Don't practice divisive religion, UN man tells Episcoplians

By staff writers
June 18, 2006

Don't practice divisive religion, UN man tells Episcoplians

-18/06/06

In the midst of continuing concerns about a formal split in the Anglican Communion, an American priest who was former US Ambassador to the United Nations has challenged the Episcopal Church USAís General Convention in Columbus Ohio to a ìhigher callingî which overcomes division in the name of religion.

Speaking at the Presiding Bishop's Forum, the Rev John Danforth said: ìIf God does call us to a ministry of reconciliation, how you conduct yourselves at this Convention is important, because it would be very hard for our church to present itself as a broken answer to the problem of the world.î

He went on: ìIf we can't hold ourselves together, it's hard to see how we can [be] a force to hold the world together, and, if we can't exchange the peace with one another, it is hard to explain to people how we purport to be agents of peace.î

Joking that ìI have preferred a softer and gentler version of politicsî to that evident in the Anglican world right now, Danforth was deadly serious when he declared that ìa broken church is a sad church.î

The former ambassador, a liberal Republican, questioned the over-preoccupation with arguments about human sexuality, and said that the church needed to focus on the global context of its simple yet powerful Gospel about Christ as the focus and motor of reconciliation.

ìIt's not a wimpy message. It's a prophetic message. It's a message that God is transcendent and God transcends any of our perceptions of God and that God is big enough to incorporate and encompass the perceptions of all kinds of people, even those with whom we most adamantly disagree.î

ìThe question I believe the Episcopal Church should be addressing is whether we Ö intend to be part of the problem, or whether we intend to be part of the answer,î he said.

And he was forthright in tackling the question of faith and fratricide. ìReligion is either the direct cause of some of [the worldís] conflicts or it contributes to the very polarization that makes addressing the conflicts so difficult,î he declared.

ìTerrorism obviously is religiously inspired; so is fighting in Iraq; so was the north/south civil war in Sudan; so was Kashmir; so was Bosnia, and on and on. People kill each other because they believe that God commands them to do so. And in our country, thank God we are not killing each other in the name of religion, but religious people acting in the name of Christ have championed the wedge issues that divide us, that cut the common ground out from under us, and make even discussing important questions so difficult. The marriage amendment, the issues of religion in public schools, the display of the Ten Commandments in court houses, the sad case of Terry Schiavo, and the list goes on.î

Pleaded Danforth: ìWhen Jesus prayed that we all may be one, didn't he mean it? So that to me is particularly the message of the Episcopal ChurchÖ I plead with you ladies and gentlemen. Figure out a way to hold this together.î

He concluded: ìI believe that we have a higher callingÖ I believe that the central message of the Episcopal Church and of all Christians is and should be that [in St Paulís words] ëGod was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and that he has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliationí.î

[Also on Ekklesia: Inclusive Church reports on key US Episcopal gathering 16/06/06; Episcopal Church USA faces pressure on Anglican gay split; Lord Carey says ordaining a gay bishop verges on heresy; Conservative Episcopalians break away ahead of Eames report; African bishops say Windsor Report is offensive; Windsor Report does not call for apology; Episcopal bishop rejects Nigerian criticism on gays; Episcopal leader calls for aid focus on Palestine-Israel; Church in Haiti keeps hope alive amid violence and poverty; US Anglicans seek to end Cuban isolation]

Don't practice divisive religion, UN man tells Episcoplians

-18/06/06

In the midst of continuing concerns about a formal split in the Anglican Communion, an American priest who was former US Ambassador to the United Nations has challenged the Episcopal Church USAís General Convention in Columbus Ohio to a ìhigher callingî which overcomes division in the name of religion.

Speaking at the Presiding Bishop's Forum, the Rev John Danforth said: ìIf God does call us to a ministry of reconciliation, how you conduct yourselves at this Convention is important, because it would be very hard for our church to present itself as a broken answer to the problem of the world.î

He went on: ìIf we can't hold ourselves together, it's hard to see how we can [be] a force to hold the world together, and, if we can't exchange the peace with one another, it is hard to explain to people how we purport to be agents of peace.î

Joking that ìI have preferred a softer and gentler version of politicsî to that evident in the Anglican world right now, Danforth was deadly serious when he declared that ìa broken church is a sad church.î

The former ambassador, a liberal Republican, questioned the over-preoccupation with arguments about human sexuality, and said that the church needed to focus on the global context of its simple yet powerful Gospel about Christ as the focus and motor of reconciliation.

ìIt's not a wimpy message. It's a prophetic message. It's a message that God is transcendent and God transcends any of our perceptions of God and that God is big enough to incorporate and encompass the perceptions of all kinds of people, even those with whom we most adamantly disagree.î

ìThe question I believe the Episcopal Church should be addressing is whether we Ö intend to be part of the problem, or whether we intend to be part of the answer,î he said.

And he was forthright in tackling the question of faith and fratricide. ìReligion is either the direct cause of some of [the worldís] conflicts or it contributes to the very polarization that makes addressing the conflicts so difficult,î he declared.

ìTerrorism obviously is religiously inspired; so is fighting in Iraq; so was the north/south civil war in Sudan; so was Kashmir; so was Bosnia, and on and on. People kill each other because they believe that God commands them to do so. And in our country, thank God we are not killing each other in the name of religion, but religious people acting in the name of Christ have championed the wedge issues that divide us, that cut the common ground out from under us, and make even discussing important questions so difficult. The marriage amendment, the issues of religion in public schools, the display of the Ten Commandments in court houses, the sad case of Terry Schiavo, and the list goes on.î

Pleaded Danforth: ìWhen Jesus prayed that we all may be one, didn't he mean it? So that to me is particularly the message of the Episcopal ChurchÖ I plead with you ladies and gentlemen. Figure out a way to hold this together.î

He concluded: ìI believe that we have a higher callingÖ I believe that the central message of the Episcopal Church and of all Christians is and should be that [in St Paulís words] ëGod was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and that he has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliationí.î

[Also on Ekklesia: Inclusive Church reports on key US Episcopal gathering 16/06/06; Episcopal Church USA faces pressure on Anglican gay split; Lord Carey says ordaining a gay bishop verges on heresy; Conservative Episcopalians break away ahead of Eames report; African bishops say Windsor Report is offensive; Windsor Report does not call for apology; Episcopal bishop rejects Nigerian criticism on gays; Episcopal leader calls for aid focus on Palestine-Israel; Church in Haiti keeps hope alive amid violence and poverty; US Anglicans seek to end Cuban isolation]

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