Get off the sidelines

With teamwork if not affection, the Anglican Church can be a force for peace and justice
August 29, 2008

I have been an Episcopalian for more than 40 years and have participated in many worthy causes and activities on behalf of my church. Through its teachings and liturgy, I have discovered God's love, grace and mercy, all of which I continuously need. I have learned what it means to live in relationship and in community.

 

My church also has given me the freedom to explore my Christian faith beyond doctrinal constraints and to see God's presence in new and unconventional ways.

I always have appreciated the Big Tent provided by the Anglican Church, in which Christians of both conservative and liberal stripes can coexist, or at least should be able to. Sadly, though, at a time when our world confronts huge global challenges, our worldwide communion is wrought by a debilitating rift that threatens its potency to affect positive change.

Initiated by the consecration of a gay bishop in the American Episcopal Church, it has set conservative and liberal Anglicans against each other, broken up churches and dioceses, launched court battles, defrocked priests and bishops and generally created such an acidic climate that either side scarcely recognizes the Christianity in the other. Some leaders are invested so heavily in their positions that reconciliation would be nearly impossible because it would destroy what defines them. Meanwhile, Rome continues to burn.

Is there hope for healing and reconciliation in our church? If left to the offices of mankind, I think not, at least for a generation. The rift's depth and damage are too profound at this point.

However, my faith teaches me that man is not the sole determinate in this matter; in the end, it is God. What he will do and what it will look like remain to be seen.

In the meantime, can the Anglican Church face its global responsibilities? Can the Episcopal Church and its break-off Anglican counterparts face their global as well as local and national responsibilities? It certainly is easier to do so when there is unity and likemindedness. But the fact that such isn't the case now cannot and should not stop Anglicans worldwide from doing what is right as Christians.

Islamic scholars already have approached Christian leaders about dialoguing over international political and security issues. Anglicans must be foursquare participants in that dialogue. We must be engaged in finding solutions to chronic poverty, disease and other social problems. We all must be fully involved in the stewardship and protection of our earthly home. Where there is real injustice, we must all seek its reversal. Through it all and despite our differences, we must strive to show the world Christ's presence in our words and actions.

What I've just suggested will be daunting as long as we remain focused on beating the other side. The world, for good or ill, will pass us by if the communion's primary focus remains on the internal conflict; it will define us instead of the good works and good
faith we should demonstrate as a Christian church.

But I believe that required unity and teamwork can be achieved if we approach cooperation like we often have to do with forgiveness: Make it an act and not a feeling. If we work together while holding our noses, we still are working together.

Let the bonds of common mission and necessity carry the day for now over the "bonds of affection." I have faith that God will be present throughout the process and may even help with the affection part. The sideline is no place for the Anglican Church -- it must be "in the arena."