18 May 2007

Learning the lesson from Acts 15 for today

David R. Anderson (no, not that David Anderson), writes in the Living Church:
Peter and James, the acknowledged leaders of the Jewish camp, both listened as Paul and his assistant Barnabas "told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the gentiles." After a long silence, Peter stood up and said, Why would we ask these poor gentiles to keep the law when we Jews have been at it for all these years and haven’' exactly made great progress? "On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." James said Amen, and the whole church united to send even more reinforcements with Paul and Barnabas into the great gentile mission field. (And today, you and I are Christians a world away from Jerusalem because of their spiritual wisdom and courage.)
And he concludes:
The beauty of the Jerusalem Summit is that no one had to be wrong so others could be right. Allowing Paul to preach in gentile territory a gospel that would have been frankly offensive in Jewish lands did not mean that everyone had to live that gospel (you can be sure the "circumcision party" did not!). It was simply an inspired recognition that the gospel was bigger than any one articulation of it.

That inspiration is what the Anglican Communion needs. I sorely wish we had a certain archbishop who would call a Canterbury Summit.
Of course, these kind of summits where conversion is possible happen regularly in the Anglican Communion. The problem is not that we lack summits, it's that we lack the openness for conversion. In Dar es Salaam, everyone went with their armor on, and everyone retreated with the armor intact, and not without a few bruises under their thick outer layers.

This is why I hope Lambeth 2008 is different. +Rowan has indicated that there may not be much, if any, voting on resolutions. It might be about conversation, which can lead to conversion. Sadly, rumors persist that some bishops may not be invited. This seems completely antithetical to what needs to happen. If we, as Christians, approach this crisis believing that reconcilation is possible, then how can we possibly hope to reconcile as we talk about people rather than with them? What possible harm is there in having all sides in the same room? Who is afraid of whom?

Let us hope that Lambeth 2008 -- Anderson's "Canterbury Summit" -- repeats the ancient Jerusalem Summit. Let us pray that hearts are opened, both in planning the Lambeth Conference and as it takes place.

(Thanks to T19 for pointing me to this article.)

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