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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Theology, Bickering and Christian Unity

God knows we Episcopalians have very little high ground to stand on in the area of Christian unity, right now. Mean-spirited monologues and indignant diatribes and self-righteous proclamations are largely the way we are making the news lately. Too much gossip, and too little Gospel, if you want my opinion/sound bite added to the mix.

So, when Bruce mentioned in passing that he had read a short notice of the Southern Baptist Convention's withdrawl from the World Baptist Alliance, I'm ashamed to say my first thought was "Well, apparently we're not alone." I know that the concept of schism does not, strictly speaking, apply in the Baptist world of voluntary alliance and independent association; brother Tripp has taught me that much about their polity. But the battle lines, the cracks in the foundation, sure look similar from a distance.

And, while the dividing issues may be different, the underlying behavior sounds eerily familiar. I refer you to this article, and the argument presented by the head of the Women's Missionary Union-- a group given no vote or decision-making authority in the SBC. Read what they say, these my Baptist sisters, and consider their words.

"During their January meeting, the WMU leaders devoted an entire Monday session to prayer and reflection, with no intention of discussing the SBC/BWA conflict. However when WMU leaders learned that the state women executives were already discussing the issue “in the corridors” they decided to address it. After more than two hours of ‘outpouring’ their feelings on the matter they concluded, “while we recognize differences among member bodies and Baptist sisters around the world, we do not want to separate ourselves from them.”

Hoffman explained that women in different states who partner with women around the world had learned so much from their persecution, devotion and prayer, and that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” When it came time to vote, Hoffman said, the women were asked to stand “and they stood as one, many with tears running down their face to support the BWA,” she said.

In her final appeal to the Committee Hoffman said, “The SBC witness is diluted by division but multiplied by unity.”

In the end, the all-male leadership of the SBC elected not to heed the voiceless women in their midst, and voted to break a fellowship of more than 100 years of working for Christ in this world.

When we do not listen to one another in the Body of Christ, we lose something precious indeed.

Are you listening, ECUSA?


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