September 10, 2008

I usually pride myself on at least having a fleeting acquaintance with the folks that we in the Episcopal Church remember in the common of Lesser Feasts and Fasts.  These are folks ranging from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to C.S. Lewis and from Julian of Norwich to David Pendleton Oakerhater.

They are folks who have had an impact through their life and witness on the life of the Church and the Mission of God in the world.  Like I said, I thought I had a passing relationship with virtually all of them.

Until this morning…

The Rev'd Alexander Crummell

The Rev'd Alexander Crummell

Today we remembers Alexander Crummell who was a pioneer in the Episcopal Church advocating for the minority voice of African-Americans.  Here’s a link to his full story.

Crummell was an important figure in the best of the prophetic wing of the Church.  If you read his story you’ll soon notice that he was not one to take no as an answer.

He was run out of a prep school in New Hampshire, denied candidacy to Holy Orders on more than one occasion, was not allowed to enroll in the seminary of his choice, denied admittance to the diocesan convention where he was finally ordained, forced to leave Liberia when he ran afoul of the prevailing political elite and opposed by Southern Governors when he tried to establish a platform for the voice of Black Episcopalians in the American Church.  In the face of all this adversity, he never lost his prophetic edge.  He believed that God’s call upon his life was reason enough to challenge the conventions that limited participation by all of God’s people in the Mission of God through the church.  Having said that, what I find most laudable about his life and witness is that he remained commited to and engaged in a flawed institution despite its best efforts to push him to the margin.

This is due in large measure of a deep love for the institution and a firm belief that God was calling it to a more faithful witness and challenging it the wrestle with its angels as well as its demons.  Just as Jacob’s struggle results in his blessing, so to did Crummell’s wrestling with the powers that be in God’s name secure a blessing of our Episcopal Church as a voice crying in the wilderness of marginalization and misunderstanding.

As I remember Crummell and his legacy across three continents in his 50 years of ordained ministry, I thank God that he and people like him, maintain patience with the Church, ‘that wonderful and sacred mystery’ and continue to call us, who after all are the Church, to engage with and express faithfully our better nature as we seek to do the Mission of the Church, ‘reconciling the world to God in Christ’ (BCP p. 855).

Well done Brother Crummell, continue to inspire God’s people, the Church.  Thanks be to God!!!