One of the most solemn moments of my ordination in June of 1970 was when the Bishop asked me “Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church?” That question was an important one for me. We were embroiled at the time in the vestiges of the controversy over the General Convention Special Program and in the midst of very heated discussions over the ordination of women and prayer book revision. It was a time of highly charged theological and emotional discussion and debate.
The current level of emotion, recrimination and debate in the Anglican Communion reminds me of that time in our history. And that question is always on the back burner of my consciousness.
One of the Examining Chaplains of the Diocese of Western New York, Ken Seitz, had told us to carefully listen to that question. “You are being asked that not just for today or for yesterday but to commit yourself for all the tomorrows of your professional life; to the church’s journey of progress in understanding the revelation of Christ as this church has received them.”
The church continues to be embroiled in conversation and controversy as we look at issues such as the ordination and leadership of the LGBT community in the life of the Episcopal Church; whether relationship blessing and marriage is limited to heterosexuals or is available to those making same-sex commitments as well; legal and illegal immigration issues; death penalty, peace & justice issues, etc.. And I continue to trust the church to be led (sometimes unwillingly and sometimes in fits and starts) into new understandings where the truth of God continues to set us and others free. I understand I have pledged not only my life but also my loyalty to that quest. Others may choose to give up that trust and question the direction – desiring to end the journey in past or present understandings. But in John Jesus is clear that the disciples cannot take in everything all at once and promised that we would led by the Spirit into a fuller truth.
For me God never calls us into what has been but instead calls us into what shall be. The God is a god of the living, a God of possibilities, a God of transformation; a God who awaits us and calls us into a new future he invited us to help create.