INDIANAPOLIS, IN: GC2012 Opening Eucharist Long on Justice, Short on Heaven
By Michael Heidt in Indianapolis
July 5, 2012
Themed “do justice and love kindness”, the opening Eucharist of the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church (TEC) was long on justice and short on heaven.
The worship service, which was celebrated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, commemorated the lives of three nineteenth century social activists, Walter Rauschenbusch, Washington Gladden and Jacob Riis. These men were “saints” and “prophets”, sermonized Jefferts Schori, who exemplified TEC’s mission.
Quoting Rauschenbach, Jefferts Schori told the capacity congregation that this was “not a matter of getting individuals to heaven, but of transforming life on earth into the harmony of heaven.” For Rauschenbach, this meant opposing greed, militarism and “class contempt.”
Gladden, who opposed New York’s notorious corruption while religious editor of the New York Independent, was an early opponent of segregation. Riis, a Danish immigrant to New York in 1870, worked for the New York Tribune, where he campaigned for labor unions, clean water and an end to poor houses run by the police force.
The Presiding Bishop then went on to urge her listeners to emulate these actions, asking the congregation to “work together for the common weal… is our faith strong enough to do (such) works?”
“This,” stated Jefferts Schori, equating social activism with the content of the Gospel, “is the good news of the reign of God.” The leader of The Episcopal Church made no mention of the Gospel message of salvation and the atoning life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Also unmentioned were the five retired and four sitting bishops who have been charged with misconduct under Title IV of TEC’s canons for filing an Amicus brief in favor of the traditional dioceses of Quincy and Fort Worth, who are in litigation with TEC.
When asked by VirtueOnline if he would receive communion at the opening Eucharist, one of the accused bishops replied, “I will be in attendance.”
Time will tell if the theme of TEC’s Eucharist, to “do justice and love kindness” will stretch to those with whom it disagrees.
Also uncertain is whether continued emphasis on a social gospel devoid of the message of salvation will reverse the decline of a denomination that shrinking at a rate of 50,000 members annually.
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