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ACNS - Bp. Barbara Harris urges seminary graduates to be part of the
Worldwide Faith News <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wed, 05 Jun 2002 12:29:38 -0700
'remnant of God'
ACNS 3009 - ENS - 5 June 2002
Barbara Harris urges seminary graduates to be part of the 'remnant of God'
by Dick Snyder
[ENS] Bishop Barbara Harris of Massachusetts, the first woman to be elected
a bishop in the world-wide Anglican Communion, urged graduates from the
Church Divinity School of the Pacific to look to the future and become part
of the "remnant of God" who will "be vessels of God's love, instruments of
reconciliation and channels of God's grace."
Citing Isaiah, she noted that remnant of God "will be more likely on the
fringe of the established religions and its institutions. In the true
prophetic tradition, the remnant will be a willing, suffering servant
symbolising not only the suffering of humanity, but itself suffering for the
sake of others."
She added, "The comfortable pew, the safe religion, the tradition-bound
faith have never been at the cutting edge of history, or of spiritual
renewal," she added.
Harris suggested that more encouragement be placed on the role of futurists,
on "those who would search out what the future would hold for the people of
God" as contrasted to those "whose primary desire is for a return to some
imagined glory days of the past."
Rooted in the future
The bishop told the graduates that "Christian scripture and the faith in
which it is rooted are about the future, not about the past," adding that
"biblical promises are more important than biblical history." She suggested
that growing in faith "is predicated on the necessity of change - not change
for change's sake, which often is whimsical, meaningless and sometimes
counter-productive," but "an inspired, Holy Spirit-directed change in order
to create new life and a new future. We either control change, or we are
controlled by it," she said.
Harris told the graduates that they should be involved in renewal in both
society and the church, calling it a "central question for those about to
enter ministry vocation," explaining that the church as an institution "now
seems more concerned with internal peace, internal housekeeping and internal
order than with trying to reconcile the world of humankind to each other and
There may be some institutional churches that have an "absence of turmoil
but I would suggest they also are marked by an increasing retreat from the
world's problems and a deafness to the ceaseless cries of the poor and the
oppressed." Harris said that the graduates, however, can "look to the future
with hope" and "embrace Christ and his Gospel in all their fullness. It
means embracing and articulating an idealism which carries us into a future
yet unborn, with hope, and at the same time a cynicism born of the memory of
past and present failures of our dreams." She added, "We've come this far by
faith, and we trust our God for the next step of the journey." And being
part of the remnant means committing "to the words of that old spiritual, "I
will go; I shall go, to see what the end will be."
Hope and strength
The remnant of God, she concluded, "lives and looks and speaks to the future
in the minds of those who understand the struggle in the hearts of those who
have dedicated their lives in the hopes of the people for whom it is waged,
and in the strength of those who will carry it out. Pray to be in that
Harris was consecrated 13 years ago and has served as suffragan bishop of
Massachusetts. She has announced that she will retire later this year.
She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the seminary. Honorary
degrees were also presented to Ann Stuart Lucas of Pacific Palisades,
California, an educational benefactor; and the Revd David W Perry, who
recently retired as deputy for ecumenical relations for the Episcopal
Church. Perry was active in negotiations with the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America that led to adoption of Called to Common Mission, the full
communion agreement between the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches.
The May 24 commencement was the 108th at the seminary and 29 students
received their Master of Divinity degree, three Master of Arts degrees,
three Doctor of Ministry degrees, and four Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The
Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees are conferred by the
Graduate Theological Union in association with CDSP, both located at
[Dick Snyder is a freelance journalist who is a student at CDSP.]
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