15 January 2016

DO NOT FEAR! THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IS NOT SUSPENDED AND WE ARE NOT HIERARCHICAL!


Do not fear! Apparently, the various primates of the Anglican Communion of Churches, meeting in Canterbury this past week (January 2016), voted on a statement which considers “how we may preserve our unity in Christ given the ongoing deep differences that exist among us concerning our understanding of marriage.” An 8-point resolution followed, apparently supported by a majority of the 38 primates, but not by all of them.

I do yet not have all details of the primates’ vote, but I am seeing various headlines and reports saying that The Episcopal Church has been “suspended” from The Anglican Communion. Other articles mention that the Anglican Communion of Churches is “the third largest Christian body in the world.”

Such reports sound sensationalistic, but they are deceptive and can be misleading. Here’s why: The Anglican Communion of Churches is simply not organized in the way that the Roman Catholic Church is. Casual readers of church news might prefer otherwise, desiring a handy table of heirarchy and doctrine. But no. The various churches and provinces of the Anglican Communion of Churches are quite diverse, and held together by common faith, common heritage, common tradition, and common spirit – but not held together by doctrinal absolutism, or one pope, or one body that sets global policy. For those reasons, large differences of opinion and theology, on matters like same-sex marriage, continue to exist in the Anglican Communion of Churches.

But, whatever else the primates can do, they cannot vote, by any margin, to keep a province or church from participating in the Anglican Communion of Churches. In fact, the word “suspension” does not appear at all in their January 2016 8-point resolution. (Another point: To claim that I, as an Episcopalian am not an Anglican, would be similar to claiming – in the heat of some rhetorical political dispute —that I, as a Georgian, am not an American.)

For the past fifteen years, various votes among various entities in the Anglican Communion have tried to force theological unity on the controversial issue of same-sex marriage. Many such votes have tried to appeal to some ultimate authority, or tried to assume some ultimate heirarchy, in order to support their position.

I am of the opinion that such desired heirarchies, or such fantasized hierarchies, are simply not there. Though our American Episcopal Church has recently tried to describe itself as an hierarchical church in certain legal situations, our beautiful and larger Anglican tradition is simply (and complex-ly) NOT hierarchical. The Episcopal Church is one of 38 global provinces who have a history and tradition and theology set in the gracious and generous elements of that Christianity which has roots in the British Isles.

Obviously, the issue of same-sex blessings, and same-sex marriage, has obsessed our church in recent years. Whether they are for or against same-sex marriage, some may regret that obsession. On the other hand, however, the issue is not a bad proxy for generosity and flexibility and openness, and, indeed, love. No matter what part of the globe we inhabit, our Anglican tradition has typically been one of the more progressive of the Christian expressions of faith.

I believe that our progressiveness, our openness to development, results from our sensitive observation and attention to the presence of God in the flesh. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe in incarnation. We continue to seek God in one another, and to affirm the presence of God in people, even in people who think and act differently from us.

In short, we are not an hierarchical church! The primates do not run the parishes of The Episcopal Church. (In fact, our bishops don’t actually run them either! In times of controversy, it is not healthy simply to appeal to higher and higher perceived hierarchies. It is healthier to make principled and Christian stands within our own integrity.)

I urge us, then, to continue living out our service and witness, our love and ministry, in the same Christian ways that we have been living them out. Do not fear! Jesus Christ is with us, leading us in the Spirit into all truth.



MORE DETAILS ON THE 2016 PRIMATES’ RESOLUTION,
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE PAST FIFTEEN YEARS

The operative words of the January 2016 Anglican Communion primates’ resolution, on the matter for further impairments to communion, seem to be these:

“we formally acknowledge this distance [between our positions] by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”

The phrase, “should not be appointed,” seems to be a request of those making appointments, generally the Archbishop of Canterbury and maybe, in some cases, the Anglican Communion Office. This statement seems to be a hope, and it is up to the “appointers” whether they accept the notion of being “required.”

The phrase, “should not be elected” is, again, a wish. How can anyone enforce, or guarantee, an election, which is generally understood to be a matter of voluntary and free will?

The phrase, “internal standing committee” is a bit ambiguous. Perhaps this phrase refers to the rather newly formed “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion,” whose members include Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut.

