It was wonderful to renew our friendships at General Convention, worship together, receive the life giving Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and then engage in discerning, listening and through the do-hickeys voting on the issues which relate to the matters of our faith. I hope all of us have arrived safely by the grace of God into our mission fields. Our is a missional God and who sends his missionary Son into the world and Father and the Son sends missionary Holy Spirit and then the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit sends the Church into the world to be a missionary community. I am personally delighted to be back in my parish and ready to celebrate the Sacraments, preach the Gospel and serve my community. Last year we had started $1.4 million renovation of our undercroft of our 107 years old church. This morning I went to visit the undercroft and was "surprised by joy" that it is finished. We are a downtown church engaged as a missional community to live and proclaim that Jesus loves and redeems sinners. The model is Jesus himself who sent his disciples empowered with the Holy Spirit in a new way of life. We as Episcopalians now need to redirect our focus away from the issues of Lambeth, sexuality and all other issues we agree or disagree and go back to be the practioners and teachers of this new way of life Jesus offers us to be a missional community in our local environments. Brian Mclaren in his book "A Generous Orthodoxy" writes, "Even if few would practice this new way, many would benefit. Oppressed people would be free. Poor people would be liberated from poverty. Minorities would be treated with respect. Sinners would be loved, not resented. industrialists would realize that God cares for sparrows and wildflowers--so their industries should respect, not rape, the environment. The homeless would be invited in for a hot meal. The kingdom of God would come--not everywhere at once, not suddenly, but gradually, like a seed growing in a field, like yeast spreading in a lump of bread dough, like light spreading across the sky at dawn." It would not be an easy task. It would demand sacrifice on our part as we re-learn to love our neigbors in the episcopal church who differ with us. Let us not exhaust our energies fighting each other but fight the real enemy who is lurking to tear the fabric of the unity and mission of the church. We need to come back to the center to fulfill the missio Dei. By this I mean that the direction of the Episcopal Church to change being a centripetal (flowing in) community to be converted into a centrifugal (flowing out) dynamic missional community. Such emerging missional church will be a place where it is not the resolutions of the General Convention and Windsor report dictate our common call for mission for the next three years, but a repented, grace filled living -loving community to bring reconciliation and blessing to where it is needed. We will begin to read with fresh eyes the story of our faith found in the Old Testament and New Testament to recognize God's redeeming and saving mission in the world. I wonder how many are going to ask me tomarrow after Sunday service about resolution B033. As I look back on the ten days of General Convention and now post debate on HOBD. Many of us are simply debating the church`s institutional maintenance if our bishops shall go to Lambeth 2008. Let us give a chance to the New PB, Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion to discern those issues for our church. Why not we exhaust our debates obout the present state of the church? Our is a shrinking church.
We have been loosing members at the national scene. Many congregations at the local level are simply struggling to keep their doors open. Are we as a natinal body, diocesan and local church probing the gospel by searching for "fresh ways in which the gospel gives us resources for a confident witness to Jesus Christ." Instead we are fighting with each other and weakening our witness in our North American society. Let me share with you a story. My son Gibran Augustine is a 28 years old young businessman based in Northern Virginia. On June 22 he was traveling with his boss in a train from New York to Washington D.C. His boss is a practicing Jewish person. He knew that Gibran`s father was at General Convention. Gibran`s boss said to him, "Gibran why episcopal church is so divided and fighting with each other? It seems there is no clarity in the mission of your church. I invite you to embrace Judaism?" My son thanked his boss for his generous offer and he remains faithful episcopalian. Brothers and sisters let us come to our senses and come back to the center. The church is not just another human institution. It is the creation of the Spirit. To borrow the language of Hans Kung: The church is at once both visitble and invisiable, and this is always true of it. It is no accident that the church is called the "body of Christ." The Church continues as an incarnate expression of the life of God. The world is watching how we conduct the business of Jesus Christ. Let us together renew our commitment and as a church re-focus the call of the incarnate missional church in the post-modern society. Proclaiming a gospel about Christ that is not shaped by the gospel Jesus preached distorts the gospel by proclaiming only part of its meaning. The absence of the gospel Jesus preached in the gospel the church has preached has woefully impoverished the church`s sense of missional identity. A rehearing of the gospel at this time in the history of the North American churches requires special attention to Jesus` own announcement of the good news. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news" (Mark 114-15). The charge is given to us and we are the missional community Jesus depends on everyday to bring the kingdom of God in our world we live in.
Otherwise, "Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ looks out in compassion to the world, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now." St. Theresa of Avila
The Rev. Canon Patrick Pervez Augustine
Chair of the Deputation of the Diocese of Eau Claire
General Convention 2006