Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

Today doesn't feel much like a holiday. I'm not with my family. I doubt I'll eat any barbecue. I'm likely to wear a tie today, and I'm certainly going to work. But today IS a holiday, and I mean that in the fullness of the word.

Several people asked me, "Why the heck is General Convention happening over July 4?" To save money on convention fees. To give all of the people who normally work during the 10+ days that we are here at least one day they don't have to take as "vacation." Or maybe it's another reason completely. I don't know, but I do know that today is the perfect day for us to be at General Convention.

Independence Day is a quintessentially Episcopalian Holiday. For starters, it's a feast day with its own collect and lessons. And, yes, I know that there are lots of people in our church who are not citizens of the United States. Yes, I get twitchy when people call our church headquarters "the national church" even though we're definitely international. But whether "American" or Honduran or anything else, those of us who call the Episcopal Church home have reason to celebrate Independence Day.

Although we are not an established church, we have a history as the church of the establishment. If you didn't pick up on that in American History class, take a look at our church structure. We have bishops (executives), but we hold their power in check through other institutions (clergy & laity). We have a bicameral legislature that meets as a House of Deputies and a House of Bishops. Any resolutions must pass both houses in identical form. In many ways, the way we do church is distinctly American.

At the same time, though, we hold our faith in tension with our identity as patriots. As today's gospel lesson (Matt. 5:43-48) suggests, we are called to love our enemy and those who hate/persecute us. On a day of history, that reminds me of all the times our nation has failed to do that. One of our resolutions we will consider at General Convention is calling on our country to stop demonizing terrorists. It's not all that great, but it say something about our church's relationship with our country. We are called to bring the message of Christ to our country and to the world. And, when our nation is not living up to the standards by which the kingdom of God has been founded, it is our calling to speak out. Of all the churches, even though we are smaller in number, we have a powerful, distinctly American voice to speak on the national political scene.

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