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Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Crazy Christian for Crazy Times

Jonathan Myrick Daniels - Seminarian, Freedom Rider (1965)

On this day, the church remembers an idealistic young seminarian who lost his life defending a friend from shotgun fire during anti-racism demonstrations in Alabama in 1965.  You can read a biography of him by clicking his name above.

His home church in New Hampshire, St. James: Keene, honored him this past Sunday with a transferred feast.  The Gospel and a sermon, by the Rev. Canon Ed Rodman, can be heard here.

I'm struck by how little we seem to have learned in the years since.  Even as we seem to be making glacial, grudging progress on sexuality issues, there seems to be a tension around race that bubbles much closer beneath the surface than I think I realized even a few years ago.  Sometimes it shows itself in subtle ways, like how people who largely support his policies still won't cut the President a break.  And then there are weeks like this one, where I'm sure -- for those who lived through it --  it feels like Selma all over again.

The nominating committee for the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church released its candidate profile this week and invited members to present their nominees.

Having read the profile, my choice, made quite a while ago, was only more apparent. We have many deeply spiritual and talented people leading us, but yet we continue to be bogged down with apathy and fatalism, and many of our people and congregations have seemingly not overcome their squeamishness about evangelism and offering unabashed welcome. Visiting many churches feels like wandering into a private club whose signs and symbols are presented in a way that makes you feel as if not knowing them means you don't belong.

Meanwhile, outside the walls, the American public continues to equate Christianity with (at best) insipid platitudes and (at worst) attempting to erode their civil rights, fueled largely by the media power of the far-right machine and the politicians it controls. We continue to regard people of color as a threat, mock or disregard those who don't adhere to our expectations of gender and attraction, vilify the poor, and remain largely indifferent to the violence and exploitation going on both here and abroad.

In my admittedly limited experience, there is one person who has spoken truth to these things in a voice powerful enough to be heard over the din. He has, in my mind, the credibility and the charisma to wake this church up and inspire it for true mission, and he does so with grace and self-effacing humor.

For this reason I have informed the Committee that I nominate the Right Rev. Michael Curry, sitting bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, to lead us forward.

If you are not familiar with Bishop Curry, and haven't seen it the last 4,962 times I have shared it, please screen his sermon from our last General Convention, "We Need Some Crazy Christians". It is, I promise you, well worth your time, and I trust you will understand my enthusiasm.

And if you've seen that one, watch this one, which was given at the annual Convention of the Diocese of Connecticut.  He addresses the very squeamishness I speak of above and the effect it is having on our ability to reach people.  Oh, and baseball.

If he wins, I believe we need to devote considerable resources to get Curry's message beyond our own membership and to the world at large. We need to support him in this as if our very future depends on it, because it very well might.