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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA 19014
25 Pentecost - Proper 28
November 18, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
|667 Mount Road, Aston, PA 19014 610-459-2013
|Small Parish - Big Heart - Inclusive
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There’s a column in this morning’s Inquirer by a priest of this Diocese. Elizabeth appears
now and then as opinion pieces or op-eds.
She writes this weekend about the situation of this Diocese and our now-inhibited
bishop, Charles Bennison.
I had some really mixed feelings, reading it, actually. I admit there was a little feeling,
working in me, about “airing our dirty linen in public,” with an ordained member of the
Diocese writing for the secular press about our situation. And I thought, “if she has any
inside information, she probably has no business talking about it in the press; and if she
hasn’t, then she’s just taking advantage of her status to get some print space.” Harsh,
perhaps, but it’s what I thought.
Having read the piece, I think whichever it was added little to the discussion. And in the
end she just rehashed the situation in ways that, while they may not be terribly
destructive, certainly won’t be very helpful, either.
But she did make one comment that I did find a clear negative, not solely in terms of our
Diocesan dialogue, but in a much more general way, as well. She wrote,
“Certain conservative and liberal factions in the diocese, temporarily united in their
distaste for a common foe, may find that their alliance doesn’t last long. A coalition
built on the principle that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ cannot stand the test
of doctrinal disagreements.”
This comment says more about her, I think, than it does about the situation in the Diocese
– but much more, even, about the general state of discourse in our society.
In fact I the kind of thinking it represents might represent the demise of a unique and
precious moment in the history of our world.
There was a time – not very many years ago, in fact, and lasting not very long – when
public discourse in our world was characterized, for the most part, by a high degree of
civility. That is, when people argued, they did so relatively civilly!
But even when emotions got high in the course of debate, and even when debate
deteriorated into argument, when discussion ended – or even took a break – the two
sides resumed their friendships!
In the Congress of the United States, the tales are legendary about spirited debate in
committees or on the floor of House or Senate, “spirit” rising to the level of vociferous –
and sometimes even vicious – only to have, at the bang of the gavel, the combatants go
out together to share a couple of beers after work.
The point is, for at least a brief period of history it was possible to disagree on ideas,
without demonizing one’s opponents!
I suspect the period had its barest beginning ‘way back in the year 1215CE, when the
English knights forced King John to sign the Magna Carta – and something new and
wonderful began in the world.
A lot of blood would be shed along the way, but the eventual result would be the birth of
what is called Liberal Democracy, a phenomenon I’ve spoken of, before; a phenomenon
best exemplified by the birth of the United States and the evolution of England into today’
s United Kingdom (and a something new, I might add, that had it’s roots firmly in our own,
It was a long, difficult process, as we slowly discovered we could disagree – even about
some very important things – without chopping each others’ heads off – literally. And I
think the culmination or the process – the final lesson to be learned – may have been our
own Civil War of the 1860’s.
And it was after that period when Liberal Democracy had its finest hours, helped
civilization make some of its greatest accomplishments, and, indeed, fought and won
some of the greatest battles the world has ever known.
It was a brief time. But it was a time, at least, when we used to know that “opponent” does
not have to mean the same as “enemy”.
But that may longer be true, any more. Something has changed.
We’ve watched it change in recent years, in politics, and the change has been alarming –
has led in many ways to the state of this nation at this very moment.
And – most alarming – now we’ve seen the change reach into the Church, itself; reach
even into our Church – that very Church we used to be proud to proclaim to be “the
broadest Church in Christendom!”
How often I’ve boasted of that title, myself! …of how we represented virtually the whole
range of doctrine and practice to be found in the Body of Christ, yet still stand before the
same altar, side by side, still receive the same sacrament side by side, still feed one
another God’s Holy Food!
But now, suddenly, we don’t. Now, suddenly, we feel we can’t. Now, suddenly, if you
disagree with me, you’re no longer a Christian! You don’t qualify! You don’t meet my
standard. If you disagree with me, you are no longer worthy to break bread with me. You’
re the enemy!
And if you think you hear a heart breaking, somewhere, it just might be the Sacred Heart
of Jesus – whose constant prayer it was that we all might be one, even as He and the
Father are one.
But I have at least one hope. It is that, here in this Diocese, we might, in our own small
way, begin to reverse that trend, a bit – at least in our own life, together.
The struggles so many of us have been involved in have, as Ms Eisenstadt indicated,
brought together people who recognized little common ground, before. And many of us
have found that we actually do have plenty of common ground, after all, over, above and
quite apart from the things we thought so important that had separated us, before; and
even more than that, we’re discovering – or rediscovering – as we’ve worked together
for this, particular common goal – that we’re actually all pretty good people; that maybe
we can, after an argument, actually go out and share a beer, having finally remembered
that while we may indeed still be opponents on some very important issues, we are not
And so much more important than sharing a beer – maybe we can begin, again, to share
some bread and some wine, together – share in the worship of God, together!
And maybe, as we see this happening we’ll begin to relearn the hard won lessons of
Liberal Democracy, and begin to bring those lessons we’re learning back, even into our
own lives and our own parishes – that, “Hey! It’s okay to disagree on things!”; that it’s
okay even to disagree passionately! …because the passion – if accepted and shared
openly and honestly – while it may not always bring solutions and agreement to issues –
will always weld together the human beings who share the passion!
After all, passion is at the heart of our faith, which would never have come to be if not for
what we call the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Passion should always form the core of
our faith – as long as we are careful that in all that we do in the Church, and as the
Church, the one, great dominating passion is our passion for our God, and our passion
for one another that he prays for – that we all may be one!
In His Name. Amen.