Wading back into the post-Thanksgiving blog/web/email world I was so very pleased to have the following report from the UK's Inclusive Church in my inbox.
It gives a great summation of a just-completed conference entitled "Drenched in Grace" and commmitted to the proclamation of God's inclusive love. Speakers included Sharon Moughtin-Mumby, Jenny Te Paa and Louis Weil and the link at the bottom of this post will take you to transcripts or recordings of their talks.
I had the privilege of meeting with the Inclusive Church folks when in London last month. I look forward with great enthusiasm to partnering with them to offer a global witness to the power of the Living God working in and through us to transcend our divisions and differences and call us to the only true unity: the unity of being many members of the one Body of Christ.
[26NOVEMBER] Last week, 180 people gathered in Derbyshire, England for “Drenched in Grace,” Inclusive Church’s first residential conference.
We met as Anglicans, committed to our church. We met as evangelicals and charismatics, as catholics, liberals and conservatives. We met at the Lord’s table - the unifying core of the conference. We reclaimed with confidence the orthodoxy of the inclusive Gospel we celebrate in the Anglican Communion.
We offered a model of engagement to the Communion at large. In our disagreements we acknowledged the primacy of God’s love in which we are all held together, but we did not keep silent about our differences.
Dr Jenny Te Paa (St John’s College, Auckland NZ) opened the conference. In a strong speech, Te Paa reminded us “how pervasive the reach of enmity has become amongst us.” She urged us “not so much to focus too intently and singularly on the bad behaviour of the few, but rather to focus anew on the very good behaviour of the many.”
Revd Dr Sharon Moughtin-Mumby in her talk “Out of the Silence” said “I believe it is vital for us to .... refuse to skip over the difficult and challenging or awkward passages of the Bible, just as in Inclusive Church we are committed to refusing to skip over those who can be made to feel like the difficult, challenging or awkward members of the people of God.”
Revd Dr Louis Weil (Berkeley, California) spoke about the central place baptism holds in our ecclesial understanding. Speaking of the sacraments of baptism and communion, he said “our obsession with validity has weakened the boldness of the sacramental signs. This creates a low level of expectation and weakens our understanding of mission.” We are in communion with one another by God’s grace, not by any human action. “I am in communion with Peter Akinola (the Archbishop of Nigeria)” he said. “I will remain in communion with Peter Akinola until we are both on the other side.”
Canon Lucy Winkett (St Paul’s Cathedral) spoke of the need to “forge relationships on the anvil of profound disagreement.” “The worry that we have as Anglicans is that our faith can be so driven by fear that our liturgy is tedious and our public pronouncements shrill and irrelevant.” In a powerful and wide ranging address she called for engagement with others across the theological spectrum.
Mark Russell, the Chief Executive of Church Army, sent us out into the world, calling passionately for the church to unite. “Unity is not saying that we will always agree with each other, unity is a deeper spiritual concept. Unity allows me to love my brothers and sisters even when I don’t always agree with them. Love allows me to hold difference and diversity.” He challenged us to “go from here, with a renewed vision to pursue a costly unity, and a vision to bring a gospel of hope to all.”
Many present are increasingly alienated and distanced from the church which they see as home. They are being rendered spiritually homeless. A common question was – why are our episcopal friends, who value and support classical Anglican comprehensiveness, so silent? Why do they, with few exceptions, leave the field clear to those who continually seek to undermine the Communion and deny its profound unity?
We have a Gospel to proclaim in a world disenchanted by the actions of those who proclaim a message which excludes. We invite them to meet with us, so that we can together move into the world with a vision of costly unity and hope for all in Jesus Christ.
Inclusive Church is "an network of groups and individuals committed to celebrating and maintaining the Anglican tradition of diversity and welcome." Read or listen to talks from the conference on the Inclusive Church website ...