https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/first-black-episcopal-church-leader-will-continue-his-fathers-teachings/2015/10/14/bede82e2-72b2-11e5-8d93-0af317ed58c9_story.html http://www.episcopalchurchsc.org/lent-2016.html https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/episcopal-church-installs-its-first-african-american-bishop/2015/11/01/d9b7c44c-80d2-11e5-9afb-0c971f713d0c_story.htmlhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/episcopal-church-installs-its-first-african-american-bishop/2015/11/01/d9b7c44c-80d2-11e5-9afb-0c971f713d0c_story.html
What's Happening at Calvary
Mark your calendars! The Annual Men of Calvary Pancake Supper with Raffle and Silent Auction will be held at Calvary Church, 106 Line St, Charleston, SC 29403 on February 28, 2017 from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm. Tickets will be available soon!!! The best deal in town ...
The daily readings expand the range of biblical reading in worship and personal devotion. These readings complement the Sunday and festival readings: Monday through Wednesday readings help the reader reflect on and digest what they heard in worship on Sunday; Thursday through Saturday readings help prepare the reader for the Sunday ahead.
Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission. A complete edition of the Daily Readings is available though Augsburg Fortress.
The Gathering at the Table group was formed through the initiative of Father Michael Burton. Members of Calvary Episcopal Church and members of East Cooper Episcopal Church meet in the Calvary Church Parish Hall each Tuesday evening to share their perspectives on matters of race - past and present.
Originally scheduled to meet for four weeks, the group has bonded and grown in their commitment. They continue to meet after 20 weeks, entertaining lively and healing discussions. All are invited and encouraged to attend.
It’s a June evening in Charleston, and the back door of the church is unlocked. People come in at their own pace, embracing, smiling, setting down plates of cookies on the big table in the parish hall.Marlene O'Bryant-Seabrook, Barbara Eckman and Judith Ewing work on journal-quilts on June 14.
No one speaks of it yet, but on everyone’s mind is a June evening in Charleston almost one year earlier, when nine people were shot dead just a mile away at Emanuel AME Church, in an African American congregation that opened its doors and invited the killer into their weekly Bible study.
The horror of June 17, 2015 and the days that followed gave way to deep grief, and deep questions. How could this have happened? What could I be doing to change that? How can we find bridges across the barriers of race?
Every Tuesday night, a small group from two local Episcopal churches, East Cooper and Calvary, have been meeting to see if they can find some answers. The name they have given themselves reflects the simple agenda for the group: “Gatherers Around the Table.”
After the massacre at Mother Emanuel, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina accelerated its plan to offer anti-racism training for the diocese – training that is required by Episcopal Church canons, but was never offered until a rift in 2012 brought new leadership. Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg, who took office in January 2013, immediately put anti-racism training on his short-list of needs for the reorganizing diocese, and the first one was on the calendar when the Emanuel tragedy struck.
In September 2015, Calvary hosted one of four “Traces of the Trade” conferences offered around the diocese. Each event encouraged people to open their minds and hearts to conversations about the legacy of slavery and racism.
Judith Ewing, an Episcopal deacon who serves at East Cooper, was at the Calvary program. “I realized how ignorant I was,” she said. “I realized the importance of relationships, of just getting to know each other. I just knew we needed to gather at the table.”
She quickly sought out the Rev. Michael Burton, a supply priest at Calvary, about setting up an initial gathering. The first one happened in October: Six people from each congregation, who committed to meeting every Tuesday for a trial run of six weeks.
Like Emanuel, Calvary has deep roots in Charleston’s history, founded in 1847 for “religious instruction” of enslaved African Americans. For years, it housed the only preschool and kindergarten for African American children on the Charleston peninsula, and many leaders passed through its doors. The first black jurist to serve on an appellate court in the United States, Jonathan Jasper Wright, was buried in its churchyard in 1885.
By comparison, the East Cooper Episcopal Church is in its infancy. Approved as a new mission congregation at Diocesan Convention in 2014, it serves the predominantly white suburbs across the Cooper River from Charleston. It was formed by Episcopalians who were left without a place to worship when churches in that area went with the breakaway group that left The Episcopal Church in 2012.
