Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Circle Of God's Grace

At the Episcopal Cafe, in Fr. Richard Helmer's column, "A Word From The Edge", he says of the present troubles in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion:

It seems that indeed these days everyone has something to be offended about – to justify spitting out a harsh word or two about the situation in the greater Church....In a bit of a temper, I delivered a scathing brand of humor...and judging by the comments in response, much to the delight of those on this side of the questions at hand in the Communion.

Those words of Richard brought me up short, because I've spoken my share of harsh words that were better left unsaid. I've done my part to add to the tensions within the church.

Richard goes on:

For this reason, I set aside almost all my claims to taking offense. But to my more conservative sisters and brothers (and there are many), there is one accusation I do take exception to. That is the notion, implied or explicitly articulated, that our ecclesiastical and theological position here somehow divorces us from the grace of God, from the hand of God’s blessing.

I, too, set aside many claims to take offense, because of my words which might have given offense. But, as I read Richard's words that followed, I was overcome by a feeling of sadness - one of many times I have felt that emotion at the state of our church. I started to comment at the Episcopal Cafè, but I thought better of it, and decided to say my piece here.

That we have come to this in our church, to the point that members of the church feel the need to cry out, "We are, indeed, included in the circle of God's grace! We are not heretics!" That we have come to this is so very sad.

God bestows grace freely, and who are we to judge who is within or without the circle of of God's grace? I, too, take offense at judgments about who's in and who's out. We are all of us sinners, saved by God's grace, and our role as followers of Jesus is to love God and love each other.

Can't we come together and agree on that, at the very least?


  1. I'm with you, lady! Except that I think God's grace extends to heretics, too. Grace does not discriminate. Hey, that might make a good bumper sticker - but then someone would ask, Grace Who?

  2. Sharecropper, I believe that you are correct. Heretics sometimes come to faith. What is it that draws them to faith, but the grace of God operating in their lives? God's grace is for all.

  3. I have to agree, Mimi. No one is outside the grace and love of God. When we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    Even when someone mocks, and seems to have total scorn for the faith, we still can't know what God is doing in and through their lives.


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  5. Sorry, I had to delete a post because of misspellings.

    Anyway . . . I don't why people have to apologize for scathing humor, or any other kind of humor. If it weren't for MadPriest and Dave Walker, we would all go crazy.

  6. Ormonde, you are absolutely correct. I know I would. I have something already written that I'm debating whether to post. I'll probably do it.

  7. Grace, yes. And Jesus forgave sins even before he died and even before people asked forgiveness.

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  9. Klady, most of the folks in my church are not paying attention to the turmoil swirling around in the church, on the internet or in the press - who mostly get church news wrong - but are going about their business of trying their best to be the people of God. However, one day there may be consequences that my congregation will have to face.

    I could not tune out. I was concerned that my bishop would take our diocese out of the Episcopal Church. That would affect me personally in a serious way. He never answered my communications to him to give information on what his plans are.

    I agree, as does Richard, that there's been fault on both "sides", but it's hardly helpful to toss the word heresy around, and I do take offense at that, and I see nothing wrong with saying that.

    I'm afraid that the sorry situation in our church will probably get uglier before it gets better.

    The fact is that despite the differences, I am willing to share the Lord's table with those who disagree with me, even with those who call me a heretic, and there are those on the other "side" who are not willing to do the same. They have their reasons, as I well know.

    I am not one who wants to be rid of those who disagree with me, nor even those who call me a heretic. I believe that the church will be diminished if they leave, and not just in numbers.

    We each must deal with this in our own way. I agree that we could all turn the volume down and ease up on vituperative rhetoric.

  10. Those words of Richard brought me up short, because I've spoken my share of harsh words that were better left unsaid.

    I accept your apology Mimi. I realise it must have taken a lot of courage, especially for someone a lot more evil than Padre Mickey and me.

    Also, I hope heretics are included in God's grace or we're all probably done for.

  11. I didn't mean to imply that what you are writing and doing, grandmere, is fanning the fires or otherwise causing harm. On the contrary. And your point is well taken that different responses may be called for in different places. I don't think people like you should simply step away because (a) you have a compelling and important story to tell about your own change in views, (b) you speak widely to all sorts of matters relating to faith, and (c) as you say, you have reason to be concerned about what happens in your own diocese. All I'm saying is that recent events should cause us all to step back and detach some (whether in retreat or in humor) and maybe rethink how we, as invididuals, are dealing with the rancor. That's all. No fingers pointed, truly. (Well, I'd point one at Maddy but then he'd just flip it back at me -- but that's different, he's entitled or excused, being a heretic and all).

  12. MadPriest, I was not apologizing to you. What have I ever done to you, but be kind and gracious?

    I hope heretics are included in God's grace or we're all probably done for.

    I agree. See. We agree again.

    Klady, we agree more than we disagree. Richard made the point in his column - a point which I left out - that the daily life in his parish is very much like the daily life in parishes around the country, yours and mine included.

    I didn't see you as pointing fingers. Unfortunately, before the dust settles, there will be pain enough to go around.


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