May 19, 2017

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Meeting the challenge of building civility through faith

Fr. Rick GintherBack in my February column, I wrote: “Whatever happened to common civility? In far too many settings, it seems to have vanished. Or been trampled down by strident voices.

“Within our nation, we have seen civility eroded over the past years. It is a sad commentary on our culture. And because we exist within the culture as individuals and as Church, we are all in danger of being [or have already been] infected.”

This column came back to me with full force as I sat in St. Marks’ Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis on May 1. I was there for the National Workshop on Christian Unity 2017.

During the inspiring and tradition‑laden sung evening song, there was a “preaching.” And my, was it powerful!

Bishop Michael B. Curry, the 27th presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church since Nov. 1, 2015, roused us. We—Roman Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Evangelical and other Christians—found ourselves riveted by the power of his words.

With his tablet-bound text, the bishop faced us in the nave, swiveled to those behind in the sanctuary, and beckoned us to reflect.

He seemed caged by the pulpit, leaning to the left as if the rostrum was holding him back.

And then he exploded beyond the bounds of the raised dais! He vaulted the sanctuary stairs and entered the aisle. Here he grew in voice and stature and animation. Oh, it was such a moment to behold!

But the message was what nailed us to our seats, piercing hearts and minds. And ultimately it was simple, yet, so profound!

For our country, he proclaimed, we need a “revival of relationships and a revolution of values.”

Think about it for a moment.

We are not commodities to be traded. We are not beings to be exhausted and discarded. We are humans to be cherished because God cherishes us! For we are formed in God’s image and likeness (imago Dei). For God, through Christ, has nailed that which is worthless to the cross and given rise to that which is holy and good and right in us.

Our new-fashioned reality demands that we reach out and bring to others this truth. We can do this only if we have a revolution of values. Values rooted in the Gospel of that same Jesus Christ. Values that caress the human, the brother or sister, the citizen and the alien immigrant or refugee.

Well, we thought about this a good deal through the remaining three days of the workshop. The simple sentence was repeated by speakers, prayer leaders, preachers. Methodist. Episcopal. Evangelical. Lutheran. Roman Catholic. Other believers. All who work to move us toward unity in Christ. All who interact with people of other faiths for the good of humanity.

A revival of relationships.

A revolution of values.

So simple. So profound. So necessary.

I wrote three months ago of civility. I concluded with this: “Would it not be amazing if the civility shared among people of varied Christian expressions and other faiths were to infect and transform the lack of common civility in this country? Fighting one infection with another is a tantalizing idea. Or is it just plain Gospel sense?”

I believe Bishop Curry challenged us ecumenists to not just dream about it, but to show the way. I pass the challenge to you.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism. He is also pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.)

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