Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Last Words

After much thought, prayer, and consultation with others, I’ve decided that it is time to close down Jake’s place.

This is not an easy decision. In some ways, it feels like a part of me is dying.

There’s many reasons for making this decision:

1. I believe that a constant exposure to some of the toxic rhetoric found on the net has had a negative impact on my spiritual health. I find it more difficult to discern the glory of God. Most likely this is because I’ve become too preoccupied with the depravity of man. I need to take care of myself.

2. I’m no longer sure that our conversations here are helpful to the Episcopal Church. We have become as polarized in our responses as those with whom we disagree. The reality is that we are all children of God. There is no “us” and “them.” There is only “we.” I honestly believe that. Continuing to focus on our divisions deepens them, and provides a poor witness to the hope that is in us.

3. I am considering launching a new project, which could be hindered by some of the strident conversations we have had here. I’m passionate about this project. I believe it to be a calling from God. I’m going to follow that call.

Am I abandoning the struggle? Some might see it that way. But, as I’ve said before, even though there are most likely many more difficult years ahead of us, I am no longer as concerned about the end result as I once was. In the long run, there is simply no way that the extremist perspective will become the dominant one within Anglicanism or Christianity. Their exclusive view, which insists on separating humanity into groups of "us" and "them," simply cannot survive in a world in which we are all becoming more and more connected each day. A global perspective will not tolerate their kind of elitist mentality. Nor will such a perspective tolerate the same kind of rhetoric here. So, I think it is time for me to do the responsible thing.

Yes, we must continue to speak out against those who will use the name of God to oppress and imprison the innocent. But, it seems to me, that cannot be our sole focus.

The Pews Forum survey still has me reflecting. 92% of Americans believe in God. That is astounding! We've got some great conversations just waiting to happen beyond the walls of the Church. For me, at least, I think it is time to end this focus on internal squabbles, and begin to look outward.

I feel God calling to expand this conversation. This may be a personal call. No doubt there will be others that feel the need to keep watch on the extremists. And I will continue to assist them as I am able, and support them. But I am feeling led to begin a new chapter of my life.

Some of us here have been talking with each other for over four years. Even though our relationship has been limited by this medium, I have come to think of many of you as friends. I will miss our conversations. I hope that you will find some solace in the knowledge that, at times, I believe our little community has made a difference. We have shifted the conversation, we have dragged hidden information into the light, and we have fiercely challenged those who have spread lies and half truths about us. Thank you, every one of you, for your contributions.

It is my hope that you all will discover a new gathering place. There are a number of fine blogs to be found on the sidebar.

I'm not giving up blogging, however. That's one addiction that I have yet to kick! I’ll most likely be opening up a new place in a couple of months. I’ll be writing under my real name. I think it is time that Jake and Terry merged as one personality again. The focus will be different. Little or no church politics. Lots of listening to faith stories from around the world. I can’t point to the new site, as it doesn’t exist yet. But, you’ll be able to find it, if you really want to.

I am determined to do this, so, even though I know some of you will, with the best of intentions, try to talk me out of it, please accept this decision.

This may feel like a death. In some ways, it is. But, do we fear death? I certainly hope not! The resurrection is what we’re all about, after all. Through Jesus Christ, death, our ancient enemy, has been cast down and trampled underfoot!

Sometimes, a church, or a congregation, or any kind of community, including a blog, needs to be allowed to die. Because it is only from those ashes that God is able to create something new. In death, life is changed, not ended.

I’ll leave the site up for a few days, in case any of you want to copy some of our discussions.

Five years is a good run for a blog. It’s been fun. Now it is time to move on.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always.

Terry Martin

All or Nothing

From Theo Hobson (note that he refers to the Gafconites as "Focas," a name attributed to this group by Andrew Brown) :

...So is this the long-awaited split in the Anglican Communion? Wrong question. In fact, wrong paradigm. The conservative Evangelicals of Foca have no desire to form a breakaway church. Their desire is to take over the Anglican Communion, and you don't achieve that by walking away.

And they look like succeeding. For the last five years they have been gathering force. They successfully pressured the once-liberal Archbishop of Canterbury into enforcing a ban on gay ordination. He got off the fence, onto their side. He agreed to give Gene Robinson, the gay bishop of New Hampshire, the cold shoulder (he didn't invite him to the Lambeth conference)...
It might look like they are succeeding. We can thank many of the press for that. But six gaffe-prone Primates and a bunch of disgruntled Westerners are going to replace Canterbury and the Instruments of Communion? Not likely.

Anyone thoughtful enough to read past the headlines can see that the pronouncements from the Gafconites contain much flury and bluster, but little truth. From the Bishop of Southwark:

...It is maintained that there is a North/South division. This is nonsense. The African primates attending Gafcon came from a narrow tropical belt. The majority of African primates were not there and the language of the manifesto would be anathema to other influential African church figures such as Desmond Tutu. Reading the manifesto, you would form the impression that the other Anglicans had moved away from the core beliefs of the Church, grounded in scripture. This, too, is nonsense.

What the Gafcon group seems unable to understand is that it is possible to take scripture seriously but not, in the 21st century, to interpret it precisely the same way as previous generations. Thoughtful holiness has been the hallmark of Anglicanism and we don't leave our brains, our newspapers or our prayers behind when we open our bibles.

Reading the manifesto, you would think that western Anglicans have capitulated totally to their culture. This, again, is nonsense. We are trying to relate the Christian gospel with its grace and challenge to the culture in which we are set. At an earlier Lambeth conference, when polygamy was a divisive issue, the conclusion was that we would trust the African bishops to tackle the issue in their own way, for they were best placed to do so. The cultures of east coast America or south London are not the same as in Nigeria. The Gafcon leaders should have the humility to trust church leaders ministering in very different environments to their own to know what they are doing...
If anyone looks closely, the real nature of this rebel group becomes quite clear. For instance, at a recent meeting in London, at which the Gafconites attempted to recruit new blood for their cause, three protester were forcibly removed from the gathering. One can imagine that the bouncers, who of course could not resist throwing a few punches as they performed their duties, were wearing brown shirts. I doubt if most Anglicans are going to find anything attractive in such behavior.

The Gafconites represent a desperate last gasp of a dying world view. It is difficult to find anyone under the age of forty who have any interest in their peculiar reading of scripture or the tradition, which they then use to justify bigotry in the name of God.

This is much ado about nothing, it seems to me. Fifty years from now, our descendents will look back on all of this and shake their heads in disbelief. The debate about women and gays as equals to everyone else in the kingdom of God will be a footnote along with earlier debates about racial equality.

This current debate is drawing to a close, it seems to me. Thanks be to God. I find little energy left to continue it. It is past time that we cease our inward focus. Our audience should be those outside the walls of the Church, who could care less about these debates. We've allowed ourselves to be distracted for too long. And our witness to the world has suffered as a result.

For me, at least, it is time to move on.

My thanks to Thinking Anglicans for pointing to these news reports.