Monday, June 25, 2007

Some Thoughts for Pause

This was a particularly moving weekend, both locally and in Anglican Land, as they came together in unexpected and fascinating ways. Tobias Haller and Father Jake have all the latest, and I won't repeat their thoughts (but maybe a picture or two). Suffice it to say the Anglican Church of Canada, while offering a mixed bag out of their General Synod, had a good crack at trying to reach some point of compromise on the question of same-sex blessings. Theirs appears to have been among the most civil conversation on these matters thus far in the Communion.

Perhaps most striking is the resolution that did pass in the Church of Canada: in concordance with the St. Michael Report that questions of human sexuality may be doctrinal, but they do not represent core doctrinal matters. As Tobias puts it:

Yeah. The proportions seem about right.

Tobias also remarks in a comment in the subsequent thread something that I found both helpful and arresting. All sides seeking some kind of way forward together may indeed be arguing more about pastoral theology rather than dogmatic theology. That leads me quickly to the thought (doubtless not all that original) that dogmatic theology has a tendency to be universalizing, while pastoral theology implies local and incarnational.

So much in the recent debates, it seems to me, has pitted one wholly over and against the other. The third way that is emerging is a distinction, but not an exclusion: that dogmatic theology for Anglicans is best summed up in the creeds, and pastoral theology is locally provisioned and, in many respects, provisional. I find this, quite frankly, a very hopeful, albeit potential way forward in what has been looking for a long time like a myriad of dead ends. . .especially for all those trying to move with integrity through this disagreement.

Perhaps the Anglican Church of Canada was on the right track. It has already been noted elsewhere this may provide a framework for our bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury to engage in fruitful conversation this September.

That such a distinction (or any distinction) will be workable for some and not for others is, of course, a given. It has become clear with the new announcements of consecrating cross-jurisdictional bishops that some Archbishops are going to continue forward with their previously laid schemes. They have already, the Primates' deadlines notwithstanding, dismissed The Episcopal Church, if not the provinces in North America all together.

An old Japanese proverb well worth re-quoting goes something like this: "The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists."

So this distinction between pastoral and dogmatic theology is only a thought for the rest of us who are willing to stay at table of Communion and live faithfully into disagreement on this matter.

Andrew, my piano teacher and mentor when I was an undergraduate, wrote me a few months ago reminding me that dissonance might be a key metaphor for the current controversy over human sexuality. In Western musical harmony, at least, the resolution is all the more poignant when it is delayed.

As I reflect further, it strikes me that there are a number of ways to handle dissonances in traditional voice leading. One is for a voice in the chord to move to resolve the dissonance. In resolving some dissonances, more than one voice, or even all voices must move. In yet other solutions, the voice causing the dissonance simply fades away, leaving only the tones of a resolved chord. And, of course, some composers have in some or many situations opted merely to leave the dissonances in place, unresolved.

And it was Jesus, Son of the Great Composer, who said, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"

On Sunday, I attended the Gay Pride Eucharist at St. John the Evangelist, San Francisco. It was a beautiful, moving liturgy.

There I met in the flesh Davis Mac-Iyalla. Once again, all the theologizing, posturing, and pontificating around the Communion became glaringly real. I found it a bit uncanny to process with him into the mass, and even more so to then join the faithful filling the nave, as together with our bishop we blessed Davis in his continued witness in what can be most graciously described as a very hostile part of the Communion.

It is no exaggeration to write that his public stand is a life and death matter for him. So I was humbled to be praying with others in person for his safety as he lives into his ongoing call, in the words of the charge to which he re-committed himself:
. . . to defend the vulnerable, give voice to the voiceless, comfort the afflicted, and proclaim God's reign come near.
God go with you, Davis, and with all who are putting themselves on the line for the sake of the dignity of our LGBT sisters and brothers around the world.

And may Christ's true charity rule the hearts of all of us in the days to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was nice to meet you on Sunday. It was exciting and peaceful to be there among so many people. I hope that Davis felt as fully surrounded by love as I felt our surrounding him was.(does that make good sense?) It was a powerful moment!