Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life! Alleluia!
Over the next several days I will be writing a series of blog posts on Episcopal Resurrection: an action movement, which grew out of a prayer movement, which grew out of a General Convention. At the 77th G.C., a group of people came together to form the Acts 8 Moment, dedicated exclusively to fostering prayer within and for the church, and especially to undergird the General Convention with prayer. Several people who came to know each other in the Acts 8 Moment felt a sense of calling to work together to find practical ways to call our church to recommit to spiritual disciplines, in order to find its life in Jesus. They gathered at the Bexley-Seabury in April of this year, where they drafted A Memorial to the Church along with some enabling resolutions, which are intended to help the General Convention incarnate through legislation a vision for a renewed and revitalized Episcopal Church.
I can’t help but chuckle at the irony inherent in the fact that in Convention-speak a call for resurrection requires a memorial. Yet on a deeper level, perhaps that paradoxical language is exactly right, because before one can be raised from the dead, one first has to die. And in the case of a church, I would argue, before it can experience resurrection, it first has to realize that it is dead (as I have argued elsewhere, institutional churches can shuffle onward a zombie-like state for years before allowing themselves to be laid to rest).
The Episcopal Church is not alone in being dead in its current form. Nor is it unique in the history of the larger Church. Faith must be discovered anew by each successive generation. So the institutional Church, if it would remain the Body of Christ, must continually be dying, at least in part, in order to be reborn. In a forthcoming article and book, I have suggested that the rapidly increasing rate of change in the culture and the exponential rate of schism in the Church (now exceeding the growth rate of newly baptized believers) will soon require us to rethink/rebirth pretty much everything about how we “do church.” We will have to learn how be lean yet sufficient, experimental yet honoring of tradition, grounded yet nimble, practical yet visionary. I believe that the Memorial and the resolutions will help us to move intentionally in that direction.
You can read the complete text of the Memorial here, but essentially it boils down to this: We as a church must lose our life for Jesus’ sake so that we might save it. Our beloved Episcopal Church is in very much the very same position as the early Church. Just in the experience of the earliest disciples, the old familiar ways of being the people of God are falling away. Our safe and comfortable “temples” are in the process of crumbling. Eventually, no stone will be left on stone. We can try valiantly to rebuilt the old structures and an in the process become ecclesiastical fossils, or we can follow the Holy Spirit out into the world and become part of Christ’s radical conspiracy to incarnate the realm of God.
I have signed on to the Memorial. I invite and encourage you to prayerfully consider becoming signers as well. To add your signature, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. And then feel free to share it with others. Signing doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with the resolutions, only that you share the vision of the Memorial.
I personally support all nine of the enabling resolutions. I have written to my bishop and my diocese’s G.C. delegation and have encouraged them to prayerfully consider supporting them as well.
I will be discussing one of the resolutions each day over the next nine days. If after reading them, you decide to support them, too, I will offer some suggestions how you can help.
In any event, I urge you to pray for our church, that we might be ever more effective in proclaiming resurrection and in sharing the riches of God’s grace with the world.