iPhones, Backpacks, and the Best Travel Agency in the World: Mission and Unity in the Anglican Communion

The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut has kindly posted a video of my keynote address to the diocese’s annual mission conference in early March. It’s adapted from my book, Backpacking through the Anglican Communion.

Some excerpts:

[iPhones are] an honest description of the world we live in. On the one hand, we have globalization, those forces that are drawing us ever more closely together so that distance and time cease to matter in the way they once did. On the other hand, we have the frank recognition that globalization benefits some people more than it does others, that it imposes costs on some people more than others, and that we are a long way from the Biblical model of relationships marked by mutuality, love, and mercy. The very fact that I don’t know where this device came from, that I can only hazard a guess as to who had a role in producing it, is an indication of just how broken these relationships are. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians that they cannot say to one another, “I have no need of you,” but we seem intent of saying something like, “I may have a need of you, but I’m going to do my best to ensure I don’t have to acknowledge that.”…

The way the Christian community shows its distinctiveness and difference is in the quality of relationships within it. Christians are different because we relate to other Christians in a way that is unique in the world….

There’s one more thing to say about the way in which the community of followers of Jesus is different from other communities in the world: we don’t get to choose who else is in the community. God’s love is open to all people and those who respond in baptism become members of this community. Whether we want them or not is, quite frankly, of no concern to God. The community in mission is a community that holds together a lot of difference. People from all different kinds of backgrounds and beliefs are brought together by the gracious love of God. And that’s a good thing, even though it is sometimes painful and difficult, and may make us want to scream at the top of our lungs, “I have no need of you!” Belonging to the church means believing that all other baptized Christians have something to offer us and we to them, no matter how different they may be. This is a truly counter-cultural idea….

Sometimes we hear it said that the church can find unity in mission. But the more accurate thing to say is that unity is mission. Our life together as Christians in a divided world is part of our witness to the world. Does the church model another way of living to a fractured world? Or does it simply mimic the world in its patterns of broken, global relationships?…

At its best and at its strongest, the Anglican Communion is a network of people who share these mutual, life-giving, counter-cultural relationships, people who want to make known the reconciling love of God in Christ. It is our role to seek these people out—to let them seek us out as well—and come to acknowledge the unity in which we are called to live. The unity of the Anglican Communion could be good news to a divided world. 

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