Not an original reflection I’m sure, but sometimes it becomes apparent that being a hitherto lifelong, if very ecumenical, Anglican (liberal Catholic variety) in the Uniting Church as an institution is like being an Apple using cat in a Microsoft dog world - fortunately I do love dogs (generally so much more outwardly friendlier and more sociable for one thing - except when roused or bemused lol - than many felines ) and I can operate Windows operating systems positively (though I can’t stop thinking occasionally how other creative wonks and wrinkles might offer a few possible ecclesial improvements as well as save time and help creativity ). Handiest of all, I also don’t really believe in binaries. But it can be a wee bit taxing at times.
PS I’m really really not sure about this cartoon as an analogy - certainly mainstream Anglicanism is thankfully both equippped with a clearer, simpler and less fussy system (well, yes, ‘method’ to be more accurate - what kind of a cat wants a ‘system’?!) but, unlike Apple. it is also so very messy (and hence actually freer in some organisational respects, than some of its self-assuming ‘freer’ ‘alternatives’). Meanwhile, within its dog context, Pitt Street UC tends of course to be its own kind of animal with some of its own distinctive operating features! Who said ministry was a journey of continuing education?
A word re current Lambeth Conference happenings - but it applies to many others too…
I’ve always struggled with many faith labels people have tried to stick on me but I’ll still accept ‘ecumenical’ - in the true, big, sense of ‘the whole inhabited earth’, ‘justice, peace and the integrity of creation’, seeking and honouring beauty, truth and goodness wherever it can be found and nurtured, and building on the extraordinary depth of ‘ecumenical grammar’, spiritual nuance and deep relationships developed in the past - and I remain passionately committed to working with anyone who seeks that, whatever label, culture or tradition. That’s been part of the joy of my ecumenical - and interfaith - journeys: discovering others (from Catholics to Pentecostals, Muslims to Wiccans, deep souled Orthodox and big hearted Evangelicals , and those who eschew any ‘faith’ identification). Such people give meaning to the true ‘oneness, holiness, apostolicity, and catholicity’ which others bleat on about but too often only use to bruise and beat up others.
Today’s Christian institutional formulations are so typically small, fearful and self-absorbed in that respect - so no wonder we continuing ecumeniacs struggle to be heard. It saddens me that Churches have so little interest in real growth (in humanity and spirituality - not institutional numbers, boundaries and ‘resolutions’) and so neglect the ways forward that ‘receptive’ ecumenists have sought to share - asking not what we can get accepted by others, but what gifts of ‘the other’ (especially the marginal and ostracised ‘other’) we desperately need for our own growth and our mutual survival, never mind flourishing, on this fragile threatened planet.
I know that in every great faith tradition - and not least in the Anglican ones I know best (including some fine bishops now at Lambeth) - that others share my feelings and seek to live faith more abundantly. May we keep such faith and join our hearts and hands with those who also share that vision, wherever they be and come from, choosing love not fear.
an introductory reflection offered to a recent NSW Ecumenical Council discussion by Josephine Inkpin
Firstly let me acknowledge country – in particular the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation on which I live: their elders past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge all First Nations people here. I do so as right and proper. I also do so as this immediately focuses our discussions. For I live in a suburb (Forest Lodge) named after the house of Ambrose Foss, one of Pitt Street Uniting Church’s distinguished early founders. Next door is the suburb of Glebe: a name also witnessing to Christianity’s role in the dispossession of First Nations peoples. Such naming highlights how so many of our conventional expectations and faith stories are tied up with power. This lies at the heart of many divisions, embedded in our ways of thinking and being. Thanks be for God’s grace, these things are not intractable. Yet, without at least naming them, we will not go far in addressing the polarisation they help cause...
Quite frequently I’m asked about fresh versions of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples - due to concerns for some such as patriarchal/parental or other distancing sounding words, issues about forgiveness (not least after church abuse revelations) and so on. I’ve suggested alternatives but have also just had another go at a contemporary paraphrase - also as a contribution to the Pitt St Uniting Church journey. Maybe it is also of some use to some others?
NB I do also value agreed ecumenical texts (!) and also warmly commend the practice, which I learned in ecumenical work, of inviting a diverse group to pray the prayer taught by Jesus in their own words and language - hearing such prayer in Aramaic for example, is particularly moving.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.