Friday, March 24, 2006

The World is Watching

I think it is important for us to recognize that humanity has become connected globally in ways that would have amazed past generations. Events unfolding in one corner of the world are no longer isolated incidents. Within days, and sometimes within hours, they are revealed to the world. We are quickly redefining the term "community".

The speed with which the internet allows such communication to occur is one of the most compelling causes of the sudden broadening of our global consciousness. This new reality requires every organization, including the Church, to rethink the ways in which we communicate our message of the Good News revealed through Jesus Christ.

Beyond reconsideration of proclamation, we also have to pay closer attention to the perspective of those who are outside the Church, who do not always trust our words, because our actions, our witness, is often viewed as being contrary to the message we claim to profess.

As an example, consider this recent article; Americans, Especially Catholics, Approve of Torture. Here's how Andrew Sullivan summarized this poll:

...Most disturbing to me are the high numbers of self-decribed Christians favoring torture: only 26 percent of Catholics oppose it in all circumstances, while only 31 percent of white Protestants rule it out entirely. If you combine those Christians who think torture is either never or only rarely acceptable, you have 42 percent of Catholics and 49 percent of white Protestants. The comparable statistic of those who are decribed as "secular," which I presume means agnostic or atheist, is 57 percent opposition. In other words, if you are an American Christian, you are more likely to support torture than if you are an atheist or agnostic...
Unfortunately, I have seen the truth of this poll within the Episcopal Church. The Diocese of New Jersey did pass a resolution condemning torture this year, but it took two years to get it passed! Last year, an almost identical resolution was soundly defeated. The statements made by Episcopalians supporting torture this year and last were chilling commentary on the direction the Christian faith seems to be headed. The good news is that we managed to pass the resolution this year. The bad news is that there is a vocal pocket of Episcopalians, and apparently a majority of all Christians, who see no contradiction in following the Prince of Peace and torturing prisoners. This is our witness to the world. And the world is watching.

To focus in a bit more on our Anglican witness, consider the recent legislation in Nigeria that outlaws not only same sex unions, but makes it a criminal offense to advocate for civil rights for gays and lesbians. Peter Akinola, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, has publically supported this legislation. No longer is this oppressive law only the act of a misguided secular government. It is the Christian witness this Anglican leader is offering to the world; our "Christian" response to gays and lesbians and their allies is to lock them up.

For some time, only a few brave Christians such as Bishop Chane of Washington, made clear that Peter Akinola does not represent what many of us consider a Christian witness on this matter. Since then, numerous organizations from around the globe, including the US State Department, have spoken out against the Nigerian legislation. More info on the growing global outrage can be found here and here. The world is watching, Abp. Akinola.

To narrow the focus even further, did you see this recent Reuters article? I want to draw your attention to this segment:

...But Maury Johnston, Virginia-based author of "Gays Under Grace: A Gay Christian's Response to the Moral Majority," said the church factions have reached the point of "irreconcilable differences."

"The longer the Episcopal Church tries to force both sides into unity that doesn't work, the longer the church will be side-tracked from forging onward in the world," he told Reuters. "That does not mean that I necessarily want schism. It just means that I think that it is unfortunately inevitable in light of the hard-nosed attitudes of conservatives ... "
Some of you will recognize Maury as a regular commentor here at Jake's place, and the author of the essay Facing the Spectre of Schism.

My first communication with Maury was when he sent me his essay by email. The quality of his writing and the power of his message compelled me to immediately reply with a request to post it on Jake's place. David Virtue read it, and asked Maury for an interview, which he courageously granted. And now a Reuters reporter has interviewed him for an article. Personally, I'm tickled that a wordsmith of Maury's caliber has been identified as a spokesperson for the more progressive perspective within the Anglican Communion!

Which brings me to my final thought. I think progressive Anglicans have a message that the world is willing to hear. I think we are doing a poor job of proclaiming that message. I think we can do better. But, to do so, we have to change our perspective.

For instance, most of us probably consider this little blog to be a tiny backwater in the flow of information in the Anglican Communion. And yet, the only way that Maury would have shown up on that Reuters reporter's radar screen is if the reporter was reading Jake. The world is watching.

In the world of blogs, the traffic on this site is considered rather small. But, among progressive Anglicans, it has a significant audience. One of the primary reasons it has developed such a steady audience has more to do with those who participate than it does the quality of the content. Those who regularly visit and comment here represent another example of how we are redefining the concept of "community".

So, I want to suggest to you that we be more intentional about functioning as a community by working together to get our message out. Some of you already send me links to items of interest, which is extremely helpful. I don't always use your sources, especially if another site has already done a good job of covering it, but I greatly appreciate you sending them to me. I will not promise that I'll use everything sent to me in the future, but, please, don't be shy about sending me links, or posting them in comments.

I'll also consider posting your essays, which would allow me to get something up more often. No promises of publication, however! Better yet, if you don't have a blog, get one, and I'll link to your essay. Keep in mind that I've more or less zeroed in on things Anglican as the focus here for some time now, and plan to keep that focus at least until after General Convention.

The world is watching. What witness to the healing power of the living God will we offer?


No comments:

Post a Comment