Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Home is where the heart is.

I started to cry the minute I heard her knock on the Cathedral door.

The Investiture of the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori as the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA was a surprisingly emotional event.

Bishops, male and female, were openly weeping - a fairly uncommon sight in the Episcopal Church. We're not exactly stiff-upper-lip British, but by and large, neither are we Sicilian by nature.

And yet, there we were - all four orders of the baptized - openly weeping for joy.

The tradition of the knock at the Cathedral door is one I've grown fond of, actually. When I first heard it, in 1986, at the Investiture of Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning, I thought it just a tad too theatrical. How silly, I thought. A bishop knocking on the door of his or her own cathedral door!

I've come to understand it as an important act of humility - a gracious way of acknowledging that this is not the bishop's cathedral. Rather, it is the house of God where the children of God gather to offer prayer and praise, hymn and psalm, and together, make Eucharist.

Susan Russell and I always joke about General Convention being rather like a scene in the movie "My Big Fat Anglican Wedding." The Service of Investiture, with far less in attendance, was yet another scene from that same movie. Except, this time, all the crabby, disagreeable relatives stayed home.

Indeed, one of the very touching moments in the service came when all the other candidates for Presiding Bishop joined Bishop Katharine around the baptismal font to bless the water before we were all "sprinkled" in procession.

Conspicuous by his absence was Bishop Jenkins of Louisiana. Never mind. I trust Katharine to win him over, eventually - he and his other disgruntled brothers - with her grace and charm and absolute clarity about the urgency of the mission and ministry of the church.

Or, not. And, they will leave. But, that will be their choice. Not hers.

But first, she will make every effort to live out the reconciliation which is the central message of the cross.

As she noted in her sermon the passage of Ephesians (4:1-8, 11-16) makes it very clear that it is the duty of all Christians to seek healing hand wholeness, “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

It was her message of “home” however which I believe touched such a deep emotional cord in so many.

She was not talking in the usual terms of the church as our spiritual home. Rather, she was talking about our “natural” spiritual home, which, she said, is “in God.”

In this Octave of All Saints, that was the absolute perfect message to make.

For those who had ears to hear, just underneath that message was the extension of an olive branch – an opportunity for those who have rejected her status as Presiding Bishop and Primate because of her gender and/or her theology - to “return home” to the One God whom we all claim to worship and serve.

“Shalom,” she said. “Come home to the shalom of God, a place where no one goes hungry and everyone is invited to a place at the table.”

Shalom. Come home to the home of God where every human being gets to use every gift.

Shalom. Come home to the home of God where no one enjoys abundance at the expense of another.

Shalom. Come home to the home of God where we are all children of God, siblings at peace with each other.

The perfect image I had of that came just before the service began. The baptismal font was high up on a dais, with carpeted steps leading up to it. A young mother sat on the steps of the baptismal font, nursing her young child.

As I watched that baby resting so peacefully in her mother's arms, some of the words of the prayer of St. Augustine came to me, "our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee, O Lord"

I imagined Jesus coming into that Cathedral, seeing that site and saying, “Today, that prayer is fulfilled in your hearing.”

As I listened to Bishop Katharine’s sermon, I was suddenly overcome with joy – and I realized that it was the deep joy that the apostles knew. Just as suddenly, I understood that this was the emotion that made everyone weep openly. We were weeping, yes, but we were weeping tears of joy.

I think we all knew what the early disciples knew which inspired them to drop their nets and follow this amazing man who had a clear vision of the Kin-dom of God.

Nothing else we are doing – not the issue of human sexuality, not whether or not one’s theology is progressive or orthodox, NOTHING – is as important as following this amazing woman who has a clear vision of the Kin-dom of God.

That Cathedral was filled with people who caught sight of that vision, too. We became “prisoners of hope” filled with an “audacious hope” – enough to drop whatever else we thought was important and follow her home to the shalom of God, which, as she reminded us, is both the destination and the journey.

She ended her sermon with these words: “God has spoken that dream in us, let us rejoice! Let us join the raucous throngs in creation, the sea creatures and the geological features who leap for joy at the vision of all creation restored, restored to proper relationship, to all creation come home at last. May that scripture be fulfilled in our hearing and in our doing.”

”Shalom, chaverim, shalom, my friends, shalom.”

The congregation responded, “Shalom.”

And, let the rest of the church say, “Shalom."

And, "Amen.”


Lisa Fox said...

Elizabeth, thanks for giving voice to much of what I was thinking and feeling during that service. [I wrote about it over on my blog; you know the address.] But you deepened it even further. Thank you for making this a community event.

MadPriest said...

Oh, you people.



Hiram said...

You say, "I trust Katharine to win him over, eventually - he and his other disgruntled brothers - with her grace and charm and absolute clarity about the urgency of the mission and ministry of the church."

