Communion and the Particular
One of the questions that were asked over and over in the walkabouts in the Diocese of California had to do with the tension between inclusion at the local level, and the coherence of the Communion. As you know, my answer was that we need the Communion in order to address, from the stance of people of faith, challenges that have global dimensions, e.g. the environmental crisis. It is my belief that we do not need, though, to let go of our commitment to justice and being swept up in Christ’s great project of embrace at the local level in order to stay part of the same project at the level of the world.
If our commitment is to the relief of global human suffering, locally and globally enacted, we will have a communion. When we baptize and confirm it is into the Body of Christ, not into the Episcopal Church. The remembering of this may help us recognize a communion that may be given to us by our common commitment to the reconciling work of Christ in the world; that is, those who are also engaged in this ministry, or who recognize in it the traits of Christ’s ministry, will recognize us as brothers and sisters. We will have surprises in this, and there will be tears of repentance as all see what could have been but for our self-imposed barriers, and laughter at the gift of shared life.
In the closed discussion of consents to the election of candidates to the episcopate, on the day before we saw Resolution B033, there was much talk of sacrifice. What, numbers of bishops asked, must we sacrifice in order to preserve the Communion. My contribution to this discussion was to share what I told the
The other life-world, that of compassion, is the world of abundance. In the phrase of mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, the source of this abundance is the all-nourishing abyss. The face of Christ may be understood as the doorway into this abundance for us, making particular, familiar and accessible that which is universal and beyond description in language.
It is my belief that the new Christian era involves a call to live in awareness of the all-nourishing abyss, the mediating face of Christ, and the abundance of compassion that flows into life through this channel. This is not really a new message, except in its reference to the whole world.
I was an elementary school student when I first saw the achingly beautiful photographs of the Earth as seen from space, from the Apollo spacecrafts. My consciousness has been shaped by the presence of these images, but it is the generations born after me, my daughters and their cohorts, in whom the new consciousness of the whole is blossoming as naturally as their sexual orientations, or their right or left-handedness. So, it is to this new consciousness that our Gospel must be proclaimed.
The response to the need to be in communion and to hold onto our local commitment to justice and inclusion by this group of California Episcopalians is really brilliant. It confirms Sheila’s and my hopes yet again for ministry among you as your bishop, and fans the fires of the imagination for ministry. Let me offer a beginning dream that might contribute to your efforts.
One of my priorities in beginning my episcopacy with you will be the establishing of vital companion diocese relationships. It is my belief that it would be best if we were in two relationships at the same time, forming a kind of microcosm of the Communion (or the round dance of the Trinity!). I understand the Diocese of Indianapolis has done this. I suggested it in
The relevance of this idea to your great work in progress is that I would hope that the microfinance of projects by marginalized LGBT people could be undertaken as completely normal ministry in the circling flow of love between the Diocese of California and its potential companion dioceses. By normal I don’t mean at all submerged, or hidden, but a recognized part of such mutual ministry.
The potential of this ministry being undertaken in a coordinated, diocese-wide way is that we in