The phrase, “not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity,” takes up the ongoing matter of who decides doctrine and polity in Anglican Communion churches. This is exactly the matter under dispute across the global communion of churches. The primates have been meeting formally only since 1998! They were never intended to be doctrinal governors! Indeed, the manners in which some primates and bishops are appointed, some selected, some chosen, and some elected, vary widely across the globe. The Lambeth Conference of Bishops, whose first meeting was in 1867, was also never intended to settle matters of doctrine. Votes of Lambeth Conference were never originally intended to become doctrine, even though conservative advocates wanted the 1998 resolution, Lambeth I.10 to be interpreted as such.

Will the hopes and “requirements” of the primates’ January 2016 resolution be enforced? I am of the opinion that they will not be. The points are certainly heartfelt and sincere and faithful. Though I am progressive on these matters, I know that these controversies are painful for everyone.

But God is doing a new thing among us. Word is that the present Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby does desire to bring the matter of sanctioning same sex marriage to the General Synod of The Church of England. The ever witty Giles Fraser, a priest who writes for The Guardian newspaper, notes that same sex marriages are occurring in England now, presided over by ministers due to a strange legal loophole.

Giles Fraser remarks that “The Anglican church is only nominally a top-down organisation. What matters most is what happens on the ground. And on the ground, in pews across England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Brazil, Korea, Japan and the US, the movement towards marriage equality is inexorable. Whatever piece of paper Justin Welby emerges with, it won’t hold back the tide of history. The best the conservatives can hope for is a few speed bumps. (see entire article here).”

Essentially, the prediction is that, soon, even the original provinces of the Anglican Communion of Churches, in sanctioning same-sex marriage, may well be acting in ways opposed by churches in the so-called Global South.

As for American Episcopalians serving on appointed ecumenical and interreligious boards, it is important to remember that the Archbishop of Canterbury made a similar pronouncement of banning Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada representatives in May of 2010 (in his notorious Pentecost Letter!). But The Anglican Communion Office may have found ways to proceed with American and Canadian representatives anyway. (see the appointment of American Mark McIntosh here,), and see the appointment of Canadian Linda Nicholls here ).

Finally, of course, there is the Anglican Consultative Council, which first met in 1971, and which might better represent the breadth of the Anglican Communion of Churches. That group also represents the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion of Churches, but its voting members are comprised of lay people and priests, in addition to bishops.

I urge The Episcopal Church never, ever, to withdraw from our voting participation in the Anglican Consultative Council. A short remembrance of how The Windsor Report was formalized serves as a warning:

The Windsor Report of 2004, with its proposals for certain moratoria on same-sex blessings, was accepted by vote of the Primates Meeting in 2005. Afterwards, a resolution supporting the Primates’ decisions then came before the Anglican Consultative Council of 2005. However, one of the Primates’ proposals had already been accommodated before its official reception! That is, that members of the ACC from The Episcopal Church and from the Anglican Church of Canada, would absent themselves from official attendance at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.

Therefore, when the Anglican Consultative Council met in Nottingham, England, in 2005, two delegations were exercising what I would call “gracious restraint.” They knew that the atmosphere was tense, and they wanted to indicate some tangible form of respect for those who disagreed with actions in The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church of Canada.

Unfortunately, however, the matter of accepting The Windsor Report, and thus further “formalizing” it, and thus further “formalizing” its moratoria, was exactly one of the key matters of ACC-13 in Nottingham. One of the emerging “Instruments of Communion” was voting on a matter without two delegations (each including three members, six people in all).

The vote was close! The vote was 30 in favor of affirming The Windsor Report, with 28 opposed, and with 4 in abstention. The chair determined that the resolution had thus passed, and so the Windsor Report, with its notion of “moratoria,” became further “formalized.” Had the delegations from The Episcopal Church and The Anglican Church of Canada been voting, certainly the results would have been different.

The “lesson” for all Anglicans bears repeating. Stay in communion. Stay at the table. Claim your vote. I acknowledge that such table fellowship is difficult, for believers on all sides of the issues, and especially on this issue of marriage. What we believe about marriage comes from the heart of our theologies of faithfulness and commitment.

Finally, again, “Do not fear” are the familiar words of God’s angels throughout scripture. They are the words of Jesus himself. Be of good courage, be of good cheer, said Jesus, “I have overcome the world.” The world would have us panicked by sensationalistic headlines and simplistic summaries. The world would have us shown as divided against ourselves. But we Episcopalians and Anglicans have far more that unites us than divides us. We have accepted the love of Jesus, and we are committed to loving him more and more, in each of our neighbors and around the globe.