Look -- this is not about personality. I have no doubt that Bp Jefforts Schori is very personable, with an engaging personality and a lot of energy and excitement. That is far better than being sour and bitter.

But, the fact is that she does not espouse the historic Christian faith, and I and many others believe that the historic faith, proclaimed by the Apostles and recovered in the Reformation, is the only hope for the world. She seems to want many of the characteristics of the Kingdom of God (she seems to avoid the characteristic of all voices being raised in praise to the Lord Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father), but her vision of how those goals coming into being seems to be more political than spiritual. The MDG's are great goals, and we conservatives want to see them fulfilled -- but we also want to fulfill the Great Commission, to proclaim that Jesus is Savior and Lord, bringing people into fellowship with him through repentance and baptism, and teaching them to do what he has taught.

Bp Jefforts Schori speaks of "reconciliation," but what she means by that is unclear. In 2 Cor 5, where Paul says taht we have the ministry of reconciliation, the first object is to bring sinful himan beings into a reconciled relationship with God through the blood of Christ, as they confess their need of a Savior and turn to the one who can forgive them and give them new hearts.

I have been an Episcopalian for nearly thrity years, and over those years, I have seen Presiding Bishops move ever further from the Apostolic teaching which they are supposed to guard and proclaim. I am sorry to say taht Bp Jefforts Schori continues this trend. She may be an engaging person, but, while I will pray for her, I cannot agree with her or support her in her aims.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...


I'm sorry you feel the way you do. I suppose, given your position and the firmness with which you hold it, there really is only one question: Why do you stay?

I'm not saying, "Why don't you go?" I'm asking a question about the status of the health of your soul.

Why do you stay?

If being an Evangelical Anglican is your true identity, why not join a church/diocese with a priest/bishop who holds your same views?

Again, I'm not asking, "Why don't you leave?"

I'm asking why stay around a church which so obviously infuriates you? Where holding your very minority perspective of the church makes you so angry your words burn in cyberspace?

Why not be a member of a church where you can live in peaceful coexistence with others of similar views and still be authentically Anglican and Evangelical?

I don't understand the need to stay and gutter snipe. It's simply not edifying to your soul.

Why not take care of your soul?

That's precisely what I did when I left the RC church more than 30 years ago.

I highly recommend it. It will be good for you - and the church.

David said...

I'd actually like to hear the answer to this one myself, as long as it isn't that "I like a good fight." (as it was from the infamous David Anderson+ of the AAC)

Ken said...

I happen not to like a good fight, and I've started too damned many of them not to know how much they upset me.

That said... I was asked the same question: "Why do you stay?" I was asked that by a disgruntled Roman Catholic woman after I stopped short of being received into the Episcopal Church via Trinity on Wall Street, one week before the date. I received a tongue-lashing from the then-Vicar and current Bishop of Florida, Rev. Samuel Jackson Howard, that I forgave (he did it in public and in front of the altar) but am not likely to forget.

Several months later I was received by a visiting Bishop, David Bain, who was up to baptise a new grandchild and was prevailed on to do some confirmations and one adult reception, i.e., me. I gather the former Bishop of Southern Virginia had a pretty good nose for controversy, too. He and I got along fabulously in the brief time we spoke afterwards.

Not why did I stay, not why did I leave, but why did I come to the Episcopal Church a little more than two years after turning my body if not my whole heart on Judaism. I still don't entirely know and probably never shall. It's not important. I am not trying to become a postulant for holy orders so nobody's going to ask me that. What I felt was warmth that simulaneously allowed for ceremony. I found a relative lack of judgmentalism.

And don't even ask about the comparative quality of the music.

However, why do people leave? I belonged to a parish (Rev. Kaeton, you may know about this one) where the Rector--ordained a priest by Bishop Belshaw in 1991--decided his priestly mission was better served in the Roman Catholic Church. I was one of the few who didn't feel knifed in the back. I told him I was not at all surprised but I would not say why. It was something to do with thought processes, how he threw around the word "heresy" like it was a damned frisbee, and how he managed to attract unto himself a bunch of heresy-hunters who sound like they would fit in real well with the Bishop of Louisiana. I wish him well. He will probably be done with the seminary at Seton Hall next month and will be reordained. Unlike baptism, there can be more than one.

The discomfort with PB Jefferts Schori is sad. It's amazing to think this has anything to do with her plumbing or her positions. But I suppose it may have to do with both.

Deborah Sproule said...

Rejoice, Rejoice, Rejoice. That's what I saw and heard and felt as I watched the online video of Bishop Katharine's Investiture. Excuse me, but if you did not perceive
through one of your senses, the Glory of the Gospel in Bishop Schori's sermon you need to go to a doctor and get a good eyes,ears,throat, heart and limbs overhaul. Bishop Schori gave it all to us for all our senses to perceive. Not that God expects us to be "Right" but she sure got right to the heart of our call to do Christ's work on earth. We saw Genesis and the great Creation danced, sung and chanted. We heard from Isaiah and the Prophets to keep our promise to love GOD. We
humbly and joyfully accepted the forgiveness of our sins. We happily received the Promise of the Gospels, accepting Christ,all of us, freely as proof that we are God's creation and God loves US, ALL of US. God is way too smart to make us all cram through one tiny key hole to Heaven. Rejoice the way is large enough for all of us. SHALOM!!!

