Showing items filed under “January 2017”

I am (a Child of) a Religious Refugee

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I have written in my blog about one side of my family so let me turn to the other. I am a descendant of a religious minority who fled persecution in their homeland.  They were “boat people” for a time until they reached these shores. There was not yet an Ellis Island, so they were taken in, sheltered, and fed, when they were most vulnerable, by local indigenous people. Their new homeland seemed to them remarkable in its possibilities, as if they were Israel in the wilderness headed to the Promised Land, with its shining city on a hill.  To be sure, they were not always welcoming to those who arrived on their heels, also religious refugees but of other kinds. As a child I was taken to see the replicas of their first dwellings, rude stick and waddle houses with the cows close by, exactly as in African villages I have visited. Their descendants continued to tend cattle and scratch a living out of the rocky earth.

My late mother's maiden name was, Audrey Alden Bradford. The refugees of whom I speak were a noted early group of American settlers, but they were no different than the forebears of all of us. (And, I should note, the harsh taskmasters they were fleeing were Anglicans!). On their distinctive, Christianly worded, national vocation as inhabitants of this  “Novum mundum,” and on their Puritan shortcomings  too, I find myself meditating of late.



Blessed Bayne

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Inauguration 2017 is a good time to think about American exceptionalism, the idea that we are a nation with a unique privilege and calling in the world. It would seem that our new President has a complex relation to this idea, since he does want to emphasize our own national interests, but to do so in a less internationalist way.

In the same vein we could think about Episcopal exceptionalism as well. It is our Achilles’ heel. Either we ignore the world, or want to convince it of our rightness, or, in the case of our Church, imagine that we have the world within our boundaries. One way this cashes itself out is in our relation to the Anglican Communion, which too easily fades outside our purview. I recently heard a prominent bishop compare this to the way our news includes so little of the globe, in comparison, say, to the BBC.

In this regard a moment of historical retrospect is valuable. The day that we commemorate the Rev. Stephen Bayne in the Sanctoral is actually today, January 18th. He was the first chief executive of the recently conceived Anglican Communion Office from 1960-1964, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In his time the worldwise Anglican Congress of 1963 took place, whose watchword was ‘mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ.’ This was a visionary statement, one consistent with our creedal affirmation of a Church, which is catholic and apostolic. National churches belong to each other, need each other, are each other’s peers. No colonial hangover here, nor post-colonial resentment. The Church needs to be the Church, just as the members must be the body in Paul.

And remarkable globally catholic vision from a pioneering Episcopalian! May he be an inspiration, and a quiet source of critique on this his commemorative day. Would that we might reclaim his vision and spirit in our time.