Tuesday, October 20, 2009

True Communion

Thanks to Grandmère Mimi for typing Bishop Charles Jenkins' "Reflections on Communion" essay from ChurchWork (Fall 2009), the official publication of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. You must go to her blog to read the entire essay; it has not been posted on the diocesan ChurchWorks website.

You will remember that Bishop Jenkins is retiring early, reportedly because of the emotional and spiritual toll that Hurricane Katrina (and the huge recovery effort) has taken on him.

He writes passionately and gratefully about the support his diocese received – in tangible and intangible ways – from people throughout the Anglican Communion after the levees broke in New Orleans.

These snippets caught my attention:
When evil stands before me, I stand not alone, but this fractious, schismatic, heretical, wonderful, faithful, sacrificing, Christ-like Communion stands beside me, before me, behind me, and above me. As lonely as the past four years have been, even in dark nights of depression and doubt, I have not been alone.
And this:

Communion is not only about right believing and right acting. When our lives were in the ditch by the Jericho Road, when we had been robbed of life's dignity and much of the material of life, our Samaritan was the Anglican Communion. Rich and poor, orthodox or whatever, conservative and liberal, they came to us. They gave us of what they had and all prayed for us.

This Communion that I have experienced is the Church forced by circumstance to be what I think God has created His Church to be. I warn those who would break down and destroy this tender vessel that they are on the side of the enemy. Whether the iconoclasts be from the left, the right, or from the don't care side of things, let the warning be heard, Communion matters. Communion is not simply a matter of affiliation, or of like-minds; for some of us Communion is life or death. Communion is more than a man-made Covenant between us. We are called by God the Father into a greater Covenant that we dare not break. We are called to be here, together, one, broken, messy and yet strong, faithful, and rejoicing in the Lord.

The issues are many, the disagreements and disappointments many, and the opportunity to each do our own thing (which we suppose to be of God who blesses all our doings) is enticing. Such is not real religion.
I am awed and impressed by this essay. On many issues that are currently garnering headlines in the Episcopal Church, Bishop Jenkins and I would be in opposing corners. But I have been impressed by his faithfulness. And I am pleased to be in communion with him.

His essay also helps me as I think about my diocese’s relationship with the Episcopal Church of Sudan. ECS Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul is certainly no friend of LGBTs; in fact, you could say he is an active, vocal enemy. I have ranted about him plenty of times on this blog. And there are people and parishes in our diocese who want to walk away from our Companion Relationship with Lui, Sudan because of Archbishop Daniel’s words. But, at base, his words do not affect the relationship between my Diocese of Missouri and Sudan’s Diocese of Lui. We know their people. We spend time with them at least twice a year. When the rains are delayed, we worry and pray for their crops. We support their clergy and their school teachers. We send support to their hospital. We learn from them what simple faithfulness and fierce discipleship mean. We pray for each other. We bear one another’s burdens. We remain friends in Christ. No matter what venom Archbishop Daniel spews. Because – thanks to many trips back and forth and time spent together – we know each other and we care for each other.

If Archbishop Rowan Williams continues on his insane course to foist upon the Anglican Communion a juridical covenant that will divide supposed sheep from purported goats, I expect Sudan and the U.S. will wind up in different pastures. I hope and pray the Anglican Communion will not do that. It would be tragic to divide our churches that way.

Much more important are the close personal ties we have between the parishes in Missouri and Lui, which are mirrored among so many parishes and dioceses throughout the Anglican Communion.

True communion is this: People bearing one another's burdens, sharing each other's joys and sorrows and hopes. People sharing the Eucharist together as they visit friends who live thousands of miles apart. Missouri and Lui have it. So do many others. I pray Archbishop Williams and the Anglican Communion will not rip it from our hands and hearts.


Blogger June Butler said...

Beautiful, Lisa. The communion is indeed a "tender vessel", which we must not break down and destroy.

10/20/2009 10:55 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Amen, Mimi.

And thank you for transcribing Bishop Jenkins' column for all of us to read!

10/20/2009 11:20 PM  
Blogger June Butler said...

Lisa, it was an honor on my part to do the small job.

10/20/2009 11:55 PM  

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