With widely different backgrounds, the two groups shared one common characteristic: Curiosity, and a desire to learn about each other.
Their first meeting was planned as a simple Bible study, “because that would be sweet and safe and nobody would say anything that will upset anybody,” Ewing said. “But I said, ‘Maybe we need to say things that upset people.’”
Artist and educator Marlene O’Bryant-Seabrook was there, and had the same reaction. Ewing recalls her saying: “I’ve been to many Bible studies, and nobody ever mentions the elephant in the middle of the room. Why can’t we mention the elephant in the room?”
Eight months later, the elephant is still loose. Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray. The challenges of growing up in a mixed-race family. Assumptions about intelligence. Co-workers who act friendly, but never get close. The Spoleto production of “Porgy and Bess.” Ethnic foods they like and dislike. It’s all on the table when they gather.
“We’ve never put aside anything, or say ‘We mustn’t talk about that.’ We talk about everything,” Deacon Ewing says.
Along the way, others have joined. One member recently moved from New York after years in churches that were active in social justice issues, looking for a community in Charleston where that could keep happening. Another regular Gatherer is a social worker from another church who came with an East Cooper friend. “I thought I knew almost everything about black culture, especially in Charleston,” she says, laughing. “But I don’t.”
Dr. O’Bryant-Seabrook, a Calvary member in her 80s, has become the group’s matriarch and historian. On the recent Tuesday night in June, she gave them all an assignment: Come up with a personal statement about why they came to be “Gatherers Around the Table,” and then create a small journal-quilt to illustrate it. A few skeptical looks were exchanged around the table, but the group quickly warmed up to the task of explaining why they come to the meetings week after week.
The Tuesday before the Emanuel anniversary, they were putting the final touches on their letter-sized pieces of fabric art filled with color, symbols, and words like Curious, Sharing, Understanding, Love, and Hope. Beside an image of Emanuel, one proclaims: “Hate Will Not Win!”
As a child growing up in Charleston, Dr. O’Bryant-Seabrook says, “I could not go three blocks without passing a church. I remember asking my mother, ‘I would like to know what they’re praying for.’ With all the inequities and oppression, I wondered, were they praying for something that black churches were not praying for?”
Decades later, those questions persist. “I wanted to be a part of this group because for a long, long, long, long time, I wanted to be comfortable in a group of caucasians and blacks where we can actually, openly, honestly and safely discuss what happens, and why it happens,” she says.
As the members of the group went around the room, the words “safe place” came up again and again.
“When we started, we said we weren’t’ going to judge, or say “You shouldn’t be saying that,” Deacon Ewing says. “We were going to accept each one in our knowledge and our ignorance, and love each other anyway.”
As the gathering wraps up, the group continues to share their ideas as they pass the plates of cookies around the table. “When you eat with somebody, it changes the whole dynamic,” one woman says. “It gives me a lot of hope.”
In the words of Anne Nietert’s journal quilt: “Anger exploded into the Palmetto night, but, in the shadows, a new day is dawning as we Gather at the Table to learn, to listen, and to love.”
Holly Behre, Director of Communications
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina
Sunday, November 1, 2015 12 PM
Holy Eucharist with the Installation of
Episcopal Church installs its first African American presiding bishop
Michelle Boorstein November 1 at 10:22 PM
The public face and style of the Episcopal Church shifted Sunday with the installation of Michael Bruce Curry, the denomination’s first African American spiritual leader.
Curry, 62, a high-energy, evangelical pastor, is expected to bring a positive, Pope Francis-like vibe to a church community marked in recent years by shrinking numbers and legal disputes related to gay rights.
“Don’t worry! Be happy! God loves you!” Curry boomed at the close of his sermon to the 2,500 people gathered in the soaring Washington National Cathedral. Preaching from the elevated Canterbury Pulpit, Curry immediately changed the face of Episcopalianism, historically one of the faiths of the nation’s white elite.
Curry, known for focusing on evangelism and programs for the poor, follows Katharine Jefferts Schori, a somber Nevada oceanographer who was presiding bishop for nine years.
