Thursday, February 01, 2007

What sort of realignment? :: Richmond Times Dispatch

AS WITH PRIOR awakenings, today's version is a personal and shared quest for religious authenticity. For most people it focuses on the spiritual and so transcends such categories as liberal and conservative. A hallmark of the current awakening is that people in the pews look for their faith to encourage initiatives that are immediate and practical. The majority of people in today's religious America want churches to be places where differences can be understood and vexing issues addressed respectfully. Most Episcopalians, for example, want their faith to promote reconciliation and life-changing ministries, and so to build a better world.

The issue confronting mainline Protestant denominations runs deeper than homosexuality, though different attitudes about homosexuality are symptomatic. The issue is how to look beyond conflict toward practical ways of being people of faith together. Religious awakenings are marked by fresh patterns of collaboration, the signs of which are apparent in the churches now. In the midst of conflict there are fresh possibilities for uniting and serving. By building vital communities of faith, this awakening will build a better America.
The Rev. Dr. William Sachs is the director of the Center for Reconciliation and Mission at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Richmond.
See also this companion essay in today's RTD. Extract follows:
We are not on a misguided quest for the "perfect church." On the contrary, all the members of these congregations are sinners who hope to be saved only by God's grace, and our congregations surely have our share of hypocrites. CANA will likewise have its faults and defects. But precisely because we are sinners, we are not well-served by a church that pretends to supersede God's principles and to re-name our sins as if they were divine gifts.

We know that we need a church that will call us to repentance from sin and will offer us not rationalizations of our faults but, rather, God's forgiveness, transformation, and healing in Christ. To the sinner, Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more." We must be in a church that preaches that same message to us, in both its aspects: forgiveness and a call to a changed life.
Tom Wilson is the senior warden at The Falls Church in Northern Virginia.

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