Bishop Eric Menees
We continue our exploration of the Jerusalem Declaration, the full text of which can be found here:
This week we look at point twelve – Diversity & Liberty:
We celebrate the God-given diversity among us which enriches our global fellowship, and we acknowledge freedom in secondary matters. We pledge to work together to seek the mind of Christ on issues that divide us.
Have you ever noticed how our greatest strength can also be a weakness if we are not careful? I think that is true with us as Christians in the Anglican Tradition. What a beautiful strength we have in the diversity around the world. There are some forty provinces on every inhabitable continent, representing different cultures, languages, and histories. As such, we are bound together with the theology of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which lays out the basics of the faith.
However, the expression of that faith in secondary matters varies from continent to continent; province to province. For example, there are provinces, like Sidney, Australia, where the common Sunday worship is Morning Prayer, with Holy Eucharist being administered only once a month. Some provinces, like Chile (a brand new province starting November 4th), celebrate Holy Eucharist as the primary worship service, but the clergy will often wear minimal vestments — if they wear vestments at all. Some provinces place an emphasis on infant baptism, while others place emphasis on believer’s baptism; and some provinces welcome and promote women serving in the priesthood, while others — like the ACNA — do not.
I believe that this diversity is a great strength of ours, much like St. Paul spoke about in his first letter to the church in Corinth, as he discussed Spiritual Gifts. “Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) In our diversity, the spiritual gifts abound around the world; God granting those gifts that are necessary for each situation.
In conjunction with sharing our gifts with one another, St. Paul uses the image of the body as follows:
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20)
We are at our strongest when we value and utilize each other’s strengths. For example, in my last parish we were blessed to have a Nigerian evangelist join us for a season. We greatly benefited from that mutual relationship, including being blessed by our differences. It is when we say, “I have no need for those who do not wear vestments; or those who emphasize believer’s baptism; or those who promote women in the priesthood,” that we become weak. These are significant differences, but they are not reasons for breaking fellowship or communion.
My prayer is that we will rejoice in our diversity, and in the liberty we share on secondary issues.
I pray you all a blessed week.