Jefferts Schori oversaw a tumultuous period as Americans turned away from the denomination and conservatives streamed out, in some cases triggering litigation over church properties that bled into many millions of dollars. The church has faced the same tensions that other faiths have had for decades over issues such as gay rights and the female clergy, but it ordained Gene Robinson, an openly gay bishop, in 2003. Since then, the church has lost 20 percent of its membership.
Curry focused his installation sermon on racial reconciliation, a cause at the center of what he calls “the Jesus movement” — a new emphasis on evangelism. Preaching in an animated style more familiar to a Baptist church, he told the story of a young black couple who visited an all-white Episcopal church in the 1940s. The woman, an Episcopalian, approached to take Communion. The man, who was studying to be a Baptist pastor, sat in the back, watching to see what would happen when it became clear in this segregated era that there was just one cup from which everyone would drink.
When the white priest offered the cup to the young black woman, the scene was so dramatic that the man shifted his affiliation and was ordained as an Episcopalian.
“The Holy Spirit has done evangelism and racial reconciliation in the Episcopal Church before, because that man and woman were the parents of the 27th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church,” Curry said, speaking of himself.
The church broke into roars and applause.
“Yes, the way of God’s love turns our world upside down. But that’s really right-side up,” Curry preached. “And in that way, the nightmare of this world will be transfigured into the very dream of God for humanity and all creation. My brothers and sisters, God has not given up on God’s world. And God is not finished with the Episcopal Church yet.”
Racial reconciliation has become a higher priority for many predominantly white U.S. churches. The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, along with the Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, in recent years have elevated it in sermons, programs on gun control and symbolic actions such as removing the Confederate flag from stained glass in the cathedral. The question for Curry and other faith leaders is how to avoid the political polarization Americans both love and hate and with which many young people associate organized Christianity.
While Curry focused on overcoming economic, racial, educational and political divisions, he is known as a progressive who was one of the first bishops to allow same-sex marriages to be performed, in North Carolina. He was involved in grass-roots demonstrations in Raleigh called Moral Monday, challenging local and state governments to address the poor and marginalized.
“Is it an understatement to say we live in a deeply complex and difficult time for our world,” Curry said. “Life is not easy. It is an understatement to say that these are not, and will not be, easy times for people of faith.
“Churches, religious communities and institutions are being profoundly challenged,” he said. “But the realistic social critique of Charles Dickens rings true for us even now: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ . . . Don’t worry! Be happy!”
The installation drew a large crowd for the cathedral, including 150 bishops who streamed in together in white-and-red clerical garb. There were at least 75 “watch parties” of Episcopalians across the country, church spokeswoman Neva Rae Fox said.
The Episcopal Church is the U.S.-based part of the global Anglican Communion, one of the largest Christian communities in the world. Its membership, about 1.8 million, was never large, but until recently was home to a disproportionate number of the United States’ business and political elite. Culturally it was considered a proper part of U.S. society, with a refined and orderly worship style. Although that is a somewhat outdated image, Curry’s installation drove home the change as clergy processed to powerful Native American drumming music and an intense rendition of the black spiritual “Wade in the Water.”
Michael Bruce Curry was elected and confirmed as the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church at the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City on June 27, 2015. He was previously elected as the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina on February 11, 2000. He was consecrated on June 17, 2000, in Duke Chapel on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 13, 1953, Bishop Curry attended public schools in Buffalo, New York, and graduated with high honors from Hobart College in Geneva, New York, in 1975. He received a Master of Divinity degree in 1978 from Yale University Divinity School. He has also done continued study at the College of Preachers, Princeton Theological Seminary, Wake Forest University, the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary’s Seminary, and the Institute of Christian Jewish Studies.
Bishop Curry was ordained to the diaconate in June 1978 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buffalo, New York, by the Rt. Rev. Harold B. Robinson and to the priesthood in December 1978, at St. Stephen’s, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, by the Rt. Rev. John M. Burgess.
