Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Romans 8:35-39 – July 10, 2012)
My church, the Episcopal Church meeting in its 77th General Convention, took two incredibly large steps today which, I believe (and hope and pray), will make us conquerors. First, the House of Deputies unanimously passed a resolution to set in motion a process for re-imagining and possibly restructuring the church. Second, the Deputies voted by a 3-to-1 majority (in both the clerical and lay orders) to concur in an action of the House of Bishops adopting a provisional rite for the blessing of the life-long committed relationships of couples of the same sex; the Bishops had approved the rite by a greater than 2-to-1 majority. Although the second action will get (and has already gotten) by far the greater press coverage and will generate the greatest amount of “heat” and public interest, it is the former that is of greater importance. ~ In preaching on this passage, a former mentor of mine often said that the most important potential obstacle included in the “anything else in all creation” that cannot separate us from God in Christ is . . . ourselves. In passing the resolution to re-imagine and restructure the church, the General Convention has said that we will get out of the way; we will get out of the Spirit’s way, we will get out of our own way! ~ There is much work to be done, but it seems to me that the hardest work will be the letting-go and stepping-aside . . . letting go of old ways of doing and being church, letting go of expectations of how it has been done and how it ought to be done, letting go of office and power by those who have governed the church for generations, letting go of the hurt and pain of change . . . stepping aside to allow new leaders to come forward, stepping aside to let the Holy Spirit come in, stepping aside to free the center to be filled with something new and different. ~ I commend and congratulate the bishops, lay deputies, and clergy who made this decision and have the hard work of letting-go and stepping-aside to do. I pray for the new generation of leadership that will lead the re-imagining and restructuring; I hope that I can join them in the effort. And I remind them that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.