Skip to comments.Packing Them In at the National Cathedral
Posted on 10/15/2005 5:26:28 PM PDT by sionnsar
From the Episcopal
Propaganda Ministry News Service.
|Danforth holds mirror to religious-political right, left
By Dana Wilkie
Friday, October 14, 2005
|[WASHINGTON] While underscoring the importance of keeping the Episcopal Church an inclusive body of believers, former Sen. John Danforth on Thursday cautioned National Cathedral conference-goers against becoming a mirror image of the Religious Right.
Danforth, an ordained minister, a former United Nations ambassador and a Republican, spoke at the opening plenary session of the Values, Vision and the Via Media conference, a three-day event designed to explore how moderate and progressive people of faith can make their voices heard in a national values debate that many believe has been usurped by conservative Christian groups.
While the real problem has come from the Religious Right its not impossible that the Religious Left becomes the mirror image of the Religious Right, said Danforth, who addressed an audience of about 150 in the cathedral Nave. Its possible that people on the left can become as equally sure of themselves as people on the right.
The conference, which is being held Oct. 13-15, explores how Anglicans have historically articulated the progressive Christian values held by moderate Americans.
Conferees include theologians, activists, journalists and lay people, and the agenda features case studies, panel discussions and plenary sessions to explore how people can make a difference in the areas of economic justice, the environment, family values, peacemaking, racism and social oppression.
Saying the Episcopal Church has long been a beacon of inclusiveness, Danforth said it must map a bolder strategy for addressing conservatives in the political arena who claim to know Gods mind -- to the exclusion of other believers. The church, he said, must model the ability to marry honest, vigorous debate with inclusiveness.
The thrust of what the (Old Testament) prophets were talking about was to rail against idolatry against the false gods, against Baal, against the worship of something other than the holy God, said Danforth. And when we create a political system that we represent as being Gods political system, we are Baal worshipers.
Several times, Danforths audience interrupted his comments with applause, and conference goers gave him a standing ovation after his 30-minute remarks.
The Rev. Howard Anderson, director of Cathedral College, introduced Danforth by noting that you never know quite what to call him.
Is it ambassador? Anderson joked. Is it senator?
With that, Anderson introduced Danforth as Senator, Father, Ambassador John Danforth.
The idea for the conference took root after last years presidential election, when progressive Christians organized to protest attempts by the Religious Right to co-opt the name of the church in America. Exit polls indicated that voters associated moral values with narrow and divisive issues -- such as abortion and gay marriage -- instead of a broader Christian agenda. This, experts agree, focused public attention on the church as guardian of personal morality rather than the church as defender against racism, poverty and war.
Conservative groups have countered that liberal Christians do have a voice in the values debate, but that more Americans support conservative Christians on many values.
Danforth cautioned, however, that you have to be a little humble about claiming to know whats Gods will.
When people believe that theyre fighting a religious battle, nothing is more energizing then Im on Gods side, he said. But theres also nothing more divisive than that. Because once you believe that youre on Gods side, therefore people who disagree with you are not on Gods side, or are even enemies of God. Then theres no room for the stuff of politics. And theres a lot of room for real hatred and animosity and bitterness.
Recapturing the values debate from the Religious Right was among the subjects conference goers discussed during Thursday seminars, and it continued to be a popular topic of conversation among those seated in the cathedral as they waited for Danforth to speak.
Cindy Marcillas, who was visiting from San Francisco to attend the conference, said she hoped Danforths remarks would encourage conference-goers to take back the values debate from the Religious Right.
Its appalling how far right this administration has gone, said Marcillas. Its downright frightening.
Danforth, however, urged his listeners to recognize the worth of arguments being made by those who identify with the Religious Right.
One of the points they have to make is what they believe is the loss of our moral compass as a country, and theyre right, Danforth said. Theyre concerned about the coarsening of America, and all you have to do is turn on the TV or go to the movies.
Theyre concerned with respect to the institutions of marriage and the family -- that we have lost our bearings. And when you look at the divorce rate and the out-of-wedlock births, theyve got a point.
You may disagree with everything they say and every position they take and every candidate they support, but they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they too read the Bible, and they too try to be faithful.
The question of whether religion in politics should be divisive, Danforth said, is itself debatable. He noted that some people use Scripture to support the notion that religious beliefs should divide, while others use the Bible to support the view that it shouldnt.
I believe that the heart of the New Testament is the message of reconciliation and inclusiveness, said Danforth, who represented Missouri in the U.S. Senate for 18 years before retiring in 1994. He is ordained to the clergy of the Episcopal Church and serves as honorary associate at St. Albans.
Danforth referred to the presidential-election controversy that erupted last year when the Catholic archbishop of St. Louis Danforths hometown said that politicians who profess to be Catholic but dont adhere to Catholic teachings should not take Holy Communion.
Many believed the remarks by Archbishop Raymond Burke were aimed at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry of Massachusetts because of his stands on abortion, stem-cell research and gay marriage.
How do we respond? Danforth asked. We should do a much better job of making it clear that communion (in the Episcopal Church) is open and then let God sort it out.-- Dana Wilkie is a freelance reporter whose assignments include coverage for the Office of Communication in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (D.C.).
I am amazed that there are 150 people in the Episcopal Church who would come out to hear something about religion. Did they also have naked dancers?
There are *lots* more than that. Even maybe in this diocese.
thanks for the post. to bad Danforth and the folks on the left don't know that "open communion" is not a part of our faith, but a part of the left.
I hope they don't mean open admission to the Eucharist. Title I, Canon 17, Section 7 says:
No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this church.
I believe that you will find that even the members of the Network are practicing "open communion" which means - to them - any Christan - can come to the alter and recieve the Body and Blood. I visted one such church this past Sunday and was in shock.
It was my understanding that to some, at least, "Open Communion" meant that anybody, Christian or not, could come to the altar for the Eucharist. That would be at variance with the Canons.
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