Sunday, October 26, 2014

Watching Theology evolve

At the Convention of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut yesterday, I got to be present to watch Theology evolve.

Lots of Christians would be at odds with that statement. They would say that Theology is set, immutable and forever--it can't evolve.

But I watched it do just that on Resolution 11. You need to read it and then I'll explain.


Resolved, that the 230th Convention of the Diocese of Connecticut receive with appreciation the good work of the Baptismal Covenant Working Group, extend its gratitude to the parishes that participated in the Baptismal Covenant creation language study, and comment the study report to the Episcopal church in Connecticut.

And be it further resolved, that this Convention submit to the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church the proposed resolution and explanation contained in the study report:

        Resolved, the House of ______________ concurring, that the 78th General Convention
        authorize the trial addition to the Baptismal Covenant of a sixth question concerning
        our responsibility as baptized Christians to care for God's creation,
       And be it further Resolved, that the additional question and response be worded as follows:

                  "Will you cherish the wondrous works of God and protect the beauty and integrity of
                      all creation?"

                  "I will, with God's help.";

And be it further Resolved, that use of this additional question and response be authorized for trial use as part of the Baptismal Covenant for the triennium 2016-2018.


OK, that's a resolution to Diocesan Convention authorizing a resolution to General Convention. This is the way Episcopalians do things--in Byzantine configurations of complications and 'where-as-es' with lots of "be it further Resolved" (in which 'Resolved' is invariably capitalized) that move from one earthly level to another until finally approved by the 'triennial' (every three years) General Convention of all the kit and caboodle of bishops and priests and lay deputies. Amen.

I sat there wondering if anyone who didn't want Theology to evolve would get up to either speak against the motion or propose an amendment--an amendment, I imagined, to the title of the resolution. I didn't have to wait long.

A priest went to the microphone and began, haltingly, because I'm not sure he was clear about what was 'wrong', in his mind, about the resolution, to ask if he could amend the 'title'. Told by the Chancellor he could, he said, "I would like to amend the title to replace "unity with" with "stewardship of".


A passage from the book of Genesis 1.26: "Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'"

In the Creation story (I call it a 'story' rather than a 'myth' because many people think a 'myth' is simply false while 'stories' can contain profound truth) God gives the Creation to humankind. It 'belongs' to humans. It was 'made for' humans. Humans have 'dominion' over all the world.)

And it the amendment to Resolution #11 had passed, all would be well in Theology-land. Because Judeo-Christian theology has always held that humans were the pinnacle and fulfillment of Creation and 'owned' the world.

But the amendment failed, overwhelmingly. So the title of the Resolution that enabled another Resolution (from Connecticut to the General Convention) remained "in unity with" rather than "stewardship of".

The Diocese of Connecticut passed Resolution #11 overwhelmingly and, in so doing, undid 2000 years of theological belief that humans 'owned' the world rather than being 'in unity with' Creation.

I remember how, in the Regan years, Secretary of the Interior, James Watts, was challenged about government funds going to projects that were highly suspect environmentally. His response was along the lines of: it belongs to us, we can do whatever we want with it....

At Emmanuel Church in Killingworth today, we celebrated the Feast of Francis of Assisi and blessed animals. I talked about Resolution #11 in my sermon and how a wrong has been set right.

We don't 'own' the earth, we are simply a part of it. Creation doesn't 'belong' to human beings, we are merely rather a late addition to it. And our role is to seek to be 'in unity' with creation rather than 'having dominion' over it.

Theology evolves.

I saw it happen on Saturday.

And, if you don't mind me saying--About Time....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.