The following is a portion of the text of Bishop Anderson’s Charge to the Convention. The remaining portion will be printed next month.
At our last convention, my charge came in the form of an invitation, an invitation to L.I.F.E. (Leadership In Faithful Evangelism) as our response to the Anglican Communion, Episcopal Church and Province Decade of Evangelism. In the course of that invitation I attempted to articulate the meaning of L.I.F.E. in sharing thoughts about leadership, faith and evangelism in an attempt to prepare us as a diocese for this decade of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In concluding the invitation, I called the diocese to a year of prayer and preparation. Prayer using our diocesan collect for L.I.F.E., which we have used throughout this convention, prayer drawing on other forms of intercession, petition and thanksgiving in asking God to help us in knowing the Good News and in sharing it with others. The preparation came in the form of some hard work on the part of the Evangelism Commission. It began with an exercise that was sent to all congregations, committees and commissions in the diocese. Each group looked at a definition of evangelism and evangelization and from that definition begin to talk about what evangelism means within each particular context and exact location. I had the good fortune to participate in many of those conversations and to be a part of that exercise. As I listened to you define evangelism I was struck by the great diversity of meaning despite the common commitment to sharing Jesus Christ as Lord. That diversity came about as a result of the particular context in which you find yourself; the communities of which you are a part and the issues and problems that confront you as God’s people where you live. I am reminded of the words of our keynote speaker last year in his defining evangelism with the simple question; Where does it hurt? Do you all recall that? He suggested such a simple question was a starting point in understanding our task in responding to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In addressing you this morning I want to continue that invitation, the invitation to L.I.F.E. I invite you as God’s people, as members of varied communities, as members of the Church that calls itself Christian to choose L.I.F.E. over death. Jesus talked about himself as the “LIFE.” and the “Way” and the “Truth,” as Bishop Miller so eloquently shared with us this morning. In my charge to you today I would like to build on the wonderful preaching and proclamation that has characterized this convention, on the fine thoughts that have come from our speakers, from the convention floor and the spirit of our shared ruminations that have bound us together as God’s people in exploring the meaning of Jesus as the L.I.F.E. In thinking of Jesus as the “LIFE,” I invite you to consider Jesus as the Truth and as the Way.
First, the Truth. We live in a day and time where the status of truth has become increasingly difficult and problematic. Some say that philosophers and theologians have exercised a failure of nerve in their addressing the question of truth itself. If one reads the literature that comes from seminaries, universities and from many of our theologians there seems to be a preoccupation with method; an undue concern with methodology and a failure to address questions of truth. Now those scholars, theologians and others who ponder such things state that their reason for that failure of nerve or inability to address truth questions is because of the pluralism that tends to characterize our age resulting in a plurality of truths. Yet we as God’s people are called to follow Jesus who is the Truth, not a truth among many but the Truth, definite article, capital T and in that invitation and in that self definition of Jesus as the embodiment of that Truth, we are called as evangelists to share and proclaim that Truth boldly and with courage.
But what is the Truth? Many ideas, many movements, many isms compete for our loyalty as Truth but finally the Truth is not to be found in a concept; the Truth is not to be found in an idea; the Truth is not to be found in a series of statements; the Truth is to be found in a person, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, in inviting us to a life of Truth, helps us understand the very nature of truth in at least three ways.
First, we can talk about truth as a proposition. One way of expressing truth as a proposition is the simple formula, two plus two equals four. Truth as a proposition is something that can be explored, something that can be defined, something that can be defended, logically and rationally. A second way to talk about the truth is truth as experience, my experience of life, my experience o living. It is the truth that comes with the pain of existence itself. It is the truth of our experience of being finite and dependent. It is the truth that comes with the deep recognition that finally each and everyone of us must face judgment, must give an account of the truth of our life as we face the truth of death, something that we can’t escape. This second kind of truth has been called by some theologians “existential” or “expressive” truth. It is truth, unlike the first the type, that comes deep from within the human heart and soul. It is the truth of pain, it is the truth of joy and it is not a proposition that can be logically deduced or known through reason. Finally, a contemporary theologian has suggested that there is a third way to think about and conceive of truth as regulative. Such truth is that which forms and shapes us in the way we live our lives. Truth as regulation has to do with those ideas, attitudes, commitments, beliefs and values that we hold to be life-giving and life-promoting. Truth as regulation can be seen in the Ten Commandments, the great imperative found in the Gospel to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and to love one another. It is the truth of commandment, the truth of covenant, the truth of care that recognizes that if we are to live together there are certain disciplines, rules and habits that need to characterize our common life born of our common prayer.