Given the behavior of bishops the last few (yeah, ok, 18 hundred or so) years*, it’s always refreshing to see a bishop make some clear, cogent, and thoroughly Christian points. And these are the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster which—as I understand it—is one of the more divided dioceses theologically in the Anglican Church of Canada.
I’ll only editorialize one little bit and that’s to cite James: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jam 1:22). It’s important to think these things—but it’s not enough to congratulate yourself for saying you think them; they must be ennacted as well. And that goes as much for the bishop who spoke them as for the rest of us.
Pray for the unity of Christians, for a spirit of charity towards those with whom we may disagree, and for God’s forgiveness of our mutual failure to honour the prayer of Christ in St. John’s Gospel “that they may be one.”
Give particular support to those conservative and traditional Christians who remain with their church and grieve the departure of friends.
Teach our members about the genius of Anglicanism and its balance of Scripture, reason and tradition within the boundaries of common prayer.
Emphasize in our preaching and leadership the centrality of mission and its priority over ecclesiastical politics.
Challenge the false stereotypes that foster polarization – e.g. the ‘heartless conservative’ or the ‘unbiblical liberal.’
Give thanks that our church, for all its messiness, is honestly and openly facing issues some other bodies cannot.
Press forward in ministry and evangelism at the local level.
Deepen our study and immersion in Scripture. Place ourselves under the authority of the Christ it reveals. Avoid both an empty relativism and a harsh literalism.
Encourage both local media and the non-churchgoing public to understand the deeper roots of this development.
Take the ‘long view’ – i.e. remember the consistent triumph of the Gospel over the historic fragmentation of the church, and the persistence of faith through the failures of human discipleship.
Please remember our diocesan and national leaders in your prayers too. And above all, let’s get on with the normal work of being the church.
* Yes, I believe in bishops. As an Apostolic Succession believer I believe they’re necessary for the fullness of the Church. But I also believe they’re completely human and have ably demonstrated over the centuries their fallibility…