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OA Conversation on the Unity of the Church

On February 7 the Order's Presiding Officer, Michelle Heyne, OA, invited our members to engage one another in an e-mail conversation. Michelle's concern was around the pastoral/ascetical theological and practical matter of how, in a time of national division, we fully live the unity of the church. Specifically about how we might do that in the parishes of the Order.

 

Part of her message is below -- 

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

"The St. Francis prayer keeps coming up as a source of illumination — particularly the need to seek understanding rather than seeking to be understood.  Much of what I’m hearing from liberal Christians is how we can understand others so that we can more effectively convince them they’re wrong.  The St. Francis prayer is getting at something different.  It seems to call for a profound humility, for turning away from insistence and toward patience and generosity, toward creating space to seek unity of Spirit, in a context where there is most certainly truth, but only God possesses it completely."

"I understand the need to pursue political action using strategies that aren’t about unity.  And that only underscores the importance of clarity about our duties as Christians; as loving critics who are responsible citizens of a nation that still stands as a shining city on the hill; as members of a particular political party; and as members of the numerous communities we inhabit.  None of these can be neatly separated, nor should they be.  But the starting point for all Christians is prayer."

I would like to hear from each of you about how you are managing this situation personally.  I’d also like to learn about what is happening in your parishes ..."

  • How are you thinking about and articulating the difference between being a liberal Democrat (or Teaparty Republican, Populist, Fiscal Conservative, etc.) and being a Christian? 
  • In terms of your parishes, what is your sense of the number of Trump supporters vs Clinton supporters?  Where is the emotional weight of the parish, regardless of the numbers? 
  • How do parishioners manage the dynamics among themselves? 
  • What sort of things, if any, has the parish done to address the divisiveness and the need for understanding as explicitly Christian mandates, without resorting to sentimental admonitions or illusory exhortations, and without implying that we will heal divisiveness once the apostates have embraced “our” political views? "

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As a community, most of us would probably align ourselves with Fr. Kenneth Leech’s understanding of the social vision that emerges from the Anglo Catholic tradition.

The parishes that members are associated with range in their political make up. Some voted 50-50 in the last election; others would have a difficult time finding anyone who would admit to voting for Donald Trump.

The discussion has gone on since Michelle's invitation. We may share parts of it later. Possible after our retreat/chapter. Our hope is that you're engaging a similar exploration.