Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

Bishop's Writing / Enews September 2021

September 23, 2021

Dear saints,

I ask your prayers for all our children and families, janitors and teachers, nurses and doctors, scientists, religious leaders, funeral directors, victims of floods and fires, and first responders who trust and practice justice beyond self-interest. I ask your prayers of thanksgiving for our leaders in church and society, especially the outgoing Bishop John Macholz and his successor, Bishop Lee M. Miller II, the new Bishop of the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, our full communion partner. I also ask your prayers for State Senators Samra Brouk and Jeremy Cooney, who were raised and equipped for ministry in civil society by churches in our Diocese.

In the letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us that we are not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The mind is central to our formation within the Christian worldview. I realize that without its renewal, we could not have arrived at the transformative foundational theological formulations of inclusion. Without the clarity that all are created in the image of God, we would not have arrived at sustainable movements that spurred women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and human rights in general. However, I wonder if we have idolized the mind beyond its limitations. I wonder if we have sought a place of comfort where if it fits “my worldview,” I can live with otherwise intolerable things. We practiced this for instance, by justifying slavery, women’s subjugation, and more. The unrenewed mind helped us do that. Every nationalist narrative has its internal logic that makes sense to those who adhere to its tenets. However, every such narrative pigeonholes violent agendas to fit the narrative. If that narrative is logical within a set of assumptions, different camps feel comfortable embracing their respective narratives but end up demonizing other people who have narratives that don’t adhere to theirs. 

In the political arena, Democrats and Republicans have assumptions that logically fit within their assumed categories. We are happy if everything flows within assumptions because then, everything fits, our worldview is intact, and our universe of knowledge is preserved. In other words, we have become our own colonizers, and our limited worldviews condition our minds. Perhaps, we are rehearsing what we have feared Artificial Intelligence would end up doing, which is to find agency. Our agency currently seems so programmed by our worldviews because we are losing our capacity to experience the mystery of love beyond our capacity for loving only our way of life. Where is our capacity for practicing curiosity, loving-kindness, joy, and the suspension of fear? Stay with me. I know I am throwing a lot of ideas at you.

Over the past few months, I have had a few life-quakes in my small life. I have had to place some of these in the “doesn’t make sense” category. What happens when I come to the dead-end in the road of logic when the narrative I have embraced does not fit anymore? When bad things happen, “why do bad things happen to good people?” seems insipid. I have been reflecting on an important question, and that is, “why do good things happen to all people?” Amid so much grief and loss, we have seen the human community rally in some remarkable ways during COVID-tide.  Our deepest prayers during this global crisis have been for more than my survival, but for the wellbeing of my family, our neighbors, our children, our planet—concern for the other. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we have become more of a global family during this pandemic. This pandemic has revealed deep goodness within us as a global family. Yes, we have also demonized each other as pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine folks. Perhaps this is when we, as followers of Jesus, learn how to practice solidarity with those who disagree with us. Could we look into each other’s eyes—perhaps on zoom—see ourselves, refresh our sense of mystery beyond the limitations of our mindsets and adore one another? Could we then disarm ourselves since perfect love helps us cast out ignorance and live fearlessly?

I love you!