and Jim Halmarson
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Let Us Disenthrall Ourselves
4 July 2013
Archbishop Hiltz, Bishop Johnson and Members of the Joint Assembly:
First, I must thank Bishop Pryse and Dean Wall for permitting me to introduce the discussion of the resolution to appoint a new Joint Commission.
Second, I must thank my Bishop, Michael Ingham, and several members of the National Staff, Bruce Myers, Diane Izzard and Josie De Lucia, for making my participation in this historic occasion possible.
Now to the resolution. On the surface the resolution to appoint a new Joint Commission may seem to be simply a facilitating motion. But there is more to this resolution than may meet the eye.
In December of 1862 President Abraham Lincoln delivered his annual report to the Congress. He had already declared his intention to free all slaves residing in territory under the control of the federal forces as of 1 January 1863, but the war had not gone well for the Union and the Congress expected a message indicating that Lincoln was about to make conciliatory gestures to the Confederacy. Instead of these gestures, Congress heard these words read to them:
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.
My sisters and brothers, some of you may find these words too dramatic for this present moment, but I beg to suggest that these words speak to our own situation as churches in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
Since 2001 we have disenthralled ourselves, piece by piece, pebble by pebble, from some of the attitudes which kept us apart for more than four centuries. But the work, my friends, is not yet finished. There are still areas of polity and institutional structure that enthrall us to a past that is no longer adequate to assist us in becoming who we might truly become as churches in full communion.
In the Waterloo Declaration we committed ourselves ‘to continue to work together for the full visible unity of the whole Church of God and that we were ready ‘to be co-workers with God in whatever tasks of mission serve the Gospel’. Such work requires the willingness to take risks, to help our two churches become more agile in responding to the challenges of the present moment and to envision a future that builds upon the gifts God has given our two communities but a future that dares to be bold and to seek new ways of growing together in love for God’s creation.
My fellow Christians, we cannot escape history because it is in our history that God acts to achieve the divine purposes. This Joint Assembly will only be remembered in years ahead if it comes to be seen as an important step on the journey towards full visible unity rather than just an isolated celebration. For that history to be written, the Joint Commission is needed as the body that keeps us honest, challenges us, even cajoles us, to live into the future that God surely means for us.
In its report to the Joint Assembly the current Joint Commission has identified its hopes for the future. It has laid out a potential agenda for the coming years that will, if undertaken faithfully and vigorously, further our common ministry and our common life as we participate in God’s mission. But you, Members of the Joint Assembly, must not only empower a new Joint Commission but you must needs commit yourselves to join in this work wherever God has given you responsibility.
Our case is new, my sisters and brothers, so let us think anew and act anew. Let us empower a new Commission to work with all of us in crafting the story we want to be told: a story of disciples who do justice --- together, who embody steadfast love --- together and who walk humbly with God --- together so that we and all God’s children may be free.
On behalf of all our brothers and sisters, I ask you to approve the resolution to confirm and support the work of the Joint Anglican-Lutheran Commission and affirm its continued work.