Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Pause that refreshes

Honest disagreement shows that the people involved have truly listened to and heard one another, and so, come to a mutual realization that, on a certain matter, they will not be of one mind. If this happens often enough, though, the matters around which disagreement exists come to overwhelm commonality, and the final agreement is to part ways. So, perhaps better not to acknowledge our disagreement unless absolutely forced to do so? What to do?

At the risk of oversimplification, let me recall the process Jesus described for his first followers, those bound together by love of Christ. They were to begin with a private conversation between the party injured and the injuring party. If this failed to resolve the matter, there would follow another conversation that would include a fellow member or two of the family of faith, parties not disinterested, but also not as passionately invested in the disagreement as the original participants. If this also failed to achieve a resolution, the next move would bring the wider community of the Church into the matter, presumably to see if the moral weight of the Church could mediate a resolution. Failing this, the presumably righteous contender should, Jesus said, regard the offender as ‘a Gentile or tax-collector;’ i.e., as an undesirable; which is to say, someone outside the fellowship.For people who have gathered together in the Name, to turn from one another is also to turn from the Christ who was among them when they had gathered.

Saturday, April 17, 2004


Someone once said, ‘I think if I ever found the perfect church, I could never be a member; because as soon I joined it, it wouldn’t be perfect anymore.’ Over the last month, it has emerged again that the Church is not a perfect thing. At General Convention, the attention garnered by votes to confirm the Diocese of New Hampshire’s election of an openly gay man as their next bishop has reminded both the world and the Church itself, that, while the Church is a divine institution, it is also a thoroughly human organism. The Church’s connection with God was evident in the fact that those at Convention came together out of a common desire to be faithful to God and to be faithful to one another in Christ’s Name, and that for the most part they conducted themselves accordingly. At the same time, the human messiness of the Church is apparent in the fact that there is a sizable contingent on each side of the issue.

First Impressions of the Windsor Report

It isn’t perfect, but the Report of Eames/Windsor/Lambeth Commission’s is surprisingly clear, especially considering it is an Anglican bit of work. And for this, it may be just what we need. It seems that the core difficulty of the current controversy has been not the fact that the issue involved is sex and sexuality, or authority and freedom, or revelation and inspiration, or faithfulness and interpretation, or justice and oppression, or any other of a nearly endless list of possibilities. Instead, I think it’s been difficult mostly because it’s been difficult for the Church to arrive at a common definition of the very issue that has defined the controversy. And this matters because if we haven’t been able even to agree upon what it is we’re arguing about, then surely we’ve done hardly better in being able to agree upon what it is that we stand for.

When Archbishop of Canterbury called this commission he told the members that they were to address what it means for Christians in the Anglican Communion to be actually in Communion with one another. In holding to this charge, the Commission’s Report now focuses all of us on this single phenomenon: Communion.

Reading between the lines of compliance

It is a mistake to read the current controversy with the template of the past. The revisionists on the Hard Right have learned well from the past, and have done so more quickly and thoroughly than have the rest of us. Due to this, the Hard Right has successfully adapted its tactics to gain ground ceded to it by the Pliant Left and which it has captured from the Broad Middle.

Most of the dissenting bishops have declared their intention not to ask their respective dioceses to leave the Episcopal Church. And they mean it. It is important, though, to recognize that their dissent makes it logically impossible for them to be loyal to the same Church whose Constitution and Canons they dismiss in their dissent. Thus, it is important to discern what these bishops and their dioceses are saying to avoid being trapped by the skewed logic of their claims.