Monday, March 10, 2008

How to Not Grow in the Faith

Each week in the Prayer of the Church at Zion we pray for those called to leadership in the Church and, in a 5-week rotation, we pray by name for our own Bishops, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and our Central/Southern Illinois Synod Bishop Warren Freiheit, the Bishops of the Episcopal Dioceses in which most Zionites live and with whom we are in communion, Bishop Keith Ackerman of the Diocese of Quincy (here in Peoria) and Bishop Peter Beckwith of the Diocese of Springfield (its Northern border is only a couple of minutes away), and the Senior of the Society of the Holy Trinity, Pastor Frank Senn, STS. I have been privileged to have the opportunity to meet with each of these men and to tell them on occasion of our prayers on their behalf as they lead in these turbulent times.

In his monthly message for February, Bishop Beckwith reflects on the promises made at the ordination of an Episcopal priest, which he administered most recently in January, in the context of numerous orthodox priests and bishops being charged for “abandonment of the communion of this church” when departing The Episcopal Church for another part of the Anglican Communion. Near the end of his reflection is this little gem that actually speaks to us at all times, and not only in the midst of our current tribulations:
It’s been said that a persistent and all too common problem in the Christian vocation, whether lay or clergy, is the retardation of spiritual growth. That may very well be our problem. After years of Christian profession, it’s not unusual to find there’s little or no progress from when one first believed, and bishops are clearly demonstrating we are not exempt. Certainly the causes of retarded spiritual growth can be many, and to ascribe the trouble to any one fault would be less than appropriate. Nevertheless, one area appears so widespread that it could be seen as a major cause and we all would do well to take careful note. That cause is a failure to commit oneself to the pursuit of God. Every Christian is strong or weak depending on how effectively he or she is able to cultivate a personal knowledge of and relationship with God. All progress in Christian living is governed by an increasing knowledge of the Triune God gained through corporate and personal experiences as a result of a primary commitment to that task. God can be known only in proportion to the time and energy we commit to knowing Him through worship and the study of Holy Scripture.
Read it all here for Bishop Beckwith's context, but I invite you to ponder just this paragraph by itself.

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