Thursday, July 9, 2009

General Convention: They get busy

I've been a bit busy today, so I haven't paid much attention to General Convention. But I did hear from friends who are on the floor at convention, and I had a great phone conversation with Paul Brockman, who is a member of St. Paul's and an alternate deputy from Virginia. Paul has been everywhere, testifying at various committees on various issues, and he was headed off to one of the big hearings of the week that was considering proposals to allow priests to bless same-sex unions.

Another of my friends told me the major highlight for her today was Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' homily this morning at the daily Eucharist (the photo is from the Eucharist this morning). Bishop Rowan began with a thank you to the Episcopal Church for inviting him, listening to him, and especially for hanging in there with the Anglican Communion in the stormy debates over sexuality and other issues.

"Thank you too for your continuing willingness to engage with the wider life of our Communion," he said. "I do realise that this engagement has been and still is costly for different people in different ways: some feel impatient, some feel compromised, some feel harassed or undervalued, or that their good faith has been ungraciously received. I'm sorry; this has been hard and will not get much easier, I suspect. But it is something for which many of us genuinely are grateful to you and to God."

This evening I watched a webstream of the floor session, and it had its lighter moments, as when a deputy rose with a "point of personal confusion." The vote counting machines didn't work, but most deputies seemed to be rolling with the glitches. The floor session ended with deputies talking to each other one-on-one in small discussions about how they've been affected by the moratorium on ordaining new bishops who are openly gay. Deputies needed to be open to each other enough to share in this conversation, and that brings me round to Bishop Rowan's homily this morning:
This is what we are here for as a Church. Our life as church declares to the world that God's longing is for a humanity like this, a humanity broken open for intimacy. Broken open: because there is a cost in the creation of the humanity that God longs for. At the very beginning of all things, and at the very beginning of the story of God's people, the word of God speaks into a dark emptiness and brings life and light. 
By sheer divine freedom, God brings light, makes a humanity where there was no humanity, a community where there was no community. And God makes us able to receive his mercy where once we could not even understand that we needed it. In a word, we have been called from nothingness; but this means that we still stand over that abyss of emptiness – an inner void that only the Word of God can hold and fill and make to be something that is real and living. Sin is our constant temptation to slip back into nothingness, into unreality – the void of our own individual desires and agendas, the void of a self that deludes itself into the belief that it is really there on its own, independent of God and of others.

So when God in Jesus Christ restores humanity to its proper place in God's heart, Jesus has to face full-on the strange power of nothingness, the power of the terrors and dreams that are generated out of the self in its urgent attempts to keep itself alive by its own strength. Jesus dies because we don't want to die – to die to our fantasies and self-centred plans and dreams. To follow him is to risk stepping into life by recognising that something in us must die – so that everlasting and true life may live.

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