Bishop George Sumner of Dallas reflects on the House of Bishops’ most recent meeting at Camp Allen:
1: A group called “Reveal” studies the spiritual vitality of congregations of various denominations, including our own. The results were sobering, but the key point, and the more hopeful one, is that renewal of congregations may be correlated with the following: beginning with salvation by grace, embedding scripture in parish life, encouraging small groups, and having a personal relationship with God. I am encouraged by an emerging desire to figure out what renewal looks like, and to consider these factors. But we do well to note:
- These factors summarize well the inheritance of Reformation themes in conjunction with the Wesleyan stream …
- We should recall that these themes are found in the Prayer Book, and our tradition has its own evangelical stream, in spite of the distortions with respect to that term.
- These elements are related one to another: a personal God actually speaks to us (Bible) and takes the initiative (grace) so as in the Holy Spirit to transform us individually and together (small groups, as congregations).
- Perhaps due to resistance to our Baptist neighbors, some resist the phrase “salvation by grace.” But what if you were to turn this around and say, “then are you happy with depending on your own efforts spiritually?” Some would prefer a phrase like “radical welcome” — but grace is the radical welcome to us by God, Who takes the initiative like the Father running toward his prodigal son!
- We as a denomination need more-than-ever our evangelical types (and for other reasons, traditional Anglo-Catholics)!
2: I want to reiterate a sense I have had throughout my ministry: that we need to reclaim the traditional language of faith, to dig deeper into rich veins of gold in the scriptures. Maturity as leaving the old language behind was a modernist fallacy. Hearing anew and with power, rediscovery, “back to the fount,” these express our calling better. An example of this anxiety is found in some contemporary liturgies (one from ‘Enriching our Worship’) is the exclusion of the word “Lord” as overly patriarchal or domineering. But in fact, references to “Lord” are asserting that God, and not human powers or personalities, rules (a point the Presiding Bishop made in his opening sermon of the House of Bishops). A second is the version of the sentence from the Psalms in the Sanctus, which, revised, reads “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” This also needs reclaiming and rehearing, since historically this referred to Jesus!