Richmond Hill, Ont.
Recent high-profile acts of violence in the U.S. are signs the world is “begging” to be shown the way of Jesus, Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church (TEC), told General Synod in a passionate address July 8 that elicited by turns spontaneous applause and most often, rapt silence from his listeners.
“Just in the last week, a child of God was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; just in the last week, a child of God was killed in St. Paul, Minnesota; and just last night, children of God were killed. They happened to wear the uniform of police officers; another two happened to be African American,” Curry said, referring lastly to the shooting death Thursday, July 7 of five police officers and two civilians in Dallas, Texas, by sniper fire.
This violence, Curry said, had its roots in a “spiritual malady,” and he asked General Synod members to “pray for your brothers and sisters, for the people of the United States in particular.”
People need to remember, Curry said, that the Genesis account of human beings being created in the image of God means that they are all God’s children. This idea needs to be realized now in his country, he said.
“We in the United States are struggling now, with how we can learn and grow to become a country and a culture where human life is sacred,” he said. “Enough is enough,” he added, his voice almost a whisper.
Christians, he said, need to remember that they’re not just members of churches, but are members of “the Jesus movement”—a movement based on love as an alternative to force, and a movement whose message the world desperately needs to hear.
“Our culture, our society, our world, is begging us, ‘Show us another way,’ ” he said, his voice rising in a crescendo that drew a spontaneous outburst of “Amen” from at least one General Synod member.
“Whatever we do as the church, do it in the name of Jesus. Let love be the only law…We’ll find that there’s plenty room for all of us.”
He then broke into the American spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” and was joined by the members of General Synod, who stood and applauded as he made his way out.
Earlier Friday, in a frequently emotional address, Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), assured members of General Synod that her church would stand with the Anglican Church of Canada no matter what difficult decisions it makes over the next few days.
Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Photo: Art Babych
“I know that this is going to be a challenge,” Johnson said to members of General Synod, which is to vote on changing the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriages Monday, July 11.
“I want you to know that the ELCIC has been praying for you as you prepare for this synod, and that we will be continuing to pray for you as you meet,” she said. “We know what it is like to have challenging issues confronting the church, and we want to witness to you that there is life on the other side— abundant life. No matter what decisions you make in these few days, we will continue to be your full communion partner.”
The ELCIC voted to allow same-sex marriages in 2011—a decision that Johnson has acknowledged was very divisive for the church.
In 2007, when she was elected bishop, Johnson told General Synod, the ELCIC was facing severe challenges because of a strain on its resources, both human and financial—a memory that made her voice seize up with emotion when she related it.
“When I was elected national bishop, I was very concerned about the direction in which my church was headed…I wasn’t sure that the ELCIC was going to survive,” she said, struggling to speak through tears. “But I learned a few things over nine years. As Paul wrote in Romans, ‘Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.’ “
Johnson said she also couldn’t overemphasize the importance to the ELCIC of its full communion relationship with the Anglican Church of Canada, her voice almost failing her with emotion when describing how much she appreciated the support of Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
“What a delight it has been over the last nine years to be able to develop such an ongoing friendship and collegial relationship,” Johnson said.
Johnson also outlined the ELCIC’s four key priorities for the coming years, and mentioned the coming commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. One highlight, she said, would be a service of common prayer given by Roman Catholic Pope Francis and Lutheran World Federation president Bishop Munib A. Younan, this October 31—a powerful sign of ecumenical progress between the two churches.
“One hundred years ago, 50 years ago, even 10 years ago, who would have thought that such a day would even be possible? It’s a sign of the Holy Spirit at work in the church,” she said.
Similar events involving Lutherans and Roman Catholics are planned to take place in Canada, Johnson said, and Anglicans are invited to take part.