Having pointed out that I am seeing an increasingly common meme being voiced – that the Episcopal Church (perhaps even the Anglican Communion) is one body of two minds which can no longer be joined together – I want to make a couple of points about why I reject it.
I was first drawn to the Episcopal Church because it was the only church I knew where the altar and pulpit were the same size. It was the one place where I saw people taking both Word and Sacrament seriously at the same time. Of course there are people in the Church who emphasize the Word to the diminution of Sacrament and vice versa, but the Anglican ethos states that an either/or position is wrong. It must be a both/and. That is at the core of what we commonly call the Elizabethan Settlement.
Today the question isn’t one of Word versus Sacrament, it is, as our present Presiding Bishop has pointed out, Justice versus Holiness. There are voices claiming the overriding need for Justice in this world precedes any concern for Holiness, and there are voices claiming that we need to first focus on the internal transformation of our lives that will lead to true Holiness and then to heavenly justice. Different melodies, but it’s the same harmony. And our ethos insists that once again, it is not an either/or question, it is still both/and.
Is it possible to hold these two views at the same time? Of course. Many, if not most of us do just that. But there are those in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church who grow weary of the tension that comes from such striving.
I think it is these voices, the weary and heartsick (and justifiably so), which are the ones ultimately calling for the separation in such a way that we need to hear them. But hearing them, and recognizing the real pain that is motivating their call, I can’t agree with what they ask.
I believe the Anglican Communion is the truest example of what it means to be a Catholic (universal and comprehensive) Church. We do not claim a single way or belief brings us closer to Jesus. Rather that there are many paths inside our faith in Christ Jesus, and all of these paths lead us closer to the center where there is the presence of the living God and simultaneously closer to each other. This comprehension for the sake of Love is in my mind the true mark of Catholicism.
I claim to be a moderate. By that I mean I believe that the sacred center (as opposed to a political one) is where we will find the most authentic expression of the Catholic faith. It is in the fullness of the Anglican Communion that I find the truest expression of this idea.
If we shrug our shoulders and agree that it would be better to walk apart, what message do we send as the Bride of Christ to a world that is fragmenting before our eyes?
When a couple comes to me and tells me that they have decided to divorce because they grow weary of the bickering – I ask them if they have gotten to the point in their marriage where there can be no hope, no sign of God’s love among them. I work with them to try to answer that question. If the answer is no, and it almost always is, then I work even harder to help them find the resources they need to recapture the selfless love for each other that they once had.
So what of our Church? Is there any sign of God’s love among us? Are the starving being fed? Are the ill be cared for? Are new people hearing the Gospel? The answer to all these questions is yes. We heard this at General Convention from both inside the Episcopal Church and from the whole of the Communion. So, since we still have hope, I can not agree that the time has come for “divorce” from one another in the Church.
There are better ways to address the real tensions among us right now. Ways that perhaps we have finally found the political courage to start taking seriously. This seems to me to the first step we take rather than jumping all the way to the end of the process and acting in such a way that we may never be able to go back.