My Bishop, Kirk smith, is blogging from Lambeth, and his blog offers the text of the sermon he gave at St. Albans Cathedral in the U.K. last night. Here are some highlights:
The medieval scholars used to say, Ecclesia semper reformanda, the church is always being reformed. In Jesus’ day the Temple worship had become big business, with a complex and expensive bureaucracy of sacrifice, it needed a through housecleaning and reminder that its purpose was to be the house of God, not a currency exchange or a shopping mall. I would suggest that in the case of the Anglican Communion we have become equally derailed by at least a decade of power politics and bickering about structures which have little relevance to the needs of our parishioners, and have for at least a decade distracted the wider church from its Gospel mission. We too are need of a reformation, of a cleansing and purification. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the issues we have dealt with are not important. As practitioners of an incarnational faith, it is right and proper for us to enter into discussions about human sexuality. As members of a body which was founded by Jesus to be radically inclusive. It is essential that we be a place which is totally welcoming and affirming to all sorts and conditions of people, especially those who have been historically excluded from society and the life of the church, women, gay and lesbian folk, children, and those marginalized because of race or class. I am very proud of what the American Episcopal Church has done to include all people. To me, our prayerfully early inclusion of women as priests and bishops, our outspoken involvement in the fight against AIDs/HIV, and our ordination of monogamous gay lesbian people as priests and bishop. All of this is mandated by our baptismal vows. To put it bluntly, if we disqualify certain groups of people from ordination, then why baptize them? For me there can be no second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Where the Church needs reformation is not in the area of belief, but the way we treat each other. Our problem is not purity of doctrine but lack of Christian charity. Our divisions not only distract us from our real mission, but thy make us a laughing stock to the rest of the world. It breaks my heart to see the time and money we have wasted fighting with one another. I have watched many of my conservative friend’s leave the church because they feel there is no place for them, while many gay and lesbian people have turned their backs because we have not moved fast enough. And now in the latest development, a group of very conservative Anglicans meeting in Jerusalem last week has defacto declared itself to be a church within a church. They have separated themselves, in spite of the rhetoric to the contrary, not because of theology, but because in their eyes certain of God’s children can never be loveable to God, even though one member of the conference claimed, “just because we think gay people should be in jail doesn’t mean we are homophobic.” So what we have left this summer is the Anglican Communion, meeting in Canterbury, and the Anti-gay-lican Communion meeting in Jerusalem. The real tragedy is that while we as bishops attack each other’s orthodoxy, a hurting world goes unheeded. It seems downright demonic to me that while Africa implodes in starvation, epidemic, corruption and genocide, so many of its bishops felt that the best use of their time and money was to travel to Jerusalem to help a small group of a handful of fat cat white churches in suburban Virginia separate from the American Church. The result of the preoccupation with doctrinal purity has resulted first of all in neglect of the desperate physical and needs of the rest of the world. When former Archbishop of Ireland Robin Eames spoke on this topic a while back, he used an image that I will never forget. A starving small child sits in the middle of the world stage, holding a begging bowl. She watches as well dressed clerics cross back and forth in front of her carrying the latest proclamation, covenant, or committee report. So busy are they, that they don’t even notice her stares of supplications. After a while, the child dies, but the clerics, we Christians, keep walking. And we are not only ignoring physical needs, we are failing to meet spiritual hunger as well. I come from a country where 90% of the populations say they believe in God, but only 30% goes to church. 11,000 people a week move to the Diocese of Arizona, most of them unchurched—but who wants to join a church where its leaders lie and steal from one another, and where the air is heavy with insults when the only name we should be calling one other is brother and sister.
Read it all here.