A New Thing In Denver

Posted: Jun 26, 2001 12:00 AM
DENVER -- It's mission time in America. This will come as a great surprise to the many who have written off Christianity as in any way a vital or useful force in the processes of civilization. The element of surprise will cross the countenances of many in Christian vocations -- bishops, ministers, professors of theology, etc. -- who have essentially given up on the "relevance" of their calling. Not the Anglican archbishop of Southeast Asia. Not the Anglican archbishop of Rwanda. Not the four new Anglican bishops they consecrated here last Sunday for mission to the United States of America. Oh, dear! It's come to that: America as a mission field, in need of conversion. Well, sir, that's globalism for you. It's NAFTA and the UN and free trade and immigration and all the modern hallmarks you can think of, including secularism and indifference to the basic sense of a human destiny. The world comes knocking on America's door, not just for jobs, but for souls. Souls? That old stuff? The same. The Christian West, having given over its proprietary claim to defend and expand Christianity, is the new mission field for Africa and Asia. The Denver consecrations -- done within the framework of an upstart Anglican enterprise, the Anglican mission in America -- answer the felt need of American Episcopalians to stand once again for biblical truth. Biblical truth isn't exactly the most popular commodity on the religious market. That's across the board -- Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics. (Trying to explain the diversity of conviction on this point among Southern Baptists would require an essay longer than the latest Stephen King.) Modern culture dissolves old notions of truth. It sometimes seems everything is true. No, make that: everything evolves. Yesterday's truth equals today's outmoded piece of garbage. American jurisprudence is one field of action. We have "evolving" standards, it is said -- as on the death penalty. Nothing abides. All changes. Well, fie on that, say judicial "strict constructionists" -- and also the kinds of Christian missionaries who don't see the divinity of Jesus assuming a new form every year or so. America-as-mission-field is not the concept that truth needs restoring; rather, the concept that truth is unchanging -- that's what needs restoration. The Anglican mission in America's mission -- outside the official Episcopal structures which most AMIA members have fled -- is, in one sense, the restoration of the vision of America's founders: God at the top, his creatures (loved as they are) in the condition of humility and obedience. It will be some trick. We don't think like that anymore. We gave it up. Jesus, Buddha, the druids, the swamis -- all pretty much the same. All worthy of honor in our pluralistic world. Not as the archbishops from Asia and Africa conceive the matter. A new age of Christian belief and commitment may be stirring in the cradle, threatening with its nighttime cries to disrupt the pluralistic peace. No secular pacifiers -- like money -- are likely to quell the outcry. About which you may not have heard much yet. That's "yet." It's the 21st century. You never know what's next. Which is why I went to Denver -- to see a new thing. I did.