07 January 2016

SAND DOLLARS AND STARS


It's been almost a hundred years since the sand dollar looked like a dollar. Our dollars have turned from gold to silver, and from round discs to sheets of paper. Now, our dollars are figures on a check, or digits on a credit card, or maybe just a swipe of our smartphone.

But the "sand dollar" name persists. It is the name of a lovely shell, a skeleton, really, along the Atlantic coast, and in oceans around the world. Alive, the animal has little spikes, and thus is one of the echinoderm phylum of animals. The word "echinoderm" means "spiny-skinned." The sand dollars that I find on the beach are flaky gray discs, with a beautiful five-pointed star pattern on one side.

That five-pointed star pattern is a good clue that the sand dollar is actually related to the starfish, or what we call the starfish. The true name of the starfish (not a fish, per se) is the sea star.

At the Feast of the Epiphany, we in the Christian Church pause to celebrate a star. It was the sign of a star that led wise men from the east to be searching for the one who would be messiah and who would shepherd God's people. They found the child Jesus.

That star, and stars in general, continue to be signs for us of the light of the world. Somehow, stars indicate a mysterious and powerful light, light that comes to us not just in one line, but in various rays. Light radiating out from its core, in several rays, is what we call a star. Often, we give five rays to a star, but there are obviously so many more.

One of the features of sea stars is that when an arm, or ray, is broken off, another one grows in its place. Its body is able to regenerate. (Echinoderms are known for their radial symmetry.) Such is the power of star light, too. It is able to regenerate.

When we look for light in our lives, we are looking for something powerful enough to regenerate, powerful enough to touch us again and again. We may be looking for something spectacular and heavenly, but the true lights of the world can come from most anywhere. True lights of radiating mercy can come from right beside us, in someone we know. Or from someone we don't know. True lights of radiating mercy may even come from the ground below us, from the ocean mud and the sand.

True lights of radiating mercy can come to us in the form of a gray and flaking skeleton on the beach, a sand dollar. It may look like old currency, but there is something holy in it. It has carried the value of spirit in times past, and it can carry the value of spirit again.

During this season of Epiphany, I want to find the stars of heaven. Those stars may not be in the skies. They may be in the sandy beaches of our state. They may be in what the waves and water have washed up and left behind. With God, there is another chance. God wants to show us light, and God will regenerate that presence, again and again, if we need it.


I hope you find some of God's sand dollars this season. They won't buy you a thing at the shopping mall, but their value will be unsurpassed. They will have the ability to show us, again and again, that God's light and God's love are eternal.

25 December 2015

CHRISTMAS AND THE SOUL LIST OF GOD

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also ….went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.”   (Luke 2:1–5)




Do you have your list with you? I've got mine! I have even signed it!

Surely you have had various Christmas lists. Do you have yours in your pocket still? Have you filled in all the blanks yet?

Most of us have other lists, too. We have grocery lists, shopping lists, recipe lists for the holiday meals, thank-you note lists. So many lists! Apparently, even Santa Claus keeps lists. Next week, we will make out the most difficult list of all – our list of New Year’s Resolutions!

Most everybody makes lists. Check lists. Top Ten lists. Genealogies. When earnest people make a New Year’s Resolution to read the entire New Testament, from beginning to end, they start at the Gospel of Matthew, and are baffled to read only that Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram, and so on and so on. According to Matthew, the beginning of the New Testament is a list. Someone has said. “Thus begin the begats.” The world is full of lists, no matter where we live or what century it is.

“All the world should be listed.” So declared the decree from the Emperor Augustus, about to impose another tax upon his empire. He demanded that his people register, take a census, make a list. Yes, of course governments like to make lists, because it helps them keep control. So, today, we have taxpayer lists, and we have property records. We register our cars. We register our births. We register our deaths.

And it’s not just governments. We all make lists, whether we like government or not. Every day I make a “To Do” list, a list of the things I hope to achieve today. Alas, I rarely get to the end of that list, but somehow the list comforts me. It makes me think my day has been organized. It makes me feel like I have control.

