Last week I attended the meetings of the Compass Rose Society in London after a wonderful weekend off visiting family, attending Evensong at St. Edmundsbury, meeting the Dean (The Very Rev’d Neil Collings), some fabulous meals, and especially a visit to The Leaping Hare. The CRS is an international society that supports the mission of the Anglican Communion and All Saints’, Atlanta is a parish member. From time to time I have been skeptical of the benefit of this society, but I’m currently rather bullish about supporting the work we do together as a communion. I think that the various networks of the Communion such as women, family, interfaith and youth, are really important in the development of common life. They are run on woefully tight budgets. We also support many of the communion ‘dialogs’ making sure that what we say to the Methodists in one conversation does not contradict our position vis a vis the Orthodox or Muslim worlds.
In an age when we have many on our side of the Atlantic who would willingly give up communion I value being able to support this work that is part of what it means to be a body (Romans 12:4) in a time of trial.
I’m aware that there are many in our parish, gay and straight, who are tired of the reality that we are not of one mind about the morality of homosexual behavior and who feel that communion is being sought at the expense of gay and lesbian people. I have sympathy with this view and look forward to the day when we enjoy broad consensus. At the same time I believe the issue of the place of gay and lesbian people in the Episcopal Church is settled. Everything else from now on is a skirmish. James Alison has written a parable in Undergoing God of people dancing in Albania when they hear of the wall coming down in Berlin. They may well be oppressed by the forces that wish things were not as they are, but the wall is down and there is no going back. A past vestry of All Saints’ has been clear that there is no question about the place of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in our parish –just as there is no question that we support all the families of the parish.
That said, I hope that we can live and pray and serve in the name of Christ while we sort out what communion in Christ is going to mean. I abhor that instinct that is leading some to leave the church and seek to take property away with them. I equally abhor that instinct that would like to be part of a sect that is doctrinally pure about the place of homosexual people and not willing to be in relationship with those who believe otherwise while God does God’s work. There are none of us who are successful and instant converts to anything. True conversion takes place over time. Consider Jesus’ agrarian parables.
At the CRS meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury said of many African Bishops that “they know that they are sinners and are trying very hard not to throw stones.” He deplored litigation but is “not without sympathy for those who feel it to be their only resource.” In other words he was careful not to relieve the intense discomfort that flows when a communion is in conflict. He was clear about the messy and demanding work of staying in real relationship and he wasn’t going to speak in any way that would shortchange the process.
I am among those who wish he would provide greater clarity. This could include something we all learned in high school and that is that the best way to give a party is to invite everyone and see who chooses to attend a party. The question in the case of the Lambeth conference is ‘who is everyone?’ He apparently does not think it includes on of our bishops, nor does it include any number of bishops of the provinces of Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and their ilk serving in America. He looks as though he is following the outlines of the Windsor Report. I would draw the lines differently than he does, but then I don’t have his job.
My hope lies in praying for the Archbishop of Canterbury and praying for those who I believe are acting in ways that are betrayals of the Anglicanism I value. And in the meantime we get on with the business of being doers of the word and not hearers only, being swift to love and always ready to be kind. I do not think that our debates are unimportant; nor do I believe they are the last word when we are on our deathbeds or otherwise before the judgment seat of Christ. There the standard will be love and love alone.
We enjoyed a wonderful parish weekend at Kanuga and tomorrow I head to convocation at the Yale Divinity School, a meeting of the National Advisory Committee of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, lectures on The Preacher’s Divine Comedy by Peter Hawkins, Theology and Anthropology from a Womanist Perspective by Linda E. Thomas, and Sin and Salvation by Professor Jane Williams who is also the wife of the ABC. I am also honored to be a convocation preacher on the occasion of the twenty-fifth reunion of our YDS class.