Saturday, June 03, 2006

What Will We Sacrifice for Unity?

Tobias Haller, vicar of Saint James Episcopal Church Fordham, Bronx, has an essay in the June issue of Episcopal Life entitled Take Comprehensive View:

...What if we removed ecclesiastical divorce from the table, even as an option? What if we were to agree on one thing: that we have to stay together even if we disagree about other things? What kind of accommodations might we work out?

I’ve heard of plenty of marriages on the rocks, where the couple decides to stay together for the sake of the children. They may discover, even with separate bedrooms and vacations, that after the children grow up and leave home, they have more in common than they thought they did in the time of tension. Can we agree to stay together for the mission of the church, even if we have to juggle with its polity to do so?

Rodney King asked, “Can’t we all get along?” and the same question is facing the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. I pose this question in light of what I see as the church’s mission, the church’s mandate to show the world what it is by what it does.

If the church cannot get along in spite of differences of opinion, how can we witness to a world that does no better? If we cannot even coexist with each other — let alone embody the exemplary love that Christ said would be the hallmark of our identity — of what use are we to the world or to ourselves?
Tobias expands on this theme on his blog:

...To put it bluntly, I am willing to stay on the back of the Anglican Bus. I am willing to accept the reality that my ministrations as a priest would not be acceptable in parts of the Anglican Communion, even in some parts of the Episcopal Church. But as long as I get where I need to go, the back of the bus works for me; for I trust that the day will come when those in the front will be willing to say, at last, "Come up higher." I am willing to "take the lowest seat."

The problem at present is that I get the feeling that some in the front of the bus don't want me on the bus at all. They'd rather I walk. What I ask of them is a willingness to let me stay on the bus. I am not asking them to leave; I am only asking them to let me stay. Because I believe the bus is going where we all want to go...
Thomas Bushnell has responded to Tobias' thoughts:

...Jesus was content on the back of the bus. he was interested in the other people on the back with him, and also with those on the front, those the bus was running down, and those running behind the bus trying to catch up.

Tobias tells me, not that i should be content with being on the back of the bus, but that, if this is my place, it is a place to be. it is, like every other place, a place where Jesus is. it is a place where i am enfolded in love, where i am on the bus (after all) and a place where i am truly what i am.

it is unfair to shove me to the back of the bus. but the first criterion of the Gospel is honesty. so to the folks in the front of the bus: what you are doing is unjust. and, to my fellow passengers in the back, we have lives, we have loves, we have what we have, which is the love of God and is pretty good. here, on the back of our bus, we can make our way...
I appreciate Tobias' grace-filled words, but I must admit that they cause me some degree of discomfort. Tobias suggests this is a kind of "comprehension," not "compromise." I don't think that's how it will play in Peoria.

Our witness to the radically inclusive love of God made known to us through Jesus Christ will be deeply damaged if we state to the world that it is acceptable to force one segment of humanity to the back of the bus. I simply don't think such a statement is an option, even if we have brave souls willing to make that sacrifice for the sake of unity.

Beyond that, I think it should be clear to most Episcopalians by now that the AAC/Network/IRD/Akinola folks are not going to accept ANYTHING that comes out of General Convention. I see no reason to make new victims based on a false hope of some kind of reconciliation being reached.

I am deeply moved by such sacrifices being offered. Maybe this is the best way forward, regardless of the response of those who are demanding the front seats. But it feels terribly wrong.

J.

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