He began his ministry as deacon-in-charge at St. Stephen’s, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1978 and was rector there 1979-1982. He next accepted a call to serve as the rector of St. Simon of Cyrene, Lincoln Heights, Ohio, where he served 1982-1988.
In 1988 he became rector of St. James’, Baltimore, Maryland, where he served until his election as bishop.
In his three parish ministries, Bishop Curry was active in the founding of ecumenical summer day camps for children, the creation of networks of family day care providers and educational centers, and the brokering of millions of dollars of investment in inner city neighborhoods. He also sat on the Commission on Ministry in each of the three dioceses in which he has served.
During his time as Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, Bishop Curry has taken the Diocese into 21st-century Galilee, the complex modern world that churches must engage in order to continue spreading the Gospel. He instituted a network of canons, deacons, and youth ministry professionals dedicated to supporting the ministry that already happens in local congregations and refocused the Diocese on The Episcopal Church’s Millennium Development Goals through a $400,000 campaign to buy malaria nets that saved over 100,000 lives. Throughout his ministry, Bishop Curry has also been active in issues of social justice, speaking out on immigration policy and marriage equality.
Bishop Curry serves on the boards of a large number of organizations and has a national preaching and teaching ministry. He has been featured on The Protestant Hour and North Carolina Public Radio’s The State of Things, as well as on The Huffington Post. In addition, Bishop Curry is a frequent speaker at conferences around the country. He has received honorary degrees from Sewanee, Virginia Theological Seminary, Yale, and, most recently, Episcopal Divinity School. He served on the Taskforce for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church and recently was named chair of Episcopal Relief and Development’s Board of Directors. His book of sermons, Crazy Christians, came out in August 2013, and his second book, Songs My Grandma Sang, came out in June 2015.
He and his wife, Sharon, have two adult daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth.
Source: Washington National Cathedral website: http://www.cathedral.org/staff/PE-7CHH8-380004.shtml
Source: Wikipedia: Click here for a list of the Presiding Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_presiding_bishops_of_the_Episcopal_Church_in_the_United_States_of_America
The Episcopal Church’s first black leader — and its ‘tortuous’ path toward integration
By Sarah Pulliam Bailey October 15
Bishop Michael Curry vividly remembers growing up in segregated Buffalo in the 1950s and ’60s, where on one bright morning in 1963, he crossed Main Street from East Buffalo to West Buffalo to attend an integrated school.
As an Episcopal priest and civil rights activist, his late father, Kenneth Curry, helped lead the boycott of the city’s segregated public schools. And yet, like the larger culture at the time, worship in the Episcopal Church he so loved was largely segregated. As leader of a black congregation in Buffalo, he never would have been called to the pulpit of a white Episcopal church.
Five decades later, Kenneth Curry probably would never have imagined that his son would be chosen to lead the entire denomination.
On Nov. 1, Michael Curry — who was elected
this summer just one week after the shootings at a historic African
Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C. — will be installed as
the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church at Washington
National Cathedral. He will replace Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts
Schori, who was elected the church’s first female presiding bishop in
In many ways, Curry’s tenure will be a continuation of what his father taught him: In God’s eyes, all human beings are equal and deserve to be treated as such. “I grew up seeing that Jesus of Nazareth has something to do with our lives and has something to do with how we structure and order our society,” said Curry, 62.
Curry, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina since 2000, was elected with an overwhelming majority, the third black candidate for presiding bishop in the church’s history.
“Most black Episcopalians interpret this as catching up, as something they should’ve done before,” said Byron Rushing, vice president of the House of Deputies and a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Blacks make up 6.3 percent of the church’s membership, compared with 86.6 percent for non-Hispanic white members, according to church data.
But as presiding bishop, Curry will face membership challenges that extend far beyond race. Like other mainline denominations, the Episcopal Church — the historic home to U.S. presidents and the nation’s elite — has struggled to fill its pews. It has lost more than 20 percent of its members since it consecrated its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003, and new statistics suggest that membership continues to fall, dropping 2.7 percent from 2013 to about 1.8 million U.S. members in 2014.
Progressive on social issues
On Tuesday, Curry and other church leaders gathered at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria to consecrate a chapel to replace the one that burned down in 2010. Curry was like a rock star to many of the seminarians, making faces for selfies.
