Sunday, November 20, 2005

Rowan Williams: Unity and Exclusion

Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the bishops present at the Global South to South Encounter in Cairo on the "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church." Out of the various insightful things he did say, one of the news reports that came forth was that his Grace apologized that the export of Hymns Ancient and Modern into the mission field was an act of "making cultural captives." Some fools promptly construed this as an apology for mission. Those folks are probably the type that think that the only real Christians speak English, and are over the age of 40.

So just for fun, I read the speech, and thought I'd share the best bits with you. The full text can be found at +Rowan Cantuar's site here. And I won't defend the "cultural captives" thing, because that's a Missiology 101 issue that would make sense if read in the context of the speech. I'll get to that later.

On Unity
We are part of a body whose failures are our common failures. It is always a temptation to say ‘We are the true church, they have abandoned us’ and yet even as we make necessary disjunctions and separations, there is a point at which we must remember in our prayer, this is our suffering; this is our loss, we are together in sin as well as in grace.
I've probably spoken before about the salutary effects of excommunication, and my advocacy of same as a responsible and necessary pastoral practice. It comes from really meaning business about the salvation of another, and willing to take drastic measures for their restoration. Here are some examples of offense I would think worthy of excommunication:
  • harrassment and harmful behavior towards brothers and sisters in the community
  • hate crimes
  • being Jerry Falwell
  • gossip and talebearing
  • parents who throw out a daughter upon learning of her abortion
People like to talk about "church discipline" these days; it's very popular. This is why Williams' comment caught my eye: the only way such discipline can be healthy rather than destructive, and godly rather than authoritarian, is if we really do take our baptism this seriously, knowing ourselves to be "together in sin as well as grace."

We must be prepared to affirm by our lives that our companions' pain and joy is our own, and that we are indeed our brother's keeper. I am his, and he is mine. If my sister grieves, I grieve, and if my brother stumbles, I take a skinned knee as well.

If that isn't the case, don't bother getting all up in somebody's face to tell them what they should and should not do, and what is and is not holy.

See also:

Excommunication and Redemption
The Minimum


Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Kyle.

Jennifer said...

Good job. This is exactly what the church is supposed to be about. I am so thankful to have finally found a church that gets it.

rawbbie said...

I deffinitely think churches to need to kick people out sometimes. When and how I have no idea, but it should be seldom done.

Kyle said...

Oh, Mr. Clifton has made an appearance. I've made it big now! ;0)

Thanks for reading, everybody.

For some reason, Robbie's remark makes me think of my seminar on Friday. I thought, "Gee, nobody said anything really outrageous and stupid this week. It must have been me."