Easter Letter 2016
I recently read a book that declared emphatically, “We have lost the cultural wars.” Since the 1960’s, the trend has been more and more away from a culture based on Biblical values towards a culture rooted in radical self-interest, consumerism, humanism, and moral relativism. With the legalization of “same sex marriage” the traditional structures that protect a nation and particularly its children will collapse and we can only guess at the long-term effects on our culture and our children.
However, Christianity has always existed surrounded by paganism. It is a myth that once upon a time in the United States there was this great religious zeal, which has somehow disappear since the 1960’s. The fact is that there were in our history as a nation far worse time. There were times when church attendance was less than 20% of the population. Even great revivals and awakenings, though producing many good fruits, were short lived.
What I believe is unique to our times in America (though not throughout the history of the Church) is that we are not longer living in a “Christian friendly environment” but rather a “Christian hostile environment.” The Church is now portrayed, by the media, academia, liberal elitists, and even elected officials as an enemy to progressive and enlighten thinking. The Church is being called “ignorant”, “bigoted”, “racist”, “homophobic”, and “sexist.” For those voices, the Church has violated all the great “commandments” of the new inclusive culture.
This is not new! Since the beginning the Church has found itself in hostile environments. And, as our Lord told his followers, “in this world you will have troubles.” Didn’t our Lord Jesus warn us of persecution, trials, and suffering? Wasn’t he clear that some of us would face martyrdom for His sake? Why now are we shocked that this season might once again be upon us? Why can we embrace, as we are reminded during Holy Week, that we are called to share in the sufferings of Christ and walk in the way of the cross?
So, am I discouraged? Am I without hope? I AM NOT.
My hope is in Christ Jesus and the fact that He lives. The final word is the Resurrection. In essence the message of the Resurrection is that we have been raised with Him and are seated with Him even now. This truth is made visible every time we gather for Holy Eucharist.
“Making visible the void” is not about convergence worship. I am fully committed to convergence worship, but I am not committed to convergence worship for the sake of convergence worship. I am committed to convergence worship because I am convinced it is the ancient way of worship manifested in the Church of Pentecost in Jerusalem. And, I am convinced that the pattern of the ancient path is the way to live in our world. It is the way of evangelism, conversion, repentance, and new life. It is the pattern of revival and renewal. It is the pattern that is able to contain a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
I believe we are the edge of a mighty work of God for our time. As we face suffering we know with full assurance that His awesome and merciful love will bring us to resurrection. That is real hope! Jesus is our hope!
I believe that this is not only true in our nation, but in individual lives. It is easy to look at circumstances in our lives and the circumstances around us and get filled with despair, discouragement and become weary. I have been there myself. In the midst of us is the Risen Christ Jesus and that makes all the difference.
This summer we are gathering all the clergy and their wives (and children) for convocation. I believe God wants to pour out the power of His resurrection in each of these brothers and sisters. It is going to be an impartation of refreshment and empowerment so that they will return to our congregations and bring a message of His hope and new life. Pray for this event.
Have a wonderful Easter. Sing Alleluia to the Lord. Know that your redeemer, the Lord Jesus lives.
Under His mercy,
The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates,