Swan Song

The Presiding Bishop, whose term ends on Wednesday, preached at St. John’s Anglican Church in Notting Hill, London on Sunday.

Two excerpts:

1. In my own country the naïve belief on the part of many that the United States can only do good in the world meant that many of us who spoke against the impending invasion of Iraq were labeled unpatriotic. Now, as this unconscionable war drags on and on – costing thousands of lives due to deception and a president’s blind insistence on the rightness of his course – the eyes of many have been opened. Now, a season of sober self-examination has begun. But, alas, how quickly we forget what we have learned. How easily we revert once again to blinded sight. How eagerly we wrap ourselves again in the security of old chauvinisms and certitudes and the dark comfort they afford.

2. In the Acts of the Apostles, which is an account of what happens when the Spirit of the risen Christ is unleashed in the world, we find the apostolic church challenged in its Jewishness by the Spirit who ignores the boundaries established by the law and descends upon the Gentiles – those outside the law and therefore outside the community of faith. The church had to struggle, therefore, with the provocative and unsettling fact of the Spirit’s presence in the lives of those heretofore considered unredeemed. The church, faced with this new reality, found itself challenged and obliged – not without struggle and debate – to modify the law, and therefore its self understanding, in order to make way for those whom the law would exclude.

The result was not simply a compromise, but a new way of seeing: the marginalized and excluded and unclean were now regarded as brothers and sisters held fast within the arms of Christ’s saving embrace. Is it not possible that the Spirit of truth is profoundly present in our own day in the struggles and tensions we are experiencing in the life of the Anglican Communion?

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