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Published by The State Newspaper

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Published by: The State Newspaper on Dec 11, 2012
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The Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo
2 December
2012Dear People of God, Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,“Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light,” we have prayed this day, this First Sunday in Advent and the beginning of a new churchyear. Every year we pray this prayer and every time it reminds us of the tensions within ourown hearts between choices that tempt us, and yet may do us or others harm, and choices thatseem too hard, and yet may do us or others good. It reminds us of the One to whom we must inthe end give an account for
our choices.Our scriptures call us to righteousness, fullness of faith, to love for one another and justbehavior toward the poor, the needy and the oppressed. They call us to watch for signs of thekingdom of God, keeping our hearts free from the weight of “dissipation, and drunkenness andthe worries of this life” so that we will be alert and ready to stand before the Son of Man.So we yearn for our lives to reflect the image of God implanted within us. And we strive toput on this “armor of light.”This Advent finds South Carolina Episcopalians with an open wound, our armor pierced byour inability across diocesan boundaries to navigate the challenge of living and staying togetherin disagreement. The disassociation of the Diocese of South Carolina from The Episcopal Church has formalized a long-developing schism overmatters of both theology and governance. The questions about whether they can legally dowhat they have done are not ours to answer. The questions of who is the more to blame arenot ours to answer. As I said earlier, temptations to choose those things which may do us orothers harm are ever with us and these temptations have been freely engaged across thechurch from both sides in this tragic fracture. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admitthat, in fact, not a single one of us is ever free from these temptations and of guilt forsuccumbing to them.The questions we
called to answer address whether we will choose a better way, a waythat is neither dismissive of our own theological diversity nor of the challenge Jesus has laidliterally at the feet of his disciples as he washed them: to love and serve him in one another. —
We live in a time that freely indulges itself in thinking that being “right” is better than beingin relationship—in families, in politics, and in church. But we delude ourselves when weembrace the notion that true principles exist only at the extremes. We further delude ourselveswhen we imagine that faithful disciples will, by definition, agree with each other.When, as a teenager, I left faith and Christian community for some ten years, I did so out of my perception of the church’s hypocrisy in proclaiming one thing and doing another, and doingit boldly. For me, this was during the disruptions and disagreements on race and civil rights,tensions so profoundly visible to a young person who lived in Montgomery, Alabama,throughout the 1960’s. I left because I thought I was right and others were wrong. The tensionswere real and “works of darkness” were committed countless times in the name of Christianity.But I was wrong to leave the church over them.My return to the church as a young adult in my twenties came about only when, in my ownbrokenness, I realized how broken we
are. I realized how little control I actually have andultimately how utterly dependent I am on the grace, love and mercy of God. I have heard it saidmany times that the only way to grow is to stop doing things that aren’t working. Pretending Iwas in control wasn’t working.St. Paul tells us how dimly we see. He tells us how we will neither see nor know fully untilwe stand face to face with the One who already sees and knows everything about us. And yet,our blindness offers us humility. Our relationship with God in Christ Jesus gives us the grace tolove one another even in the face of the most radical disagreements. “Love your enemies, dogood to those who hate you,” Jesus said.
(Luke 6:27)
 To love one another as Christ loved us, to be willing even to die for one another,
thedeepest principle of Christian discipleship. It is above all other principles. It is patient and kind.“It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it … rejoices in the truth. Itbears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” There is no need forpatience unless one disagrees. Why resist insisting on one’s own way, as this passage in 1Corinthians 13 continues, unless someone has said there is another way, a way different fromour own way? Why bear all things unless there are things that are heavy to carry? Why endureall things unless there are many hardships? And yet, as disciples of Jesus Christ, love
 these things of us. To do this
to put on the armor of light.Over the past several weeks, I’ve spoken to people in both dioceses. More than a few of them on both sides of the issues have spoken of a paradoxical sense of relief that the tensionhas finally been broken and of a sense that something new is emerging. That sense of relief isboth undeniable and understandable in many ways, but we do not yet know what its hiddenand presently unknowable effects will be. In the end, disciples who truly and regularly wash oneanother’s feet, whether in spirit or in fact, will find more enduring and persistent joy in lovewhen it is gained at cost to oneself through servant ministry to one another.

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