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.