I had the privilege to participate at the Gathering of Leaders at the Gray Center in Mississippi. We had a chance to share with leaders of different contexts, make friends, hear ideas, witness of ministry and personal lives. Our theme was Unity and Division in the Missionary Church. We recalled the prayer Jesus made for us disciples that we might all be one and rekindled that spirit.
Some ideas spoke to me in a powerful way. One personal realization was that I was not in Texas anymore! Since I am new to Texas, and kind of new to the Anglican / Episcopal tradition, I realized how where you are makes a difference. That is, that we are in different contexts and are called to claim the same universal story and identity that makes us one. It is not that we are prayed to be one minded, we are different and respond to our Christian discipleship in different ways, but we are one, universal church. God is one and she is everywhere but people are not.
Unity equals identity and our identity is Christ Jesus. It becomes more complicated once we go beyond that to decide on what identifies us. How can we claim our baptismal identity and at the same time embrace our rich denominational and cultural traditions? I guess it was a lot easier when the Anglican Tradition was limited to England, but then life and the Spirit of Christ pushed us towards diversity, and so, Episcopalians we are.
Yes, I do believe that diversity is the identity of the Episcopal Church. We are privileged to be diverse and in the Spirit of our Savior will continue to realize that we might look, speak and think differently, but we are one in Christ. We cannot give in to our temptation to interact with other brothers and sisters listening for how they might be like me, no, we are called to listen and learn from each other’s way of life and faith, without holding my experience of God as more authentic than yours.
I am assuming that this is a conversation that we have among Christian disciples, leaders. In that way we might learn to strengthen our missionary seal inspired by others that might not look like me or think like me. Maybe we shall find a prophet that will have the message of Christ directed at me, wouldn’t that be something so typical of Jesus. Well that’s what happened to me at the Gathering. Hope to keep finding people who witness the love and truth of Christ for my life and ministry’s sake.
The Rev. Uriel Lopez
Vicar, Iglesia Episcopal San Romero