Monday, May 01, 2006

Disobedience: Setting the Stage

The Rev. James Ward writes:

"On April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote an open letter to fellow clergy from the Birmingham Jail. It is the best-known documentary contribution of the twentieth century to the American tradition of civil disobedience and conscience. He wrote to explain why the movement couldn't yield to pressure to let up on its non-violent campaign civil disobedience-why they couldn't wait.

Written nearly half a century ago, that letter sheds light on why the Diocese of California (Bay Area) would provoke further crisis at their General Convention, and why the national Church could very well provoke the international Anglican Communion to suspend the American Episcopal Church from full participation. Because in the American context the civil rights movement models the struggle for full acceptance of homosexuals. It also suggests why the moratorium on consecration of bishops living in same sex unions will neither be honored by California as determinative of its election nor extended by the House of Bishops as the Archbishop of Canterbury has requested. More compelling than any sermon of the past century, the 'Letter from the Birmingham Jail' is embedded in the American conscience."

Read the rest at titusonenine.

I worked with Jim at St. Stephen's for about a year, in the first year after my ordination to the diaconate. I am blessed to call him a friend. So, after reading this article in the St' Stephen's parish publication, I was happy to see that it was published in The Living Church (paper edition), and is now appearing over at titusonenine (I hope Jim is ready for a short firestorm!). Jim does an excellent job of connecting the dots here, between the American church tradition of engaging the democratic process through direct action and our current ecclesial difficulties.

While I appreciate Jim's insight, I am left with this question: is disobedience (civil and otherwise), a way that the church has engaged the state, an appropriate way for the church to engage the church? I'm not so sure it is. The church has always had an uneasy relationship with the state, and when the relationship is smooth, many of us become uneasy. This is for good reason, as we are not called to be one with the state. The church is, however, called to be a witness of unity to the world, living together as one. My hope is that as we trudge through this particular conflict, our witness to the world is of both justice and unity.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Preston!

Lisa Muirhead here from Portage. Hali mentioned she spoke to you. Just wanted to say hello and catch up! We tried to track you down last year. If you like, drop me an email at, let me know how you've been!
Take care,

Monday, May 15, 2006 9:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

spoke in the wheel can apply to all institutions materially governed by the easily transgressing human heart.

miss u.

oh and on the burnout - 7 out of 10 means i get to slay demons now, correct?

Monday, May 15, 2006 6:51:00 PM  

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