lundi, octobre 30, 2006

The space between

Being an Episcopalian attending a Lutheran church is a piece of cake, most of the time. In recent years, thanks to our statement of common mission, American Lutherans and Episcopalians have become pretty cozy. It's nice for those of us who are sick of the fights and posturing among conservatives and liberals in the Episcopal Church to step outside the fray now and then into denomination where, by and large, people still seem to be able to love one another despite their differences. Although one of my Episcopal clergy friends terms the St. Matthew's contemporary service "Episcopal lite" it includes most of the elements that are important to me-good praise music, clergy who preach anecdotal, vulnerable and scholarly sermons, and (only every other Sunday at the 9:00 service, alas for this Eucharistically-centered believer) the Eucharist. There's not enough time for silent prayer, but as Anglicans we aren't too good at leaving space for this in worship, so I can't be critical of my sister and brother Christians. Why are we so terrified by silence? St. Matthew's has a strong dedication to social service and social justice, as well as an ongoing commitment to partner in mission with burgeoning Lutheran judicatories in Africa. It's a happy place, and a great spot for me and the kids-except on Reformation Sunday. Reformation Sunday, if you have never experienced it, is one on which the Lutherans celebrate the theology and life of one Martin Luther and his effect on Western Christianity. I have to admit that when I sit in the pews and hear a sermon on the topic of Luther and his" sola gratia" theology, I get tied up on intellectual, emotional and even spiritual knots. A few weeks ago I was the lector, and stood up to read a passage from the book of James-the book that Luther famously termed "an epistle of straw." James has almost a fixation on doing good works-his scorching prose is wonderfully appropriate for the materialism of today's affluent classes. I couldn't help but grin at the pastor-James is such a stick in the eye to traditional Lutheran theology. Yesterday, however, I read from Paul's letter to the Romans, and tried to do it with soul! Admittedly a much bigger guy in theological circles, Paul is the theologian of grace. Asserting that we cannot adhere to the Mosaic laws in full, even if we tried, Paul says that rescue is God's choice, not ours. The confirmation class who attended the 10:30 service yesterday wore their "Sin Boldly" T-shirts---the natural end point of a theology that is based on the idea that salvation is all about God, and not about our ability to fulfill the law. Although Catholics have been parodied for having a "works theology" they do seem more oriented towards the concrete and incarnational-saying the rosary, praying to saints, liturgy and ritual are all ways of lifting up what God has given and offering it back. One of the great things about being an Anglican (and we can't boast about lots of great things in this season of revolution) is that we do find a middle ground in this controversy. So, as usual, I sat in the congregation yesterday wondering-why do denominations always have to have it one way or the other? Why do we desire ideological purity? Why can't we live in the tension between two opposing theologies (both of which I consider adiaphora, but obviously some do not) and let the God we claim as Lord sort them out? Upon reflection, my reaction to St. Martin Luther Day could say more about me, and my craving for balance, than it does about St. Matthews and its yearly trip to worship at the shrine of the German Reformation. After all, the pages of the bulletin are crammed with opportunities for service-proving that whatever is said from the pulpit on that last Sunday in October, the leaders of St. Matthews believe in the works of justice that affirm that we have indeed been called...and want to answer by offering up that which we have, and want, and are. ################################################################################# A couple of paragraphs from the Anglican Lambeth Commission on Communion explaining how they view the notion of something being "adiaphora":
As the Church has explored the question of limits to diversity, it has frequently made use of the notion of adiaphora: things which do not make a difference, matters regarded as non-essential, issues about which one can disagree without dividing the Church. This notion lies at the heart of many current disputes. The classic biblical statements of the principle are in Romans 14.1-15.13 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. There, in different though related contexts, Paul insists that such matters as food and drink (eating meat and drinking wine, or abstaining from doing so; eating meat that had been offered to idols, or refusing to do so), are matters of private conviction over which Christians who take different positions ought not to judge one another. They must strive for that united worship and witness which celebrate and display the fact that they are worshipping the same God and are servants of the same Lord.
This principle of 'adiaphora' was invoked and developed by the early English Reformers, particularly in their claim that, in matters of eucharistic theology, specific interpretations (transubstantiation was particularly in mind) were not to be insisted upon as 'necessary to be believed', and that a wider range of interpretations was to be allowed. Ever since then, the notion of 'adiaphora' has been a major feature of Anglican theology, over against those schools of thought, both Roman and Protestant, in which even the smallest details of belief and practice are sometimes regarded as essential parts of an indivisible whole.

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