The prayer of Jesus, that his people might be one and he and the Father are one is a prayer that becomes closer to my heart every day. My experience of the Church is profoundly influenced by my life in the nether world of the military culture. My world view is shaped by a blending of various Christian traditions, mutual support and collaboration among believers of often radically different points of view. Because of the love, care and mentoring of people from a blend of different traditions I came to k now God and survived a tumultuous childhood with many moves.
As a historian I have been blessed to to study church history from the early Church Fathers to the present. As I look to church history I find inspiration in many Christian traditions. In fact rather being threatened by them I have become appreciative of their distinctiveness. I think that there is a beauty in liturgy and stability in the councils and creeds of the Church. At the same time the prophetic voice of evangelical preaching shapes me, not merely the salvation message, but the message of freedom embodied in the lives and sacrifice of men like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King. and Desmond Tutu. Likewise the prophetic message of the faith is demonstrated in the ministry, writing and martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his contemporaries Martin Niemoller and Jesuit Father Rupert Meyer of Munich. All who resisted and preached against the evils of Nazism. Women like Teresa of Avila and St Catherine show me that women have a legitimate place of ministry and leadership in the Church. The joy of music in many forms, from ancient hymns and psalter to modern works from around the world enliven the church.I have been shaped by the writings of Hans Kung, Yves Congar, Jurgen Moltmann and Henry Nouwen. I’ve been challenged by St Francis of Assissi, John Wesley and Martin Luther. I am especially inspired by Pope John XXIII who’s vision brought about the Second Vatican Council.
My prayer is that Christians can live in peace with one another and that we find ways to overcome the often very legitimate hurts, grievances and divisions of our 2000 year history. Niether triumphalism nor authoritarianism has a place in my understanding of Church. As a person who grew up in a very open and ecumenical environment I have lost any denominational parochialism that I might have had if I had become a pastor of a civilian parish instead of a chaplain. I do see the providence of God in this, even the bishop who ordained me recognized that calling within the priesthood and never pushed me into parish ministry. Maybe he was afraid that I would be dangerous, God only knows. I believe that my environment has been a stronger influence in the way I think about ecumenical relations and ministry than my actual theology or ecclesiolgy. Likewise I have grown weary of refighting theological debates that have divided the church for a thousand years. I think I embody what the early Anglicans referred to as the via media, as somehow my lifeand ministry has been about building bridges at the intersections of faith with a wide diversity of people. When I have tried to embrace traditionalism or choose to fight theological battles I have ended up tired, bitter and at enmity with other Christians. In a sense when I tried those paths I found that they didn’t work for me. I discovered that I was not being true to who God had created and guided my life, education and expereince. My favorite theological debates have been with other chaplains over pints of good beer in German Gasthausen or Irish pubs. Those were good times, we argued but we also laughed and always left as friends and brothers. As I noted in my post Journeys I figure that the the first seven ecumenical councils work just fine and I really like Vatican II. I believe since we are human that none of us will ever fully comprehend all of God or her truth. I believe that the Holy Spirit, God’s gracious gift to her people will guide us into all Truth. For me my faith has become more about relationships and reconcilliation than in being right.
May God guide us into all truth and bring us all into communion.