Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Living Community Differs From a Museum

From the Easter sermon offered by the Right Reverend Michael Ingham, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster;

...And yet for resurrection to come some things must die. This church of ours, for example, is moving through a great time of change. And the paradox is that in order for the Gospel to live, some aspects of the church may have to die. Anglicanism has survived centuries of turmoil - world wars, religious wars, the end of slavery, the emancipation of women - but Anglicanism as we have known it for four hundred years may not survive the movement for dignity and respect that is now being sought for gay and lesbian people today.

There is a great struggle going on in our church between those who see God in the traditions of the past, and those who see God in the new wind of the Spirit challenging our old assumptions about human nature. It is the same struggle Jesus faced when he chose the way of compassion over the way of conformity. And it leads to a kind of death for those of us who have cherished and loved the old church we know and which we have served most of our lives.

But something wonderful is coming out of this turmoil. A new life is emerging from the pain of it, and it shows again the power of God to raise up and renew people who remain faithful and obedient in their decisions and actions. We are finding that unity cannot be built on injustice. Unity must be built on love and kindness even where this is resisted by the religiously orthodox.

We are finding that the identity of the church cannot be maintained by judgmentalism and condemnation, but by walking the way of Jesus even in the face of hostility. The struggle in our church today is not really about sex, it's about the courage to face new knowledge and new understandings when they challenge what we have long believed. It's about being open to the power of God to transform us from a people simply of tradition to a people of compassion.

Let me offer a word of encouragement to those of who are still seekers of the path, perhaps still wondering about Christianity. To you who may still be looking for your spiritual home, remember this: there is no spiritual growth without spiritual turmoil. There is no breakthrough without effort, there is no Easter without Good Friday. Do not look for a church that is free of conflict, where everything is settled, where no new questions ever arise. Never join a community that clings to certainties and resists new ideas.

A living community is a place of debate and dispute. It's different from a museum. In living spiritual communities people struggle to find truth. They never rest content with ancient dogmas or doctrines, even though they respect and cherish them. God disturbs and transforms every individual and every spiritual community through the power of the Resurrection. That is God's way. Images of spiritual tranquillity are a myth, a seduction, and a falsehood.

If we look for justice without suffering we are romantics. If we look for renewal without struggle we have missed the sequence of events. God is behind Easter, and its countless examples throughout history, but we have to make some important decisions before we can experience it for ourselves. If you have to make a choice, and you do, choose the path Jesus took. And join us, if you will, on this journey towards the miraculous and the new.

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