Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Bishop's Message

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Between 1984 and 1990 the Anglican Consultative Council developed the Five Marks of Mission as a way of articulating the common ministry of the Worldwide Anglican Communion. These marks have been widely accepted by the Provinces of the Communion, including The Episcopal Church.

Below is a list of the Five Marks of Mission:

* To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

* To teach, baptize and nurture new believers

* To respond to human need by loving service

* To seek to transform unjust structures of society

* To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

During my seminary years it was common to say that the Church is mission. More recently the language has changed. Many now say that God has a mission. He has sent the Church to carry out his mission.

My own way of putting this is that the Gospel is not merely something we think. The Gospel is something we do. By saying this I mean to reiterate the Benedictine motto ora et labora (prayer and work). Our worship and devotional life is incomplete if it does not articulate itself in our action.

Think of faith as following Jesus. In our daily lives, we seek to follow in Jesus' footsteps by how we see others, respond to the social and economic circumstances of those around us, address the needs of friends and strangers, manage our money, structure our time, treat our bodies, and guard our tongues (and emails, tweets, and text messages).

It is entirely possible to be technically correct about the theological content of our faith in our minds and to behave as if we those ideas have had almost no affect on our hearts and wills. By contrast, learning to follow Jesus often means taking the example of fellow Christians in our behavior while still sorting out the theological depths of our faith.

For many of us, thinking follows acting, not the other way around. We do things a certain way and, upon reflection, finally begin to understand why we do them that way.

This is how children learn to be moral. Parents and teachers model for them and instruct them in proper behavior. Once such behavior becomes more or less habitual, these children (or, more precisely, these young adults) are in a position to see how their behavior reflects the Golden Rule and what the Golden Rule really means. Fewer people are persuaded of the abstract truth of a principle like the Golden Rule and then decide to implement it.

As we seek to make disciples for Christ, this means that we are not principally trying to get people to come to our church. We are seeking to help them join us in being the Church, the living Body of Christ.

Advent blessings to you all.

In Christ's Love,

The Diocese of Western Louisiana
P. O. Box 2031, Alexandria, LA 71309