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Monday, June 30, 2008

My (not quite but almost 39) Articles of Faith

I have been reading and reflecting and praying about the GAFCON Conference wherein disgruntled bishops spent many hours discussing what it means to be an Anglican Communion. I’ve also been thinking about the upcoming Lambeth Conference wherein bishops will spend many days exploring what it means to be a bishop.

Apparently, all his is a prelude to discussing what it means to live in something called “An Anglican Covenant” – an idea being pushed hard by those who, from all I can tell, are distressed that Anglicanism is going to hell in a hand basket over TEC’s position on human sexuality, ecclesiology and scriptural interpretation. The Covenant seems an attempt to update and finally, officially codify the Thirty Nine Articles which have been relegated to a safe, historical place in the back of the Prayer Book.

Oh yes, and finally have the power to punish, shame, humiliate and cast out into the outer darkness anyone who does not follow the(ir) rules.

Not surprisingly, a discussion has arisen about the value of the Anglican Communion and whether or not we ought to work to keep intact this sacred gift from God.

Many have argued for an Anglican Communion, enumerating the many reasons why we ought to maintain our membership and strive to keep the loosely configured bonds of affection intact.

I have found myself mostly in agreement with this position. That being said, it all depends on what kind of ‘communion’. Here are some of the characteristics of a communion to which I wish to belong:

My (not quite but almost 39) Articles of Faith

I believe in a communion which is less a place and more a state of being.

I believe in a communion where my passionately held beliefs about who God is and why Jesus came among us and how the Holy Spirit works in our lives can be held in healthy, respectful tension with those whose equally passionate beliefs about the persons of the Trinity differ sharply from mine.

I believe in a communion where discussions of the different theological positions about such issues as the atonement, the resurrection, the virgin birth, the ascension, and the assumption of Mary are lively, intelligent, and even hotly debated, and understood to deepen, not threaten or diminish the faith “first received”.

I believe in a communion which honors all sort and condition of humankind – old and young, rich and poor, male and female, and of a variety of skin color, sexual orientation, economic, social, educational, physical or intellectual status and cultural contexts.

I believe in a communion where different thoughts and conditions of humankind can be lived out in peace, without fear of ridicule, humiliation, shame or punitive consequence.

I believe in a communion which understands that, to be human is to be flawed and faulted but not “wretched;” that we are not, by our nature, “miserable offenders,” and that humanity, like all of God’s creation, is “good,” by the gift of grace, freely and undeservedly given.

I believe in a communion which believes that Jesus died, “once, for all,” and that we are made worthy, through Him, to stand, not constantly grovel, before God or each other.

I believe in a communion where my status of ordained priesthood, and that of all my duly ordained sisters and brothers, despite our human condition or theological position, is recognized and respected and we are allowed to love and serve the people whom God has called to our care and leadership.

I believe in a scriptural communion which understands Holy Writ to be ‘the words of the Logos’ - a guide book not a rule book - written by holy people who, inspired by their love of God, attempt to understand God’s action in and love of the world which God created.

I believe in a human communion which recognizes and, indeed celebrates, that no one in this life is infallible and nothing in this life is inerrant.

I believe in a communion where religious intelligence, imagination and creativity are qualities which are held in equal esteem to doctrine, discipline or organizational structure.

I believe in a communion which sees the empty tomb as an invitation not to death but resurrection, not to an ending, but to change and transformation, not to scarcity but abundance.

I believe in a prophetic communion where justice walks hand in hand with mercy as the people of God strive to walk humbly and attentively with God toward reconciliation with ourselves, our neighbor and our God.

I believe in a baptismal communion where the ‘priesthood of all believers’ is not a quaint theological theorem, but a deep commitment to honoring the ministry of all the baptized at all levels of sacramental grace and structural governance.

I believe in a eucharisitic communion where boundaries of time and space are suspended – past, present and future as well as heaven and earth are made one – and we are fed and nourished to become the One we profess to be.

I believe in a worshiping communion whose rich variety of liturgical expression respects and reflects the cultural context from which it has its origins – including language, music, movement, and dress.

I believe in a communion which is driven by the Great Commission of Jesus and ardently believes that love in deed is love, indeed.

I believe in a communion for whom evangelism is a way of life, not a programmatic effort; where members are not only invited through the church door, but welcomed in from the ‘highways and the hedges’.

I believe in a reconciling communion which seeks first the mind of Jesus and the Realm of God in the ordering of our common lives of faith and in resolving disputes and disagreements.

I believe in a communion which, first and foremost, is constellated and held together by the mind and sacred heart of Jesus, and not simply ancient creeds, modern church resolutions, or the invitational whims of prelates in present power.

I believe in a communion which respects human intelligence and reason and is courageous enough to open our eyes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to see the outstretched hand of God in our human experience, leading us into new understandings of God’s on-going revelation.

I believe in a communion which respects the history and tradition of the Anglican Church, and strives to live into the radical orthodoxy of the Sprit of Anglicanism, which holds fast to its great tradition as the ‘roomiest room’ in all of Western Christendom.

I believe in a communion where the desert is dry enough to bring all of our temptations and all of our sins; a place where we may look squarely into the face of Evil and wrestle with our own demons.

I believe in a communion where limping is seen as evidence of God’s visitation, having wrestled with an angel or two, and we are allowed to continue the pilgrim’s walk, ministered to – and by – human angels in the community of saints.

I believe in a communion where the baptismal water is deep enough to do all our dyings and fresh enough to enter into all our rebirths.

I believe in this communion because I know it exists. I have seen it and lived into it and know it to be true. I have committed myself to being a contributing, faithful member of this Anglican Communion and seek to work with Anglicans around to world as we strive to take the best of our past, our best present selves, and together live into the future, fashioning ourselves into the image God had of us when we were first given this sacred and mysterious gift.


WSJM said...

Elizabeth, this is splendid. Thank you very much.


Muthah+ said...

Wow, I am going to use this, if I may.

But what disturbs me is that we look at the numbers of GAFCON nations and we think--they out number us. But do we remember when the UK was churched? Do we remember when more Episcopalians were churched? In Africa, the numbers relate to the "good ole days" when everyone went to church but didn't practice their Christianity much.

And while we can say what we believe, it is more about who we know as Jesus that is motivates us. In other words, we all need to write our own 39 articles. Boy have you started something!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bill, I only hope that Muthah's words are true - I hope I have, in fact, started something, and that we might all write our own "39 Articles."

Fran said...

Brilliant Elizabeth and thank you.

I do especially love the one near the end about the waters of baptism.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

What can I say except, "I'm impressed!" (Oh, and, "YEAH! I believe that too!)

Ok, we have enough for a communion now (more than one) but not enough yet for a minyan...

David@Montreal said...

dear, dear Elizabeth+

Right on dear Sister! Right on!

Your 39 articles are but another radiant example, in your personal priesthood and elsewhere in the Communion of our inclusive voices becoming elements of leaven in the wondrous work of renewal the Holy Spirit is working in these times.

As to 'starting something,' sweet sister, you're right there in mid-current swimming to the Greater Glory of God!


Jim said...

If that was the model for the covenant, I could be on board. I might argue for another clause or two, but I could sign on as is if necessary. Magnificant and beautiful writing -- thanks for it!


Kay & Sarah said...

This is my favorite: I believe in a scriptural communion which understands Holy Writ to be ‘the words of the Logos’ - a guide book not a rule book - written by holy people who, inspired by their love of God, attempt to understand God’s action in and love of the world which God created.

Absolutely beautiful.