Third post from Michael Carroccino: Reflections on Presiding Bishop's presentations
Michael Carroccino, master of divinity student and postulant from the diocese of Olympia, is blogging from the clergy conference where Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is speaking "about her vision of being church in the 21st century."
Take a look at Michael's reflections on her presentations.
Local church/Global church
In our last session with the Presiding Bishop, she went back and wrapped up several of the themes she had alluded to in the previous sessions. She discussed the worldwide Anglican Communion briefly, calling it a "federation of unlike churches that share common roots" or "a mosaic," saying that it's most needed asset in our time is conversation - in the sense she discussed earlier (see my first post on this). As she sees it, the most pertinent issues in our time are the environment and climate - because as climate change intensifies, it is the poorest that suffer the most. Beyond that, interfaith engagement is becoming ever more important, given the state of international politics. To illustrate the importance of this, she described the Tri-Faith Initiative that is currently taking place in Omaha and the transformation it has initiated among the participating faith communities.
In the largest sense, her vision for the church is to be a prophetic model of holy living to the world around us, and her touchstone for understanding this idea is the Five Marks of Mission. By modeling Christian community on these five marks - and by seeking partners with which to do so - she feels we can address some of the other pressing issues of our church, like just economy and governance, peacemaking and reconciliation, and moving toward interdependence and away from radical individualism. Jefferts-Schori's understanding of the church is a broadly Christian one, rooted deeply in scripture and theology and ethics as uniquely understood and expressed by the Episcopal Church. In order to live this out in a modern world, she says we must cultivate a binary vision: always keeping both the local and global in our minds and hearts such that we both live this out in our local communities and combine with others to project it onto a global stage.
One of the most interesting reflections she offered had to do with the polity peculiar to the Episcopal Church in the USA. Clearly, this type of critique must be highly nuanced; I hope I do it justice here. Essentially she said that there is more than one kind of democracy, and the deliberative democratic model we use now fosters the creation of power dynamics and interest groups. In this mode, legislation does little more than create sharply divided categories of winners and losers. The consensus-building we seek is often based in competition and struggle against fellow Christians. To salve this model, she offers the idea of commonweal: that we need to instead work as a whole to seek the good of the whole. Rather than legislation, we need communal conversation and discernment that seeks a broad consensus.
As the session came to a close, there was a short but interesting discussion about evangelism. Since she had mentioned the Five Marks of Mission several times, she went back to that as a model for how we as Christians spread the Good News that God has redeemed the world in Christ. She went on to say, though, that most of the people in the room were probably far more comfortable proclaiming Jesus in deed rather than word. As a corrective, she re-visited the Tri-Faith initiative mentioned earlier: the Christians in Omaha are discovering that as they engage and interact with people who see the world differently, they are able to discover more clearly what is distinctive about the Christian faith, and they are able to proclaim it with new ownership as a faith that offers salvation for the world.