Bishop Paul Marshall of the Diocese of Bethlehem included thoughts about the challenges that confront Anglicans today in his address to his Diocesan Convention. (I note with strong agreement, that he prefaced his remarks by talking about the signs of life and spirit that he has found among the people of his diocese – and the vital work that they are undertaking in partnership with Anglican christians in Sudan.)
From Bishop Marshall’s address, and on the topic of different “camps” in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion:
In saying that I do not mean to say that we should pretend that our varying understandings do not exist. On the contrary, I meant something active and powerful and traditionally Anglican – that is, in honoring and exploring our differences, we may generate the way through them to a place nobody would have imagined.
Let me dwell on this for just a minute. I just spoke of 400 years of Anglicanism in Virginia, now let me go back a mere 40 years, to a non-Anglican in California. In 1967, Dr. Ralph Greenson, “psychiatrist to the stars” and medical professor in Los Angeles, wrote about the tendency of his colleagues not to communicate with each about their disagreements in theories or practice. Remember, these are psychiatrists who weren’t communicating. Listen to his observations from 1967. Where you hear the language of his vocation, insert the language of our life as disciples. Ask whether Greenson’s words do not speak to our situation:
Those who wish to suggest innovations or modifications of technique do not usually confer with others who are more traditional in their viewpoint. They tend to form cliques and to work underground, or at least segregated from the mainstream… As a consequence the innovators are apt to lose contact with those groups… that might help validate, clarify, and amend their new ideas. The secluded innovators are prone to becomes “wild analysts,” while the conservatives, due to their own insularity, tend to become rigid with orthodoxy. Instead of influencing one another constructively they each go their separate ways as adversaries, blind to whatever benefits each might have gained from an opening and continuing discussion. (The Technique and Practice of Psychoanalysis I, p. 2)
To put his observation in spiritual terms, we grow when we risk exploring each other’s perceptions and applications of biblical truth to test and strengthen our own grasp of God’s will for us. I would say that it is quite one thing to think that one possesses truth and quite another thing to experience oneself as being possessed by truth. Whether it is an old truth or a new truth, they who believe they own the truth will become rigid and defensive. They who believe they are possessed by truth, new or old, find themselves in joyful service to the truth, and willingly engage others so that all members of the conversation can be productive and balanced. Rigidity and disconnection are the enemies of spiritual growth in conservatives and liberals alike.
The value of the worldwide Communion, when it is working well, is that those who see something new and those who cherish something old, are in a position to grow in a conversation that is truly catholic. At the moment, at least, that possibility still exists and, like many, I hope that the long-promised conversation may actually get started.
A capital idea!
You find the rest of the address here.