Tony Seel said...

"Except, this time, all the crabby, disagreeable relatives stayed home."

Thank you, Elizabeth for another lesson in inclusive love.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, hello, Tony,

I remember you. You are the priest who persisted and insisted on knowing whether or not AIDS was the cause of death for a priest who happened to be gay.

Whatta guy!

That statement has absoultely nothing to do with inclusivity.

It has everything to do with the truth.

You were one of the 'crabby relatives' who stayed home even though you were invited and welcomed "home."

Poor baby, you've been excluding for so long, you don't even know what inclusion looks like.

Hiram said...

Thank you for your concern, Elizabeth. I find it interesting that, in the spirit of using “Scripture, tradition, and reason,” while I sought to make calm and deliberate observations about what Bp Jefferts Schori said and how that compared to the historic Christian faith, as expressed in the foundational documents of the Church of England (and thus of the Episcopal Church) – your response was to what you believe to be my emotional state. I have seen such things time and again on “reappraiser” blogs – lots of emoting, and talking about emotions. I guess that that is one of the differences between conservatives and progressives: whether one comes at things from a primarily rational or primarily emotional perspective.

I am, of course, distressed, although what I feel is more grief than anger. One of the things I have always loved about the Episcopal Church has been her open-heartedness. But what I have seen happen is a group of people take advantage of that open-heartedness and willingness to tolerate a variety of opinions on secondary matters, and by doing so implant an alien understanding of Christianity into the heart of the Episcopal Church, and over time ( and using what Susan Russell referred to earlier this year as a “well-oiled machine”) become the dominant force in ECUSA. One of my Church History professors traced the curve of orthodox bodies going “progressive” as we studied the Reformation, which produced not only the great churches of the Reformation, but also the Socinians and other groups that abandoned Nicene Christianity. And even the Puritans produced the Unitarians after a few centuries. In many ways, what has happened in ECUSA (and is happening in the other “mainline” denominations) is a natural tendency. But that does not make it right.

Why don’t I leave? There are a number of reasons why I have not yet left. One has to do with the honor of the Lord Jesus (although in saying this, I remember a statement of GK Chesterton, who said that he would as soon defend a lion as to defend the Word of God.) The “reappraisers” of the Episcopal Church have in large measure reduced Jesus into a teacher and made him (at best), “a” way, and not “the” way to the Father. The Cross has largely been emptied of its power and significance, and the Resurrection has become a subjective, ‘spiritual” event, not an objective, physical one. So, I have stayed and sought to proclaim what the Scriptures, the Creeds, and the Thirty-Nine Articles have always proclaimed.

Secondly, I have my congregation to consider. If I left, who would lead them in biblical faith? My diocese has moved from being moderately conservative to being more than moderately progressive. There are nine Episcopal seminaries that teach the new religion, and only two that proclaim the historic faith, so most, if not all the candidates for rector would be more likely to be of the reappraiser perspective. They might well be centrists in many ways, but they would not be those who uphold the biblical faith (nearly every moderate I have met interprets Scripture from the same presuppositions that more obviously reappraising people do, and they simply have a longer timetable and not as much drive to see the changes take place).

Thirdly, I want the Episcopal Church to be true to its heritage. The preface to the first American BCP said that the Episcopal Church did not intend to change the faith it had inherited from the Church of England. When I was ordained, I vowed to be faithful to “the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this Church HAS RECEIVED THEM.” Changes in style or in strategy are one thing; changes in the very fabric of the Faith itself are another – I did not promise to accept whatever might come into fashion over time.

I have been glad to be a priest for the last twenty-odd years. It has been a joy to serve, and to see lives changed as people came to know the living God and his mercy in the Lord Jesus, and his power through the Holy Spirit to change lives, and to see faith deepened and ministries emerge.

Last month, however, I was at a diocesan gathering, and at one point our bishop told us to take five minutes and listen to the voice of the Lord for what we should be doing. And as I prayed and listened, I heard, “Get out.” So, I am pondering prayerfully when and how. For a variety of situational reasons and to fulfill some responsibilities to the parish, it will be eight to eighteen months before I actually leave – but it is no longer a question of “whether,” but of “when.” It will break my heart in many ways, but I have a picture of getting off the Titanic. The Titanic was of course a beautiful and wonderfully engineered and crafted ship – but once its integrity was compromised by striking the iceberg, there was only one choice to make – leave, or drown. I am not sure what lifeboat I will be on, but at least I will be afloat.