Ian Markham, dean of the seminary, noted that the founders and faculty from the institution once owned slaves and that its new chapel has a plaque noting its past segregation in worship. “We have to recognize the sins of our past and repent of them,” he said.
Curry has a clear passion for evangelism, something he calls “the Jesus movement,” though not a formal movement within the church. He is also progressive on social issues and was one of the first bishops to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in North Carolina churches.
As bishop in North Carolina, Curry was involved in the grass-roots Moral Monday demonstrations in Raleigh, challenging local and state governments to address the poor and marginalized.
“The work of evangelism and social justice must go together, because it’s part of the whole gospel,” he said.
Observers note Curry’s desire to keep his installation service simple and his focus on people on the margins — almost like a Protestant Pope Francis who could help change the face of the church. His friends point to his boisterous preaching style as he moves around the pulpit and gestures with his arms, more Baptist than Episcopal in some ways.
The father of two adult daughters with his wife, Sharon, Curry is known for his infectious laughter and self-deprecating humor. He is an avid reader, a Buffalo Bills fan and a self-described “certified NFL grief counselor,” and a lover of music who took up the violin about seven years ago.
Curry said he was deeply shaped by his Baptist grandmother, the daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of slaves. While he was in middle school, she stepped in after Curry’s mother went into a coma brought on by a cerebral hemorrhage.
“My grandmother couldn’t imagine Barack Obama in the White House, and I know she couldn’t imagine her grandson as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church,” he said.
As a family, they would pray every night, and Curry jokingly said he would secretly hope that his father would pray so it would be a shorter one. “If it was the Baptist prayer, it would go on forever,” he said.
His mother, who grew up Baptist, switched to the Episcopal Church after she read “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. His father, who was a licensed Baptist pastor and came from a line of Baptist preachers, followed her.
Curry remembers the denominational bantering between his father and grandmother.
“They would tease each other. She would say, ‘How do you know if someone in your church has the Holy Spirit?’ He’d say, ‘You all got too much Holy Spirit in your church.’ ”
Ending the battles
Curry’s down-to-earth style and gift for bringing people together should prove valuable as he leads a church riven by divisions in recent years over issues from gay rights to how to read Scripture. However, many of its more theologically conservative churches have left the denomination after having been involved in multimillion-dollar lawsuits over the right to church properties.
Part of Curry’s challenge will be to put those battles over social issues fully in the past, said Ryan Danker, a church historian at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington.
“If he can bring some peace and healing, maybe end the lawsuits, have discussion and dialogue with various parties, I think he’ll be very successful,” Danker said.
Jefferts Schori, the outgoing presiding bishop, said Tuesday that the Episcopal Church is no longer “the establishment church” in the United States, which she considers to be a good thing.
“We’re more focused on the people of the margins,” she said. “We’re willing to go be with, rather than do for, and I think that’s healthier spiritually.”
The Rev. Sandye Wilson, rector of St. Andrew and Holy Communion Episcopal Church in South Orange, N.J., and a friend of Curry’s, said he is uniquely able to address the range of Episcopal Church members.
“He is comfortable with kings and princes but doesn’t lose the common touch,” Wilson said. “He is as comfortable with people who are very wealthy and comfortable with people in prison.”
The Episcopal Church is affiliated with the larger worldwide Anglican Communion, the world’s third-largest Christian denomination, which is discussing whether it can remain unified amid divisions over sexuality and other issues. A large percentage of Anglicanism is thriving in the developing world, where more-conservative leaders have been unhappy with the Episcopal Church.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who attended Tuesday’s chapel consecration in Alexandria but declined interviews, has called Anglican leaders to a special meeting in January.
The Episcopal Church voted this summer to let gay couples marry in the church’s religious ceremonies, which Welby said “will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith resolutions.”
January’s gathering of leaders includes a review of the worldwide Anglican Communion’s future.
Some believe that Curry’s election as presiding bishop could help lead the way into that future, in which the membership of the global church will probably keep growing more diverse.