Do any of you remember the writer, Umberto Eco? He is perhaps most famous for his book, “The Name of the Rose,”  written years ago; but he continues to write as a philosopher in Italy, and a true wonder. He cheerfully admits that he likes lists. A few years ago, it was his task to catalogue a special exhibition at the Louvre, in Paris. Someone interviewed him (Spiegel magazine in November 2009) about why cataloguing was important. Why making a list was important. 

Umberto Eco replied that, “the list is the origin of culture. It's part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It …wants to create order… How does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.”

Umberto Eco went on to say that,  “The list doesn't destroy culture; it creates it. …. It's a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die.”

Umberto Eco is right! Something in us likes lists; they keep us alive. One of our favorite songs is a list, so catchy that John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner made a jazz version of it:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
…..Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Keeping things alive, creating order, making infinity comprehensible, our culture likes to make lists especially at the end of the year. We see titles like, “the top heroes of the past year,” “the top ten movies of 2015, “ the top twenty vacation spots for 2016,” “ten ways to lose weight in the upcoming year.”

Connecting us to the culture around us, lists give us the feeling that we are in control.

But, there are two kinds of lists. Some lists are required of us, ways that our culture or the empire wants to take something from us. These are demanding and obligating lists. Such was the list of the emperor Augustus Caesar, who required a census, that everyone be registered with the empire. And there is always an empire, no matter what century we are in. Whether you have seen the latest Star Wars movie or not, that movie does remind you that one thing never changes: there is always an empire!

Empires want control over us, and they make lists which take things from us. When we absorb lists of “top ten vacation spots, top ten ways to lose weight, top ten investment opportunities,” we are letting ourselves be controlled by what they describe. We can turn most anything into an idolatrous empire.

But there is a second kind of list: not lists which take things from us, but lists of things we want to give. Christmas lists are the supreme example. The Christmas list consists of what we want to give, people to whom we want to give.

There is nothing better than this second kind of list, a list not of obligations, but a list of thanksgivings. The best list is for what we want to give.

We remember the Christmas story tonight because we want to join the soul of Christmas. We want to join the heroes of Christmas, those who know how to give. The heroes are the shepherds who give glory to God.The three kings give, because they want to honor a new kind of king, not a ruler over an empire or kingdom, but a Lord who teaches the world to give, and not to take.

And Mary, dear Mother Mary, gives. Mary is just like any other woman who gives birth. She gives away some of herself. She gives away some of her soul.

And God gives, too. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away – in fact, in an eternity long ago—God made a list. God made a list when he decided to give. Knowing that he would be giving away something of himself when he created life, God made a list.

That list is us! That list is all of God’s creation. God gives himself to that creation list, creation which is earth and air and water, birds and animals and fish, trees and flowers and grasses, all God’s favorite things, “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings,” and finally a list of us – humanity: blacks and whites and browns and eastern and western – the whole catalogue of humanity. The entire taxonomy of flora and fauna in the world is God’s holy list.

God’s list is us.

God signs his great list with the person of Jesus: Jesus, the signature of God.
We honor Jesus because Jesus is the sign that God has given truly of himself. Yes, God’s autograph is Jesus of Nazareth, flesh and blood, the title and signature of God’s great soul list.

All the world is registered tonight, but not registered with the Emperor Augustus. All the world is registered with the Holy.

We are on God’s giving list tonight. God has given soul to us. In the same way, our giving lists show us where our soul is: Christmas lists. Prayer lists. Thank-you note lists. Lists of things for which we are grateful.

Giving lists show us where our soul is. Make a list this year of those you love. That is your soul list. Make a list of what you are giving thanks for. That is your soul list. Make a list of what you want to give away. That is your soul list. Your soul list is for giving.

The lists which truly give us life, which give us soul, are the lists of things that we intend to give.

Christmas is for giving.  Christmas is for giving our souls. When we give, we gain freedom. When we give, we gain infinity! When we give, we make infinity comprehensible, and the Word becomes flesh, and dwells among us, full of grace and truth.

Amen.

The Very Reverend Samuel G. Candler
Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip

(this is the sermon for Christmas Eve, 2015, delivered by Sam Candler at the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia)



18 November 2015

IT'S THANKSGIVING -- AND PARIS WAS MASSACRED


I was horrified, devastated, by the massacre in Paris on November 13, 2015. The details of that tragedy were almost too gruesome to hear about. I share in the sorrow of so many good citizens – in France and around the world. I want to cry out that the world has far, far, far more good and righteous citizens than it has vicious and evil ones.

