Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | November 25, 2009

Shiverin’ Timbers…Thar’ They Be…!!?!

Turning aside from continuing OrthoThunderings pealing around the blogosphere,  I can’t resist throwing out a little  light toward my former church men and women. As you know, I make no pretenses to having answers, insights, or being in the know but  prefer  instead to try familiarizing myself with the cooler corners of the barbecue equipment as the place in eternity I can call my own. Cooler spirits may  wish to move on…

Seems to me that if you bother to listen, the Anglican Orthodox dialog re-initiated by Metropolitan Jonah earlier this year and continued more formally at Nashotah House this past October offers the opportunity to hear something uncommon. Like any talk of marriage, there’s something old, something new, something borrowed, and  even something blue. The trick is to figure out which is which, but even if we don’t (and I’ll leave that to others), there is similarly much promise.

“Ah…. So now Polly’s got her own Bishopric! She does. Uh huh.”
“Aye! That she do… that she do. An’ mighty fine at that!”
“She’d be likin’ a cracker there, y’know…”
”Ah… course ya’ do! How rrrrrightcha are. Here ya’ be. Rrrrrr!”
“But that’s not all…”
“No it’s not is it.  No indeed. For t’at last me hardies, we’d be gittin’ our hands on…”
“The treasure! Cap’n.”
“Rrrrrr! That we be, indeed! An’ jumpin’ Jehosophat,  we’ll rip the lubbers…right? Rip’em from their gizzards to their…”
“In the Naaarthex…?!!… or …”
“Why… in the Nave, lads! The Narthex’s where we be ginnin’ up a plank! Sure’s there’s whiskey in yer eye…. we’ll have ‘em take that stroll ‘fore the ebb!”
“… After we haul’em up?”
“What? Yer tryin’ to confuse me, boy? I’ll have you quartered and hauled, too… or is that hauled and quartered….? Hmmmmm.”
“And the Black Spot?”
“Ah…. the Black Spot….well… that’d be jus’ like you wouldn’t it? To go an’ ask ‘bout it once again. Well…. an’ what of it?”
“You’ll do what with it?”
“Shiver me timbers, lad… it’s always the Black Spot you’ll be fer’. Gads! Now ‘at cha mention it… don’ rightly know. Have to whatcha say… codger-tate … take a stab at it …y’know with ….with….”
“Wouldncha jus’ lak to… to know what it is?”
“Ah! There’d be that, right. ‘Course….an’ ‘at’d help with the codger-tatin’..”
“’Course the Cap’n knows what it is, doncha Cap?”
“Sure I do. Sure I do. What’s there to know? It’s Black, it’s round… it’s kind of spot-like…”
“An you’d of course know jus’ the sort of navigation hazard she presents…”
“Do I? Indeed! Course I do. Ha! Sure ‘nuff. Right. Hmmmmmm.”
“Been there a long time, huh, Cap’n?”
“Hundreds of years, lads. Yep. Been laying her off to larboard every passage…giv’n her plenty of room….”
“But doncha risk the shallows over there…”
”Huh? You some kind of a wise…. well… huh? Hmmmm. That you do, that you do. But if you lay a line four points off the due North as she rounds…”

Fairly, in a ship set adrift some five hundred years ago, and still lowering life boats… this conversation could of course word it’s way to one’s ears on most any bridge deck in the fleet… even in our fleet! LOL! The trick is less and less what’s said here, but the fact that one of these boats has taken on a new passenger in Metropolitan Jonah (MJ). Methinks he’s there not to take passage so much as to offer his piloting services… but we’ll have to see.

For in the proceedings, the good Metropolitan follows up a discussion waxing on Anglican distinctives by throwing down a challenge to go deeper and think more broadly. ACNA’s ambitions for numbers are fine (they want to plant a thousand churches in five years), but Jonah makes clear as have so many Orthodox… that faith really isn’t a numbers game, and that the pattern has instead tended more towards pruning prior to growth, as if growth in faith precedes growth in numbers.

For there’s a real sense that ours may increasingly become a time of challenge and decision, rather than one where continued deference to the virtues of balancing multiple “parties” and their claims through preserving an uneasy peace rather than resolving their issues and risking departure.  Far be it from me to suggest that departure is the right and only response to a bishop’s teaching… but perhaps that’s a matter of unchanged once-changed DNA.

But now that departure has come… surely the course ahead is clear, and the day of decision met. The good Metropolitan can’t be the only one sensing the virtue in dispensing with squishy approaches to the Truth and adopting bold clarity in proclamation of the Gospels “by tradition, …word and our epistle”. And maybe  once more the time has come where cheap grace is more than Bonhoffer’s off-hand remark, and where Christ’s call and “right worship” find their way in yielding our very selves to accept the martyr’s crown.

As the good Metropolitan acknowledges, Christ’s call makes no exceptions for Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals…. we’re all in need of recovering our authentic, noetic experience of God… and dropping much of our other pretenses. And though heard only once, his point resonated. And though it reverberated only briefly…it was nonetheless heard. For if in charity towards our bretheren, we make allowances for prepared speechmaking, one senses that all the rest aside, this offer was truly welcomed.

And I would add only that Met. Jonah’s ambition seems far more abitious than ACNA expected.  In effect, he almost says, “Go ahead. Plant your thousand churches. But whenever you’re done… then TOGETHER  let us replant the one Church of Christ in the hearts of ALL His faithful and loving people so that we can truly become one. We’re not talking about putting ACNA and OCA together, but all Anglicans, all Roman Catholics, all Orthodox, all Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians… all Evangelicals… the whole of Christendom.”

And no, this is certainly NOT the language of English pirates, but precisely the language of someone who really understands what it means to think big. Big doesn’t necessarily mean original, innovative, or creative… it just means committing oneself to doing real work rather than lipservice.

So despite all the other goofiness and wrong-headed things that may be said as part of the journey that ensues, or in review and criticism of these proceedings – and I have no doubt that plenty will be said and said more accurately than I have offered here… and on both accounts, but to me, setting a course in this way is thoroughly worthwhile. My thanks to all who participated!

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