“It could change the face of the Episcopal Church, which is — at least in the eyes of many — a largely white, upper-class denomination of people in power,” said the Rev. Adam Shoemaker of Church of the Holy Comforter in Burlington, N.C. “It will be significant now that we have a nonwhite presiding bishop to represent us to the rest of the church.”
Saturday, December 17, 2016
First Lesson:Wisdom 10:9-14
9 Wisdom rescued from troubles those who served her.
13 When a righteous man was sold, wisdom did not desert him,
1 God takes his stand in the council of heaven; *
Epistle:1 John 2:28–3:3
28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.
29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who does right has been born of him. 31See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
PLEASE VISIT THE WEBSITE FOR THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN SOUTH CAROLINA FOR HOT TOPICS AND EVENTS AROUND THE DIOCESE
Stand Up Sunday: January 29, 2017
South Carolina's second 'Stand Up Sunday' will be observed on January 29, 2017.
Congregations are encouraged to participate in this effort by remembering victims of gun violence
on that Sunday, and by taking steps to draw attention to gun violence prevention.
Churches can formally register their participation by emailing: standupsundaySC@gmail.com
Gun Violence Prayer
Litany for Gun Violence Prevention
Bishops Against Gun Violence website (with other liturgical resources)
Gun Sense SC resources:
The following materials are provided by Gun Sense SC, an independent, grassroots group seeking to address the public health crisis of gun violence by educating citizens, building awareness, and supporting nonpartisan legislation.
Gun Sense SC 'Talking Points' (PDF)
Stand Up Sunday letter from Gun Sense SC (PDF)
Feast Day Reflections
Bishop Skip Adams has begun a new series of reflections for each of the major feast days on the liturgical calendar, beginning in Advent 2016 with St. Andrew. See them all on the Bishop's blog. You can also subscribe to our e-newsletter and receive them via email.
The Confession of St. Peter the Apostle
Simon Peter said of Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said of Simon Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” Jesus and Peter, as described by Matthew 16:13-19, are using theologically dense descriptors to identify one another. This exchange of awareness explodes on the scene and, one could argue, shifts human history forever.
It is a seismic moment and has shaped the Church’s theology and mission ever since, for good and for ill. It has been for good when the Church has lived into its mission as a reconciling body to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP p. 855). It requires a humility that remembers that the Church as described in the Gospel is an interim arrangement if you will, an in-the-meantime and thereby less than whole expression of the reign of God between the earthly life of Jesus and the fullness of the kingdom. Such a perspective can perhaps release us from dogmatic prisons which too often tend to repress, thwart and constrict God-awareness for God’s people. At its worse it has given death to God’s people. At its best it has given the freedom of life to which Jesus was always pointing.
If I were to be a director in a cinematic version of Peter’s confession and Jesus’ response, to catch the quality of the moment I would be coaching the actors to identify glimpses of awareness when a shift occurred in their own hearts and minds that changed their way of seeing the world. For me it might be in 1972, when as a naïve twenty-year-old I walked onto the campus of what was then Morgan State College, a historically African-American school, to meet the campus minister for lunch. I walked into the cafeteria as all eyes turned toward me and I realized I was the only white person amongst hundreds of people. Or it might be the time as an undergrad when I was able to use an electron microscope to peer into the depths of my own DNA and be confronted by the wonder of my own helix. Then maybe it was a bit over a decade ago, when one week after I affirmed the election of the first openly gay bishop in The Episcopal Church, I walked into a parish for my visitation and a father walked up to me, threw his arms around me and sobbed, saying through his tears, “Now I know my son is not in hell.” His gay son had committed suicide three years before.
In all these scenarios and in the account between Jesus and Peter, identity had been given and affirmed from another. A new interpretive lens was given, a shift in worldview occurred as clarity came and purpose was revealed. Unity and freedom were offered. It ought not be lost on us that the conversation between Jesus and Peter was recorded as occurring in Caesarea Philippi, a known center of pagan worship. When we are able to confess Jesus as the one who unifies and marks all of God’s creation as holy, we are living his purpose for justice and peace. Then we are a church God can truly use for the healing of the world.