Just this week Nashotah House, a pretty conservative Episcopal seminary in Wisconsin, has had people on their Board of Trustees resign because the Dean invited the Presiding Bishop to preach there in May. A person associated with the school wrote that she cannot imagine Nashotah House recovering from "this disastrous and horrifying choice." She lamented the fact that Bishop Schori – whom she described as "noted heretic, false teacher, deposer of clergy and bishops, and malicious lawsuit-lover" – has been invited not just to visit, but to preach, "to share her particular, unique, custom, tiny gospel to clergy, laity, and seekers from the pulpit of the House." (I guess this person does not know about all the people who preached from that same pulpit in the 80's and 90's who have been accused of sexual misconduct and have lived double lives, but that is another story.)
The Bishop of Atlanta has been under fire because he has invited people in his diocese to read one of Rick Warren’s books for Lent. Many progressives in the Diocese cannot believe he would do this since Rick Warren is a conservative evangelical. The Bishop says “Fellowship that has Christ as its center is more durable and life giving than single issue-based fellowship. And, I am sure that people who we differ with on issues and biblical interpretation still have something to teach us.”
The gospel lesson for the Church today is Jesus’ mandate for us to “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:38-48
This urge to separate ourselves from those we do not like or agree with goes against the teachings of Christ found in today’s Gospel. That goes for both conservatives and progressives!
At one of the Episcopal Church's General Conventions, while getting a drink at the hotel bar (much theological discussion takes place here) I met a woman from the Diocese of Central Florida who look distressed. I asked her how her day was and she told me she was hurting due to the passage of a resolution favoring the LGBT community. I told her I was part of the LGBT community and from the Diocese of California, which is on the other end of the political spectrum from her diocese, and I let her know how sad I was to see her in so much pain. I bought her and others from her diocese cocktails and we spent the next hour in conversation and prayer about reconciliation. When I left them, they let me know that at first they wondered why I would buy them drinks and spend time with them. But now they knew it was because I loved them and was happy they remained in the Episcopal Church.
On Sunday morning, I reminded the people of St Aidan's of something I had told the Vestry eight years ago when they were interviewing me: sometimes the inclusive Church is so inclusive that it is exclusive. For the Church in the 21st Century to truly be the body of Christ, it must be made up of people from all walks of life, especially those who might disagree with us politically/spiritually but who will still work on the same mission of bringing about the Kingdom of God.
Welcoming someone with radically different views might or might not have an effect on the other person. But I guarantee it will have an effect on us.