By Bishop Todd Townshend
Those who attended Synod in September or read reports in the Huron Church News since, will know that I’ve been speaking about four overarching priorities that will give focus to our mission and ministry over the next few years.
As we try to shift the centre of gravity in every congregation from operations to renewal and new creation, I believe we will better reveal the marks of Christian mission by becoming a more: learning church, just church, diverse church, “new” church.
Of those four categories, I have heard feedback that the least understood area relates to what I mean by “a more diverse church.”
The church has an opportunity to a give powerful witness to society by thinking and speaking about what diversity actually means in light of the Gospel. A starting point for this (admittedly huge) topic is found in our part of creation—in the natural world itself. There is an inherent diversity in God’s creation. However, looking at the many tragic conflicts of human existence, one might observe that “we seem to be living in a world at war with its own diversity.”
Beyond and exceeding what we can learn by looking at the natural world is the Revelation found in the scriptures and in Christian theological traditions. It’s not an “anything goes” embrace of every possibility but, instead, we find that there is a wideness to God’s design, God’s hospitality, and God’s mercy.
What I’m suggesting is that in addition to our wonderful inherited religious and cultural traditions it may be time to raise our eyes to the horizon to see if the global Anglican world has other traditions that may be incorporated into our life. This is crucial contextual work in an ever-changing and diversifying Southwestern Ontario.
At one level, this may be nothing more than adding a little variety to a stale pattern of language, speech, music, and art—it may allow the Good News to be heard afresh! At a deeper level, this is a summons to seriously question some of our assumptions about “difference” and to redraw boundaries of what is “us”. We need to be alert to how Jesus defines “us”.
I’ve heard it said that, globally, there about ten basic patterns to authentic Anglican life—ten “forms” of Anglicanism. We know about three of them. Some of us just know one. This call to a more diverse church is a call to make some space for difference. To make space for someone else’s authentic way of being Anglican.
It starts with a self-sacrificing hospitality. It opens room for God to speak and heal and love. It stretches us and makes our lives larger. In the end, I believe that we will find that we really didn’t have to leave anything important behind. We will have gained whole new worlds.
This may sound like a bit of dreaming in the middle of a pandemic that has us stuck in various kinds of isolation. If so, it’s a dream that keeps me living in hope.