In response to Mark Harris' post on a recent article by The Rt. Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, I wrote:
The real Communion is most manifest in the thousands if not millions of real, very human relationships on the ground throughout Anglicanism, and beyond.
Tanzania will be about the Primates. Sure, it helps to have them stick it out together as a sign of Communion, and it makes the global partnerships easier (well, at least some of the time).
But the real Communion, it seems to me, is in the person-to-person incarnational Gospel witness as we break bread together, partner for mission, and follow in the footsteps of Christ.
So, I've decided not to lose sleep anymore over what's coming out of a few higher ups in the C of E, Nigeria, or anywhere else as the Primates' Meeting approaches. I will pray for them, of course, and for our Presiding Bishop. She indeed appears to see beyond the fray.
I do want to see the Anglican Communion continue. . .
But, as one post pointed out today, the Communion is ultimately not mine, not ours, and certainly not the Primates'. It belongs to God in Christ.
Now, isn't that a hopeful thought?
To which John 2007 replied:
"But the real Communion, it seems to me, is in the person-to-person incarnational Gospel witness as we break bread together, partner for mission, and follow in the footsteps of Christ." Okay, pretty close. But I would point to the lack in this statement of seeking a common mind, agreeing on how to live together and what counts as living in the truth. Note also how two metaphors 'following in Jesus' footstepts' and 'break bread together' beg the questions that divide us: what does it mean to follow, and what kind of communion should we share? John 2007
To "r" in the post above, 'partnering in mission' is indeed important but so often this means (or is reduced to) social action. Admittedly, this is part of the gospel and part of our mission. But, and surely this is known, those who dissent from the direction ECUSA is taking with regard to sexual ethics and sexual morality, think that part of our mission--and at the heart of our mission--is to call people to repentance and holiness in their sexual lives. That is--I know it is for me--right at "the missional work in front of us."
And, my point about sharing communion is to challenge the idea that 'being at the table' is more important than how we live our lives. Of course, we share in communion among ourselves without being completely of like mind. But that is different than sharing communion with someone who you think is, in all reasonable interpretation of our tradition and our norms, living willfully in sin. I say this BTW as someone who has been in the center and slightly left (on some things) for 24 years as a minister in ECUSA. I have been "chastened" in my liberalism, or out of it. No longer do I think "being at the table" is most important. It certainly isn't something that jumps out of the pages of the NT at us. Much more on sanctity of life in that book, I think.
As an instance of what I think, when I listen to our presiding bishop she makes it clear, however laudable are her social goals, that discipleship as coming under the Lordship of Christ, the living, acting Christ (whom she apparently would have cautioned not to present himself as 'the Way, the Truth and the Life')is not at the heart of her mission. So what's 'missional unity' here? I could have used countless other examples, but the point is that what is dividing us--me now solidly with the conservative in ECUSA--is precisely a mission-central question. What we do with our bodies, and what we teach our children, and what we think, is important.
You post announces rather than solves the issues. But Agreed:"A shorter reponse might be this: can we learn to listen and respond to each other with generosity, even when we disagree? That, it seems to me, is the hard question facing all sides in the present mess." However, to give one example, I cannot in any clear conscience at all have my children confirmed by VGR or take communion with him and feel good about it. Can I build a case, theologically, for doing so? I have been for years and it is something decidedly eschatological: God will one day make all things well and remove the oppressive burdens, heal the wounds of creation, and so we are bearing proleptic witness to that in the present even with those whom we disagree. So communion is in part a pledge to work toward that day, and a movement toward that day. However, that answer no longer satisfies me. The theological reasons are more than a few, and a personal reason is that it no longer brings with it the NT sense of surpassing peace and the peaceful fruit of righteousness. I have come to think, in fact, that we do everyone a disservice when the "table" is reduced to 'can't we all get along' which, I sense, you might agree with also. I think some other denominations (RC's and even thoughtful Baptists!) are living more into God's truth than we are on the presenting issues of the day.
I would also add that to "learn to listen and respond to each other with generosity" does not, for me, have to be within the same denomination. I can say, now much easier, 'Hey, ECUSA is trying out this experiment. Speak to them, Lord, and work on them--and on me too' outside of the ongoing fray. Do I think this means I am violating John 17? Not at all. By standing outside of ECUSA, or its leadership, I am saying, as I think places in VA are saying, 'Come stand over here. The ground is solid.'
And, on John 14:6, I can agree that it should not be a litmus test, and it does require some thought. But it would be nice to see a Presiding Bishop with some theological depth for a change who at least labors under the force of the dominical words, tries to explain and deepen the importance of the atonment rather than suggest that its an ungracious Christianity that focuses on that, and one who thinks that maybe, just maybe Jesus loves the world more than we do and taking him at his word, even in the so-called 'exclusivist' passages might be, at the end of the day, on the Last Day, the best thing for the world. John 2007
~~~At this point, two other voices joined the conversation, carl and Christopher+:
"[S]ocial action may offer common ground while we wrestle with our disagreements over questions of sexual morality."
1. The two sides aren't wrestling in an attempt to come to some mutually satisfactory arrangement. They are advocating mutually-exclusive positions and both sides are absolutely convinced of the rightness of their cause. Neither side has any intention of retreating. Both sides seek only to convert the other. Consequently, there is no mutually-satisfactory arrangement to be had. I think the Western Front in 1916 might be a better metaphor than wrestling.
2. Mutual social action would also confer legitimacy. Liberals desire mutual social action for just this reason. It implies that the Church is broad enough to encompass the divergent theologies. But this is precisely the issue in contention. The Church is broad enough to encompass both theologies only if the liberals are right. This in my judgment is the more important issue. Conservative desire that liberal expressions of Christianity be de-legitimized. That is why conservatives demand either repentance or separation - to publically demonstrate the false nature of liberal religion.
1. I said "on the presenting" issues I find my Baptist friends and RC friends more in line with what I think is the truth about sexual intimacy. Of course, they are far apart on other things.
2. The whole line of thought about "efficacy of the Sacraments" no matter what the worthiness of the minister is beside the point, really, for me. For I am not interested in the sacramental efficacy as understood ex opere operato or by Article 26. I am interested in the very public and personal-psychological nature of the event and the conscience of my children. Surely, one cannot send children into such a ceremony double-minded oneself let alone if they themselves have huge reservations about the man through whom God's efficacy should flow.
I happen to think, in the current controversy, appeals to the Donatist controversy are often ill-deployed for those who had previously apostatized or caved in under pressure, came back to the faith and intentional embrace of Christian belief and practice--and that coming back and repenting is what is at issue here. Developmentally, I think it's nuts to ask bright teenagers who think gay sex is a violation of biblical norms that it doesn't matter that the Bishop is VGR (likable as he is, I should say, in so many ways).
"I think it's nuts to ask bright teenagers who think gay sex is a violation of biblical norms that it doesn't matter that the Bishop is VGR (likable as he is, I should say, in so many ways)."
John 2007 (I assume you wrote the above):
If I understand you correctly, you are making a distinction between pastoral and sacramental questions. To illustrate more broadly, if, say, one of my parishioners could not abide me because he or she disagreed with my manner of life or something I had, say, taught or said in a sermon, he or she could opt out (and have his or her children do the same) of receiving anything sacramental from or by me. To me, that is a pastoral choice. Likewise, the same, I suppose, would hold true with any bishop.
But the efficacy of the sacraments still remain.
I'm only re-stating what you said, just to make sure I understand this correctly. Is that so?
You're right, I am spending a great deal here simply fleshing out the issues, not trying to "solve" them. My desire here is to deepen understanding, at least on my "side."