Sunday, March 16, 2014
I write that as if it's a regular thing. Actually, I've only ever been the the Mother Church of Anglicanism once before in my life, in 1988, the summer after graduation. I remember nothing of the experience except the friends who shared the journey.
This time I was going to see another friend receive an honour from the Archbishop, and it was a joy to drive down from Oxfordshire through the spring sunshine knowing that I would see Tory Baucum and his family at the other end.
Tory has featured on this blog before. We first met back in 1990, when he was curate at the cathedral in little Rock, Arkansas, and I was travelling around the US before I began my ordination training at Wycliffe Hall. We met by chance, and became good friends. Through the years, that friendship has stood the test of time, and I have been privileged to lecture for Tory at Asbury Seminary and to visit him at Truro Church in Virginia where he is now Rector.
Tory is a godly man.
I want that to stand loud and clear as a statement in its own right. In Tory I always see a man who loves the Lord and loves to lead people to the Lord and loves to bless the church. He has found himself on more than one occasion in the midst of difficult circumstances and in that place has always sought to be a man of peace, speaking truth and love with integrity. That's not easy; but his life is a truer witness than my words.
Tory and I don't agree on everything; that hardly matters. I love his heart, and I love him as a dear friend - it is a privilege to know some people, and I count Tory in that category. If I had to agree with someone in order to cherish their friendship, I'd be both far poorer and even more foolish than I am. Tory's wisdom has made me stop, think, re-assess, and wonder many times.
In the mess of US Anglican politics, he takes it in the neck from every side because his church is a member of the conservative ACNA, not the official TEC grouping, but he has taken time to pray with and become friends with the TEC Bishop of Virginia (for whom I also have a deep regard). It is this ability to seek reconciliation without losing integrity that brought Tory to Archbishop Justin's attention.
Justin has appointed Tory as a Canterbury Six Preacher, a company of six preachers that are linked with the foundation of the Cathedral, and who have the honour of being commissioned to share in the work the Archbishop sees as being vital to his own ministry. Justin is keen that we Anglicans re-discover the ability to 'disagree well', and has installed Tory as a Six Preacher to indicate how vital this is, and to demonstrate a very visible model of how it might be done.
Justin has been criticised for the appointment; Tory has been criticised for taking it. Blow the critics.
In the church of God, we will at many times differ on many things, and the way we conduct ourselves at those times matters. Disagreeing well is a great skill, and can reveal deeply Christian character - or its lack. To love my brother or sister when I really read the Scriptures differently matters. Justin and Tory both get that, and I am grateful for the leadership of the one and the friendship of the other and the example of both. We need more people like this. We need to live this stuff out.
So it was glorious to be at Canterbury; to see a godly man honoured; to stand with a friend and his family; to see this step on his pilgrimage and to feel it mark a part of my own.
Back in Little Rock, a quarter of a century ago, we had no idea what days would come. Who knows what days yet will be. Friday, however, and days like it, are days to treasure indeed.
I thank God for Tory, and pray I might practise what I see lived and preached in his life.