A friend (whom I greatly respect) wrote a note to the Bishops and Deputies list and, in part, raised the following question:
Do we really want someone from Chile or Argentina or Indonesia
telling The Episcopal Church how to relate to our culture or how to
discern the will of God in our various countries?
This question seems to me to be one of the key issues in play at
My answer is “yes” actually (with the caveat
that such a conversation takes place in a relationship of mutual
submission to each other.)
While local context is incredibly important for understanding local
expressions of the Church, I think arguing that local context trumps
all, takes us to a place we probably don’t want to go.
For instance, if the Province of Nigeria finds that in their local
context it’s appropriate to support legislation reducing or removing
the rights of glbt people in their country, I’d like to believe that
other Province’s objections to that action should carry some serious
weight in Nigeria’s deliberations.
I do believe that we need to be accountable to other parts of the
Church. I believe that because I believe that human beings suffer from
the effects of Sin. The only reliable way that I know to inoculate our
work against being derailed by our own sinfulness is to work together
as the Body of Christ in the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
According to my reading of St. Paul, that only happens when we discern
the body and submit in love to one another.
And given that line of thinking, it’s why I find it so distressing
that parts of the Church are, figuratively speaking, putting their
fingers in their ears and refusing to really engage in mutual
listening with each other.
The problem with my thinking of course is that any movement is going
to happen slowly and gradually. And, as Louie Crew has pointed out, if
a prophetic voice is claiming something is wrong, the Church, in its
slow movement toward validating that voice is going to be guilty of
opposing the will of God for a season or three…
My only response to that critique is to cede Louie the point. But like
the argument that democracy can only claim to better than other
alternatives because it’s the least worst of them all, so too a call
for slow and deliberate change is the only way that I can see that the
Church be like the wise steward who brings out of the storehouse
things that are new and things that are old…