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.
It is easy to become afraid these days. After all, we live in a very fast-paced world and today’s media brings us immediate revelations of fresh horror and violence anywhere across the globe. These can quickly disturb our thoughts and emotions and magnify such troubles out of all proportion. They can also lead us to mistrust others different from us, not least those who themselves are survivors or potential victims of the very forces which may be challenging us. We live in times therefore when we badly need to grow love among all people. For love, expressed in prayer and wise action, is the only true antidote to fear. When fear rises within and around us, will we close the doors of our lives and world to others, as the first disciples did after the terror of Jesus’ death? Or will we, like those first disciples, re-open those doors and re-connect with others in new ways, as we experience and grow more deeply in the peace of Christ? Being sensitive to fear and violence is human but how we handle these things is what shows God among us.
A wonderful sign of the divine presence in the midst of our troubled world was the All for Peace gathering at St Luke’s this July. It came about at the request of our Iraqi Muslim community who asked if we would host something to acknowledge the pain of Iraq and the wider world. Muslims asking Christians to host a joint event – in a church building -for peace: imagine that in many parts of our world! What a lovely expression of the model of loving community for which so many parts of our city of Toowoomba have been working and praying so hard. It was certainly a moving occasion, with a nearly full St Luke’s, and with contributors including our Mayor, Federal MP, District Police Inspector, faith leaders, St Saviours school children, and many more! We reflected together on the violent acts which had recently taken place in France, Germany, Turkey, the USA, Sudan and elsewhere. We lit candles. We placed flowers outside in a public witness. We recommitted ourselves together to help make Toowoomba even more of ‘model city of peace and harmony’. For one good model or example can be like the one candle which dispels the darkness which can seem so threatening. Each of us, in the strength of Jesus’ nail-marked hands, can be that candle for our own fears and violence, signs of divine love for everyone, lightening up our world.
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.