One of the interesting things about the lectionary (cycle of readings) in Eastertide is that we take a temporary break from the Old Testament in favor of readings from the Book of Acts, the earliest history of the church. Yesterday, we began with the testimony of the disciples to the authorities of the day--stating unequivocally "we must obey God rather than any human authority" in response to an order to not to teach in Jesus' name. The authorities note that the disciples have "filled Jerusalem with [their] teaching."
What a difference two-thousand years makes! Today, we have many voices claiming the moniker of Christianity, from a variety of social and political viewpoints. Yet, author Katherine Tyler Scott, in a recent book (Transforming Leadership) and an even more recent Washington Post article, says this about the Episcopal Church in this cacophany of voices:
At its core, the Episcopal Church believes in the compatibility of tradition and reform, the partnership of faith and reason. If the church can remember and reclaim this charism, it will help those who follow to navigate the present currents of complexity, chaos and change with reasoned and mature judgment and action. It will enable the church, and all of us, to exhibit the courage to move from the margin, to stand in the gap, to hold the tension of the opposites together, and to take the risk to tell our truths in the world--a world that desperately needs to shed itself of the tendency to demonize differences.
That is perhaps what I like most about my often-conflicted church: at our best we hold that tension between opposing views, forces, and paradigms. The challenge facing us as a church is to present that tension-holding not as lack of decisiveness or a failure of nerve (assuming it is not), but as a gift to the church and to the world. Perhaps "training for tension" might be an apt description of the Episcopal Church's divine task: teaching people how to hold the center without being torn apart in the process.