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General Convention Needs Genuine Diversity, says Episcopal Dean

General Convention Needs Genuine Diversity, says Episcopal Dean
South Carolina is the only diocese that is growing: we need South Carolina to stay in

By David W. Virtue in Indianapolis
July 9, 2012

The Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary says the powerful vision of an inclusive church is disappearing and there are those who are using the language of inclusion to justify exclusion.

Writing in the column "Perspective" for Center Aisle,the Daily Opinion Journal of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, The Very Rev. Ian Markham said, "There are voices that insist that anyone who has the temerity to believe in traditional marriage, confined to a man and a woman, should not be allowed in the Episcopal Church; there are voices that want to advocate an unthinking vision of Eucharistic hospitality, which would result in the madness of inviting a Muslim who does not even believe that Jesus died on the cross to a table that remembers our Lord's death; there are voices that want to cut ties to the Anglican Communion family because it had a problem with our progressive stance; there are plenty of voices who want to exclude in the name of inclusion."

Markham noted that living with disagreement is tricky. "The desire to make the Church pure is so strong. We are so sure we are right that we don't welcome conservatives. We are so sure that our progressive stance will be vindicated that we insist that those who want to "move less quickly" are ignorant appeasers.

"Let us try to recover our commitment to genuine inclusivity. Let us continue to welcome our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as an intrinsic part of the Church; but let us also extend a warm and affirming welcome to our conservative brothers and sisters. Let us try something new: Let us try to resist the tendency for purity and separation and instead live in a place that is more ragged and interesting."

Conservatives are important for two reasons, says Markham. "The first is that we need their voices. Conservatives keep asking the very basic question: Are we sure this is of God? A church is neither the 'United Way at Prayer' nor a social pressure group. Instead the Church is the Body of Christ and therefore the vehicle of God's will in the world.

"Everything we do should be tested by Scripture. We need to have our biblical reasons for the positions we take. If we lose this perspective, then we are just another dying cult that invites individuals to create whatever faith suits them.

"The second reason is that there are many hurting conservatives who are feeling that this Church is not welcoming. Numerically the majority of the Episcopal Church is in the South. Many of the larger churches are evangelical. We need these conservative congregations and conservative dioceses. South Carolina is the only diocese that is growing: we need South Carolina to stay in."

Markham concluded, "I know it is easier to be small and pure; but it is much more exciting to be large and genuinely diverse. Let us hope we opt for the exciting route rather than the exclusive route."


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