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Fearless and Responsible in a World Crisis

Fearless and Responsible in a World Crisis
'When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves' "Man's Search for Meaning"---Viktor Frankl

By Ladson F. Mills III
Special to Virtueonline
March 20, 2020

A fearful world needs a fearless church. So declared Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas in responding to the current coronavirus outbreak.

The eruption of the Coronavirus has caused panic, created havoc, and disrupted lives. Each new revelation produces fearful reactions rather than measured responses. In the face of such an unanticipated event our vulnerabilities rapidly become unmasked. We face the unalterable reality of the fragile nature of our human condition.

Cultural heresies crumble before our very eyes. Modern technology has created a mindset that expects results instantaneously. This time there won't be any. For decades we have been promised that everything could be managed through regulation. They can't be.

Today's world sees no need for self-examination, much less repentance. Morality is defined by political philosophy. Feigned outrage has become a mask for political partisanship. Effort is no longer made in convincing those with whom we disagree. It is more expediate to eradicate than to engage.

This attitude is reflected in many of our churches as well. Loving the sinner hating the sin has been replaced by an attitude of accept everything or be branded a hater. 1960's era liberalism has returned repackaged under the label of progressivism. Despite self-touted tolerance it has shown itself as little more than an updated form of cheap sentimentality.

Rather than stand clearly for the Gospel many denominations embraced the institution as its defining model. As a result, serving the Lord of the Church became confused with the function of denominational bureaucracy.

And like all bureaucracies, churches become obsessed with self-perpetuation at the expense of their mission. Along the way meritocracy was superseded by mediocrity. What could not be achieved through authentic Christian witness was manipulated through intrusive regulation and eventually enforced though adjudication.

Like cancer metastasized, identification with the institution grew until it eclipsed the call to serve the Lord of the Church. The Gospel's call to repentance was replaced by cleverly polished denials that sin can only be eliminated through repenting and embracing Jesus Christ.

Over the last decade the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina has placed increasing emphasis on personal witnessing. Having grown up in the Bible belt of the American south the personal witness is something of which I am very familiar. "Are you saved?" was always on the lips of evangelist.

Reflecting a prejudice of a bygone era, I confess to struggling with images of an uninvited excessive verbalization toward those who are mostly embarrassed and mortified by the encounter.

But it would be delusional not to recognize the wisdom of this decision. Times have changed and this change applies even to present day Anglicans. Long past are the days when the culture needed only reminding of God's love and grace. Today there can be no assurance of any familiarity with the Gospel.

Painful as recent events may be, we live in a time tailor made for good news of the Gospel. Christianity offers the only hope for transforming our human condition. The very nature of our Baptism demands that we reach out to all. The Christian Church is the only organization that exist primarily for others. Sin crosses cultural, racial, gender, and yes even orientation lines.

All humanity comes to the Cross in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And with all the sobering news there is no better time than the present to witness to the world.

Mark Dyer who served as Episcopal Bishop of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) from 1982-1995 began his ordained ministry as a Roman Catholic Benedictine Monk. Like all Benedictines he was schooled in personal spirituality, obedience and humility. Dyer emphasized that connection not compartmentalization was crucial. Who we are at worship on Sunday had to be reflected in how we conduct business on Monday?

The Confession from the Book of Common Prayer reminds us that we sin against God through thought, word, and deed. Last Sunday as we prayed these words, I marveled how something so simply stated could be so true.

Since we sin through thought, word, and deed; this provides a clear model how we might best witness to the world. Thoughts and words provide the foundation on which our deeds are based. And it is these deeds that provides a faithful and tangible witness to our faith.

In cancelling pubic worship due to the coronavirus Anglican Diocese of South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence spoke of using this time wisely. He cited numerous unanticipated opportunities that are now open to us. But included in his message was a reminder that cancellation of services was a way of witnessing responsibility to the community.

The world is hurting, and no one is immune from the consequences.

Our fearless Christian witness combined with responsibility toward others will provide a steady beacon for a chaotic and distressed world.

Now is the time.

Ladson F. Mills III is priest with over thirty years pastoral experience. He is retired and lives with his wife in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of "Abandoned Shipmate: The Destruction of Coast Guard Captain Ernie Blanchard". He is a regular contributor to "Virtueonline" and "The Covert Letter".

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