However, as I reflect upon that awful event, I have found myself thankful for something. Here in the United States of America, we approach the Thanksgiving holiday; and it is often our practice to prepare for that day by wondering what it is we are thankful for. So, here is what I am thankful for this year:

I am thankful for faithful preachers. In particular, I am thankful for the good and faithful preachers who preached on Sunday, November 15, 2015, less than two days after the Paris horror. Most of them completely revised what they were going to say that day. Some of them didn’t know what they would say until they stood in the pulpit on that Sunday morning.

And they weren’t all Christian preachers. I am thankful for the Muslim imams, and Jewish rabbis, and all sorts of other religious leaders who rose to speak on Saturday and Sunday to their shocked and sad parishioners.

I am thankful for the preachers who are called to speak to us week after week. Some of their sermons get passed around on the internet, or tweeted about, or mentioned in some random media piece. But most of their sermons do not. Most of the good preachers of the world are remembered only locally. They will never be made famous by headlines. The world is filled, FILLED, with great preachers who are known mostly by their local and ordinary and faithful listeners.

And it is precisely in those local and faithful places that the preachers make a difference. Faithful preachers who rise early on Saturday morning to revise their sermons make a difference. Faithful preachers who try to find God’s grace, and God’s gospel, in the midst of sadness and sorrow make a difference. Faithful preachers who cry with their parishioners about injustice and horror make a difference. Faithful preachers who listen to their parishioners all week so that they, the preachers, can assemble some message of relevance in their context – they make a difference.

The world needs something different from what we saw on our television screens this past Friday evening and Saturday, images of violence and evil. In the midst of covert violence and networked terror, the world needs places that gather people of good will and faith and hope. Those places are called churches, and mosques, and synagogues, and all sorts of other names. Most of them, the fantastic overwhelming majority of them, are places where we learn about goodness and love and hope. God wants to defeat violence and terror in the world, and God uses local communities of faith to do that, generation after generation.

I am thankful for the ordinary preacher who gathers the courage and spirit to speak to a wounded congregation every week. I don’t know her name in the church down the road. I don’t know his name in the parish across the country. But I know that those preachers are working, working hard and faithfully to proclaim God’s goodness and love in a world that is often wounded and pained.

So, this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for faithful preachers. Even the bad ones, who stumble and screw up and get the particulars wrong. Their spirit is usually right. They are trying to show us that God is ultimately good. Local congregations are the places where we learn this message the most often, and the most routinely. Churches and synagogues and mosques are where God gathers people who are sorrowed and pained, for just that reason; we need to hear messages of hope and healing.

Across the world, in the days after the Paris massacre, faithful preachers rose to speak good against evil. They rose to speak love against terror. They actually do something like that every week, whether we pay attention to them or not. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for them.

01 October 2015

PURITY INSISTENCE AND EMPIRE ARROGANCE: ALL OR NOTHING?

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name,
and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
But Jesus said, “Do not stop him;…whoever is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:38–40)

Whoever is not against us is for us!

This morning, and this past week, I am reminded of one of the great stories of our Bible, from the Book of Numbers – a powerful story, which has much to teach us about leadership in any generation. In short, it is a story about Moses, and two of his more obscure followers, Eldad and Medad.

At Numbers, chapter 11, the story occurs in the desert of Sinai, after Moses has led the Hebrews to freedom from the oppression of the ancient Egyptians. It is an unfortunate feature of life, in any generation, that the newly freed people soon begin to complain about their leader.

“Why have you brought us out to the desert?” they complain. “We would rather be back where the food was delicious. We remember the fish and the melons and the onions and garlic and leeks of Egypt!” Yes, the Hebrews, in their anxiety and distress, are so upset that they are longing to return to the conditions of slavery. Such is the human condition!

Moses, in turn, great leader that he was, turns to deliver the same sort of complaint to his Lord! Moses asks God, “ Why have you treated me so badly? Why have you laid the burden of all these weeping people on me?” “I am not able to carry the burden of this people alone,” Moses says. He is exasperated.

So, according to the story, Yahweh commands Moses to specify seventy people, seventy elders, and take them to the Tent of Meeting. There, Yahweh will take some of the spirit that Moses has and place it upon the heads of the seventy elders. Thus, the leadership assigned to Moses will be distributed and delegated. Moses’ burden will be mitigated, and the people will actually be cared for in a better way, with distributed leadership. It’s a great story about distributed authority, again a story with much to teach us in our own time, and in any time. Authority that rests in only one individual, even if that person is wonderful, is not as effective and healthy as distributed authority!

