mardi, mai 09, 2006
A Lover's Quarrel?
As is my wont, in the virtual company of thousands of others, I frequently begin my day by reading one of my friend Barbara Crafton's email reflections. Her thoughts are remarkably free from rancor, and she applies a sensitive and lively palette to almost anything she touches. Her subject matter may be as small scale as a flower or a hummingbird, or as vast as the nature of the church throughout the centuries, but her writing often has the comforting texture of a chat with a candid and wise old friend over a kitchen table cup of tea. Although her style today was no different, she grappled with a problem I had been striving to forget: the prospect of a split within the Episcopal Church at our General Convention in June. Like her, I am sad at the prospect of a schism, what a journalist friend terms the coming "Episcopal crack-up." I too wonder what on earth we look like to people on the outside who see those who profess a supernatural brotherly and sisterly love acting like two year olds at a birthday party fighting over the last piece of cake. I find the whole spectacle excruciating, not to say a little pathetic. We are a tiny part of a much larger denomination, which is changing more rapidly than we can grasp. For years I have moved between the majority, liberal culture in the Episcopal Church and the smaller, evangelical/traditionalist subculture (which represents in some respects, but by no means wholly, the larger, dominant Anglican culture). I am both sympathetic to and maddened by both sides, with their inflated claims about righteousness, justice, authority and truth. A question for the liberal side: how far do you go in distancing yourself from the Scriptures before you have abandoned their core teachings, not to mention the basics of the Nicene Creed? And for the conservatives: who among you, with your large cars (my SUV fixation is nothing five years of therapy won't cure) and divorces, your equivocal opinions about the sanctity of all life from embryo to grave, has the right to cast the first stone? In other words, the issues are serious, and need to be the subject of debate between people of faith. How we raise them, however, may make the difference between whether outsiders see us as people of integrity or as hypocrites. While laboring on a special assignment at a local evangelical University, I have been interviewing graduates working with the poor and on public policy issues in various places, both nationally and internationally. Several of them have commented that they find non-Christians much easier to work with than Christians! We all get a little weary of our family quarrels. Yet, as one of the fellows I interviewed reminded me, when we are upset with our denomination or even with the Church (large C), we are having a "lover's quarrel." I very much hope that the battle for the future of the Episcopal Church will turn out to be a lover's quarrel. But I have already resigned myself to the possibility that this June will see us become not just a fractious but a fractured family, too proud to remember that God is observing not only how articulately we speak, but how well we listen.