Reflection: Open to judgement

Rowan Williams, scholar, theologian, poet and former archbishop of Canterbury has a wonderful collection of sermons entitled "Open to Judgment." Anyone who has encountered Williams's theology will be familiar with his understanding of this concept; in his work he places the Christian into a posture of profound humility--making him or herself "open to judgment" both to God and to his or her fellow human beings. This is, for Williams, one of the central messages of the cross: Jesus opening himself to be judged, justly on unjustly, at the hands of his peers.

I attended the bishop candidates walkabout in Wellesley on March 14 and, personal preferences aside, I left feeling a profound gratitude for the seven candidates who were, very publicly, making themselves open to judgment. They were standing, with their souls unclothed, up in front of hundreds (and by the end of these few days, no doubt thousands) of people and offering themselves up to be judged. Judged on their strengths, and their weaknesses; their vision and their questions; their failings and their faults. They were offering themselves up to us, mostly people whom they did not know, in a spirit of trust and honesty that one can only describe as sacred.

I have no idea how the voting will go on April 5. How many ballots? Which candidate will emerge as a favorite? These are questions we will all enter with on that day. But I would hope that as the day of judgment comes, we might all hold a sense of thanksgiving in our hearts for these seven men and women who have offered themselves up to the judgment of their peers and their maker. And that we might thank God that our Episcopal Church has leaders that devoted and that faithful. For six of these well-qualified candidates, the day of voting will not end in triumph. But I hope they know that at least for this one Christian soul, and I expect for many others, they have modeled generously and completely what it means to be like Christ and make yourself radically open to judgment. And for that, we thank you.

--Noah Van Niel, Postulant for Holy Orders, Diocese of Massachusetts

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