Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

(This is the Bishops and Spouses' Choir from The Episcopal Church singing at Evening Prayer.)

Monday was a wonderful and hard day. We began as we always begin: Eucharist, breakfast, Bible study, our groups of 40. All of that was very stimulating. I find our conversation in these groups to be very enriching because of the strong cultural differences. We worship the same Lord but in 130 countries.

Monday afternoon we had an opening hearing on both the situation of the Anglican Communion as well as the proposed Covenant from "The Continuing Windsor Group." This is a committee appointed by the Archbishop to monitor what has happened in the Communion since the Windsor Report and to make recommendations of how that report might be folded into any proposed Covenant.

For me, it was Deja vu all over again but in different languages. There were some very insightful comments and one very moving talk by an American bishop. On the whole, however, this was not a conversation but a host of speeches, and we have heard most of them before. The afternoon did underline how profound the differences are. We have such little time and so wide a gulf that I came away without much optimism.

However, last evening we heard Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi for England. I had read one of his books, and, therefore, knew how brilliant he was, but I didn't know what kind of speaker he might be. He was amazing.

The Archbishop had asked him to speak on Covenant (for obvious reasons). Rabbi Sacks spoke of Covenants of Fate--which are bonds that arise from a common condition (which he links to Noah) and Covenants of Faith--which are bonds that arise from a common hope and promise (which he links to Abraham and Moses). The paradox, he says, is that just as our Covenants of Faith are breaking apart, our Covenants of Fate are pushing us together. Our sense of communion gets smaller at the very time when what happens in the Far East directly affects us in WNC and we face a global energy crisis.

He called on humanity to renew our Covenant of Fate because if we do not, we will die separately. This covenant enables us to "make space for one another and for God." More poignantly, he called on us as Anglicans to be an example of communion to the world. He said the hardest thing in this time is holding a faith community together and yet we have done this with a world wide Communion for 500 years with grace. He called for us to be an example to a world of growing divisions.

He ended by talking about the Middle East. He said that the way to reconciliation there was through "our shared tears." It's only when Arab and Israeli; Muslim and Jew look at the loss of lives together that peace will come. Specifically, he mentioned a group of Muslim and Jewish parents who have all lost children in the conflict. They go and advocate for peace so that no more parents will have to weep as they have.

I thought about that and prayed that we in the Anglican Communion do not have to lose so much before we turn towards one another. Perhaps we don't have to replay a Shakespearean tragedy where at the end when the stage is littered with bodies, the actors say "If only...." Perhaps we can skip to the end and find reconcilation before more and more tears are shed. At the end of the day, it is about opening our hearts to God.

Thus, the day was one of bookends: a sobering realization of the stark differences and an inspired call to find a bridge and to lay down our verbal arms for Christ's sake. I do not know the way forward, but I am convinced that Christ has called us to the ministry of reconciliation and, therefore, we must believe he will show us the way.

Keep us in your prayers as I keep you in mine.