Thursday, January 17, 2008

The CEC Talk....

Our parish had “the talk” yesterday, one that we have been trying to put off for weeks. After a wonderful time of prayer and fellowship we had the very serious conversation about our status in the CEC.

The problem we finally had to face, is that the institutional and canonical developments within the CEC over the last decade, are in no way parallel to the development of this very nice group of people, given to God, each other and to those in need.

There has been a great emotional investment by many of these folks in the name CEC, in belonging to a community which seemed to capture the idea of convergence. That name has meant for some a place of conversion, for others the discovery of the Holy Spirit and Charismatic gifts, the beauty of the Eucharist, a place where the Bible has become a living book, a place of freedom and family. To visit a Eucharistic celebration you would be experiencing convergence at its best! That, makes it all the more difficult!.

Most people in this colorful CEC parish, probably would not feel comfortable with a female celebrating the Eucharist but, cringe at the thought that there would be any impediment for someone called by God on the basis of gender. Women, in all areas of ministry pray for and welcome more male involvement, but be taken aback by the suggestion that leadership in church should be only open to their husbands. Along with great respect for clergy, there is a healthy sense that all people are called to ministry, and all voices important in the discernment of God’s will.

The CEC, as presently defined by its canons and some in its leadership and episcopate, is not just about convergence or ministry. It is also defined by government by consensus, male headship and female exclusion from holy orders and church governance, a conservative bent on social issues, a growing demand for conformity in theological views to traditional boundaries. It is a quandary!

How do you choose convictions over family? How do you come to accept that others feel you “do not belong” though every fiber of your being tells you otherwise? Do you compromise deep held convictions or do you resist the forces demanding uniformity despite the risk of being an outcast? None of these seems like attractive options, nor has this kind of conflict been on the radar screen of a parish leadership that has avoided conflicts of a theological or administrative nature by focusing on evangelism and mission.

On the other side, there are those, outside the parish, who wonder how it could be possible for any group in the CEC to have existed for so long without any reference to GBC, the communion's very clear positions on male headship, women in ministry and other social issues. The question of how people with progressive leanings were ordained, commissioned to minister and encouraged in this communion has also been voiced by some!

Maybe, the mere fact of the existence of our congregation, speaks to the disarray of our communion in the last decade! Maybe it is testimony to the very flexible margins of CEC’s early days! Maybe it is evidence of a don’t ask, don’t tell policy some in the episcopate have tacitly followed! I would like to think it is testimony of things as they should be, unity in essentials, liberty in non essentials and charity in all things.

Should relationships trump religion? Should unity mean uniformity? Can two who love but disagree still live together? Is the CEC to be a tight ship or a big tent? The answers to that are still undetermined but the future does seem uncertain.

I could not help a feeling of sadness as a wonderful bunch of people I respect and love settled with firm determination to; be in the CEC but, of course, to also be us! A total wonderful contradiction, but then again...they say that "nothing is impossible" to those who believe. With new leadership and momentum in the CEC wether that is in the realm of surely to be soon put to the test!

Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles,‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you’:look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church and grant it the peace and unity of your kingdom;where you live and reign with the Fatherin the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever. Amen




stlouismb said...

I admire your courage to continue to speak up--with honesty, rationality and emotion.

You and the parish are in my prayers.

Mike Baldwin

brenda said...


I think your post is right on. Your parish asks the very hard questions that I've found myself asking over the last year and a half. Blessings to you and your parish.


PS-We don't have any women priests or deacons at our church, but our senior warden is an elderly woman, and she does a fantastic job. She's an amazing woman filled with much love. I shudder to think that she would not have been allowed to operate in her areas of gifting if she were in a patriarchal system.

Again, excellent post.