Saturday, October 2, 2010

England, Romans and a little theological discourse

I have been meditating on a passage of scripture for the last week or so. I arrived in England, welcomed warmly by the wonderful Amy Walters, and began the long process of unpacking my belongings and turning my room into more than just a storage space for myself and my possession, but into a little piece of home. I’ll eventually upload my pictures of Wesley House, and greater Cambridge, but this evening is dedicated to my meditations on a bit of scripture that I read my second or third night in England. I couldn’t pack many of my books, so I had to suffice with my Bible, Europe on a Shoestring (by Lonely Planet), the Essentials of Christian Theology and a novel called Looking for Alaska by the marvelous John Green.  I decided – rather randomly in fact – to read through Romans in anticipation of a year studying the New Testament. And a slice of scripture leapt out at me and had been marinating with me for the last week.

Romans 10: 9 – 13 reads (italics added for emphasis):

Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the Lord shall be saved.”

This has been rattling around my brain for a few days. It’s been making me really think and pray. All who call upon the Lord shall be saved. That’s a statement with huge implications. It’s a statement that challenges us as Christians to love more widely and more deeply then we may want to or think is possible.

For example, the Church of England (furthermore referred to as CoE) is in a precarious position. They are having serious in-fighting concerning the ordination of female Bishops. Now, the Episcopal Church has blown through this (in fact they have a female Presiding Bishop), and I – naively – assumed that the CoE had already moved past these debates. But they haven’t, and they are hotly contested. In fact, when Katherine Jefferts-Schori visited Southwark Cathedral in London this summer, she had to carry her Bishop’s mitre (her special hat) rather than wear it, because the CoE doesn’t recognize her right to be consecrated as a Bishop (she’s the elected head of the Episcopal Church).  This same summer, we as the Presbyterian Church USA (henceforth, PCUSA) elected Cindy Bolbach as the Moderator – and she’s not even a minister! We have embraced the role of women as equal sources of scriptural authority. But the role of women is still being debated in the CoE – and sense I live with four CoE ordinands, we talk about it a lot.

What is comes down to, I think, is understanding the breadth of scripture. People quote 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 as reasons not to ordain women. I shake my head and think about this passage or Romans. “The same Lord is the Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” God is generous to those who support the ordination of women (or gays, or divorcees, etc) and those that oppose it. God is generous to Catholics, Methodists and Presbyterians. God is generous to Pentecostals and Anglicans.  God is generous to UGA fans and UNC fans, alike (hard to believe, I know). God is generous. How simple, yet how profound.

Living in  Methodist house as a Presbyterian (who is still struggling with what it means to be in the Reformed tradition) , in a country with an Anglican state church has brought this passage of scripture into perspective. We will disagree as a Christian community. Sometimes we will disagree so heartily that it will be hard to stand in the same room. And yet, “the same Lord is Lord of all,” God is greater than our theological differences. God is bigger than our arguments about politics, or evolution, or the right to life. God is greater than all the things that divide us. While those issues are important, what is most important is the knowledge that God is generous to us and to those that believe differently. Stepping out of the comfort zone of American society – which with all its own hiccups and problems is still familiar – and embracing the discourse here in England reminds me of how essential this scripture is. We are one body – we will disagree, but God is generous to us all.

Thanks be to God! Amen. :)

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