Note: This statement went out this afternoon to the Saint John’s Community. I thought to share it here.
I spoke last Monday night (July 25th) at a city-wide gathering of Memphis clergy, our third meeting since the “Black Lives Matter” protest on the Mississippi River bridge (I-40) on July 11, 2016. We have come together to pray, to fast, and to create common purpose in bridging the divides in this city. I spoke without notes, but I’ve written down the essence of what I said.
Have you noticed that Christendom is over? The culture of the West is severed from the Christen Gospel and for the first time since the Fifth Century we are no longer the dominant culture in the West.
That being the case, how do we live? I believe that we must be friends by choice, we must proclaim the essential faith and we must wash the world’s feet.
1. We must be FRIENDS BY CHOICE
We must be friends, not because of this or any coming crisis. We must be friends regardless of the boundaries of race, creed, culture or polity. When Christianity was the dominant culture in the West, we had endless arguments over almost everything. Arguments over matters of doctrine and practice for five hundred years are now luxuries we can no longer afford. The people in the street neither understand nor care about these issues. Continuing these controversies is like having an argument over what brand of hardware is on your front door while your house is on fire!Let us choose to be friends and all else will follow.
2. We must proclaim an ESSENTIAL FAITH
How do we come to a genuine consensus on the essential Gospel of Jesus Christ? Just before Christianity became the dominant culture of the West, in the fifth Century, Saint Vincent of Lerins said the Church should follow universality, antiquity, and consent in what we believe.
“Moreover, …all possible care must be taken that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.”
–St. Vincent of Lerins. The Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lerins (p. 7). Veritatis Splendor Publications. Kindle Edition.
It doesn’t mean that we will not believe many things that differ but that all these doctrines and dogmas are not ESSENTIAL!
3. We must wash THE WORLD’S FEET
Americans love words. We talk a lot. Talk is not going to communicate what must be said. I’m an Anglican Christian, so my mind turns to sacraments and signs. What is a sacrament? What is a sign?
- SACRAMENT: “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Sharing bread and wine (communion), pouring water (baptism), or holding hands while giving and receiving rings (matrimony).
- SIGN: “a symbol that transmits the very thing it symbolizes.” A five dollar paper bill represents and transmits five US dollars in currency.
We can’t have communion together easily as it is many fences around it. For five years as I’ve prayed, I have come to believe that what we must do is wash each other’s feet in public. Yes, I said, “We must wash each other’s feet in public.” Beyond that, we must wash the feet of anyone in our city that will allow us to wash their feet. It’s a bit humiliating to wash feet but it is more awkward to have your feet washed. We’ll simply choose to wash and be washed. What I can tell you is that when we make that choice, a mysterious intimacy washes the soles of feet, penetrating the souls of any who humble themselves, getting to know each other hand to foot.
As always, you can reach our clergy by phone (below) or by email. Our email addresses are listed on the website under About>Staff.