But something crazy happens! When these newly ordained seventy elders have received the spirit and they are prophesying healthily, why, they hear about two other people. Apparently, Eldad and Medad, way outside the tent, are not with the seventy properly ordained elders; and, yet, some of the spirit has come upon them, too, and they are prophesying! Joshua comes running up to Moses and says, “Moses! Stop them! They are not with us!”

Moses, in his expansive wisdom, recognizes immediately what has occurred. “Are you jealous for my sake?” he asks, “Would that al the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” That is, the Lord’s spirit is larger than any one set of people, or any one system, or any one authority. There is enough of the Lord’s spirit to rest upon all of God’s people, not just those properly delegated and ordained, not just upon the chosen few, not just upon the ideologically pure.

Ideological purity. In many of our strongest institutions today, there exists a self-destructive illness which has been inside humanity for our entire existence. I call it an illness, but it is really a psychological predilection marked by twin viruses: the virus of purity insistence, and the virus of empire arrogance. In politics, in church, in society, purity insistence and empire arrogance clamor for “all or nothing” strategies: “my way or the highway,” they say. “If you are not exactly for me and like me, then I am against you.”

There is a startling similarity between purity insistence and empire arrogance. The church is at its worst when it is tempted towards empire, when it wants to anoint emperors instead of servants, when its leaders think leadership is simply making sweeping and absolutist pronouncements. Even when those pronouncements seem good, and even when we might agree with them, if the nature of those pronouncements is imperial, then a dangerous disease is imminent.

The church is also at its worst when it insists on purity, when it demands that every member follow every jot and tittle of whatever the contemporary standard of law is. And remember: every party, every religious system, contains some sort of law. Democrats have their liberal markers, and republicans have their conservative ones. So do churches. We have little markers, indicators, litmus tests, of whether someone is with us or against us. Those litmus tests are our purity indicators.

Purity indicators in our time might be such issues as abortion, same-sex marriage, for sure. But they are also such issues as opposition to the death penalty and gun control laws. Our temptation is to simply destroy those who are against us.

Whatever your politics, you had to admire the rather sacrificial act of Congressman John Boehner this past week, who found himself running afoul of the purity insisters. In resigning his office, he simply refused to play the game of fruitless polarization.

John Boehner admitted enormous pride and consolation from his association with Pope Francis. The Roman Catholic pope, of course, might be the one leader in this world who would be most prone to purity insistence and empire pride. Christian churches, of whatever denomination, are continually tempted to those illnesses; and the Roman Catholic Church can sure seem like an empire, a power accustomed to demanding and receiving its own way.

But Francis, of course, has brought a different attitude to his leadership, one that is worth emulating, truly trying to mirror the leadership of Christ. In Washington this past week, Pope Francis told his fellow bishops that “the path ahead, then, is dialogue among yourselves, dialogue in your presbyterates, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with families, dialogue with society. …Harsh and divisive language does not befit the tongue of a pastor, it has no place in his heart; although it may momentarily seem to win the day, only the enduring allure of goodness and love remains truly convincing.” (Pope Francis to other bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Washington, DC, September 23, 2015)

And to the United States Congress, Pope Francis urged our country to avoid polarization. He said that “there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps.” (Pope Francis addresses the United States Congress on Thursday, September 24, 2015)

So, this week, I have been reminded that the way of Jesus is not the way of “All or Nothing.” Great governments include strong voices who honor and respect those across the aisle. Great churches recognize that the Spirit of God is larger than any one party or doctrine. While seventy leaders are being ordained in the main tent, let Eldad and Medad prophesy enthusiastically in another place. Our energy and good will need not be diminished because someone else, not with us, is doing something equally good!

The way of Jesus lets other disciples, not only his own, also cast out demons and heal the sick. You don’t have to agree with my politics for me to appreciate the good that you are doing in the world. You don’t have to be a member of my church, or of my religion, or of my group of disciples, for the Spirit of God to be at work in you.


AMEN.

(This was also the sermon preached by the Very Reverend Samuel G. Candler, at the Cathedral of St. Philip, on Sunday, September 27, 2015.)