, where the Apostle Paul teaches the Corinthian Christians and us that our different gifts are at once activated and allocated by the same Spirit for the common good.

While many focus on the individual congregation for the most practical application of 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul's teaching certainly has application for the whole church. We looked at how this passage applies in the 'meta' as well as the 'micro' in the life of the church. Looking at the Episcopal Church, I asked the question could it be that, just as varying gifts are allocated and activated by the one Spirit in our parish, the gifts of, to name two churches that have been in the news at one time or another, All Saint's, Pasadena and the gifts of Truro, Fairfax, might be at once allocated and activated by the same Spirit for the good of the Church and Christ's witness and ministry to the world? How might this be repeated across the whole church? What would it mean for our witness and mission if we, as a whole Church, focused on the varieties of our giftedness under the same Spirit instead of our differences?

I wish that I had read Dylan's Grace Notes before class, because it would have dovetailed nicely into our work today, and given some useful group- and homework. Sarah Dylan Bruer begins with an encounter that took place last summer at General Convention where Martyn Minn noticed that she used a Mac and said that was one thing the two of them could agree on. She thinks that there is in fact much more than that they agree on, and so she has started an exercise.
I'd love to see if the community of readers here and on 'reasserter' (a term often preferred for self-designation by people often designated as 'conservatives' by progressives) blogs such as TitusOneNine and StandFirm can come up with a list of important points we actually agree on.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to start a list of points on which I think I and many 'progressives' agree with the vast majority of 'reasserters.' Progressives and reasserters, please use the comments either to add your own points on which you think we'd agree or to let me know if you don't actually agree with one of the points posted up here, and I'll periodically edit the list in light of the comments. I'm not using the most specific or detailed language I could use, as the goal is to come up with the greatest number and most specificity possible while still allowing broad agreement.

She started her list last night (April 28th) and other blogs, like Entangled States, Thinking Anglicans and Fr. Jake have pointed to it. So has TitusOneNine, and while the comments on that blog are as a group skeptical, that's okay, it's out there and people are taking part.

Here is her list so far:
"...here's my initial list of things I believe that I think most reasserters would also affirm:
  • Jesus is Lord.
  • Jesus and the God who created the universe are one.
  • The Old and New Testaments were inspired by God, and are useful for teaching and Christian formation (a la 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person who was born of Mary, gathered disciples and taught, healed, and confronted evil powers in ministry the first-century Roman province of Palestine, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate's authority.
  • Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Christ of God.
  • The God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. I know some Christians struggle with this, but I believe this was a bodily resurrection, and the tomb was empty (and John Dominic Crossan never persuaded me that there was no tomb).
  • Jesus' disciples met the risen Jesus -- some had visions, some corporeal encounters (though Jesus' body was different in some ways -- e.g., he didn't seem to need doors to be opened or unlocked to get into a room), but in all cases reported in the New Testament it was Jesus they met.
  • I think the list of canonical books in the New Testament is a good one. There is no non-canonical gospel that I would have liked to see in the canon, and no book currently in the canon that I'd exclude if I could.
  • I believe that the kingdom of God was inaugurated in Jesus' ministry, and that Jesus will come again to realize fully his work among us.
  • I believe that the God of Israel has chosen Jesus, the Christ, as judge of the nations.
  • I believe that Jesus is really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
  • I believe that Jesus is really present wherever people gather in his name.

I hope that everyone, especially people who think of themselves as moderate to conservative 'reasserters,' take up the invitation and head on over to her blog and add to her list via the comments page.

She asks:
So, what would you add that you think we both believe? Is there anything above that you couldn't sign on to? And how would you identify yourself (a reasserter? a conservative? a progressive? a liberal? a moderate? something else?)?
Sarah Laughed: an invitation, especially to 'reasserters.'

1 comment:

Lauren Gough said...

Andrew,
I too saw Dylan's post and thought interesting. As a graduate of EDS, I was surprised at how "conservative" (for want of a better term) that her list was. But I wonder if having a list like this is just the kind of thing that I would hope that we could avoid as Anglicans. I would want to avoid anything that smacks of covenant or confession because it allows for too little room to grow.

I would rather know if these "beginning points" as she puts it can start conversation that expands our understanding of what does it mean when we say "Jesus is Lord." etc. in the 21st century. They cannot mean the same as they did in the 1st or 2nd or 4th centuries.