January 14, 2005

When a Church Has Cause to Repent

A few years ago a major church body publicly repented of its past actions and positions. It did so not only under the pressure of conscience and a growing inner awareness of the harm they had caused, nor merely because the world church fellowship to which they belonged had broken communion with them pending their repentance, but in actual acknowledgement that they had done wrong, and worse, had offered a theological defense for their sin. That is what repentance is about: not mere regret for harm done, but a full and complete admission of the sinfullness of the error, with the acknowledgement of the harm done, and if appropriate, reparation.

I am, of course, speaking of the eventual repentance of the Dutch Reformed Church for its support and theological defense of apartheid.

In the present situation in which we find ourselves, I do not believe the Episcopal Church to have erred or done anything worthy of repentance. The recent House of Bishops' expression of regret is fully appropriate, but at this point I think there are some regrets due from the “other side” of this issue. Surely the “reasserter” position has demonstrably caused, through the centuries, objectively more human misery and suffering than has the position advanced by the Episcopal Church in this present day and time. As with apartheid, it is, perhaps, the reasserters who need the metanoia they so loudly clamor for in others.

“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

You can read about the call from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches here: An Address to the Synod and the action of the Dutch Reformed Church at Report on the Synod Action.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ach, Father T, even as some are trying to claim MLKJr for the "marriage protection" crowd, I am sure that your citation of the formerly apostate South African Dutch Reformed Church will be "re-asserted" to match nicely w/ the (supposedly) currently apostate ECUSA now . . .

J.C. Fisher

[Personal reminiscence: doesn't everyone remember an childhood incident wherein an authority figure *demanded* one apologize for something? Regardless of whether (or not) in 20/20 hindsight, the incident was something for which one can now claim malicious responsibility, did ANYONE feel truly "sorry" at the time one was coerced into giving an apology? What use are these forced apologies, anyway? Does anyone come away feeling better about them? Or are they just about face-saving---nevermind the wounds, or the rot, underneath?]