Friday, January 26, 2007

On the eve of council :: Douglas LeBlanc

I’m worried that this year’s Annual Council may make some of its decisions in a reactive spirit, one that seeks to somehow punish the clergy and laity of the parishes that already have separated themselves from the diocese. I worry that the same reactive spirit could play an unhealthy role in how people vote on who becomes the next bishop of Virginia. I worry that the diocese could slowly begin departing from the disciplined and generous spirit that I saw in 2004. I worry, in other words, that my latest diocesan home could soon become a less hospitable and safe place.

I’ve been heartbroken to see the relations between the departing parishes and the diocese enter a seemingly inevitable stage of decay, one in which they exchange barbed press releases almost once a week. The diocese cites constitution and canon and promises to go to court, if that’s what it takes, to retain the buildings in which these congregations meet. The congregations, in turn, cite a protocol for departing congregations that Bishop Lee and the diocese do not accept as binding. Neither side persuades the other on even the most minor point of contention, and it’s difficult to imagine any non-Episcopalians feeling edified by this public exchange of ill will. Rather, it’s fairly safe to assume that “See how these Christians love one another” will not cross the minds or the lips of many non-Christians while both sides lawyer up.

Despite these anxieties, I remain an Episcopalian. Why? One of the most important reasons is that I do not believe God is done with the Episcopal Church or with the greater Anglican Communion. While I think it would be foolish to expect that General Convention will, in my lifetime, reverse itself on anything of importance, I believe the cause of reform and renewal is far from lost. I’m able to believe this because I believe God is in charge of that reform and renewal and I’m not. My role is to remain present, to wait on the Lord, to remain true to what I affirm as an evangelical Episcopalian and to leave the rest in God’s hands.

Please pray for the Diocese of Virginia.

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