Monday, February 26, 2007

The Hunger for True Communion

Further thoughts on the Primates Commnique from Tanzania
The Rev. Michael W. Hopkins
Rector, the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, Rochester, New York
Past President, Integrity

A week from the issuance of the Communiqué from the Primates of the Anglican Communion, a careful read and re-read of it, significant prayer and conversation, and listening to the audio of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s presentation to the staff at the church center in New York, leads me to the following places:

* It is very painful to be in a place of considering whether it is right to remain in the Anglican Communion or not. Being a part of the worldwide fellowship—in all of its diversity—remains important to me. I care enough about Anglicanism as a way of being Christian that I do not want to leave the conversation on its continuing development. I too, like the Presiding Bishop, “hunger for a vision of a world where people of vastly different opinions can sit at the same table and worship at the same table.” This is a true hunger for true communion.

* Having said that, a state of some separation may be necessary for a time. It may be that only in that state of separation can the real conversation happen. It too much feels like we keep trying to get the other to say things about themselves that are not true in order for us to stay together. The one thing we might be able to agree on is that in any counseling situation that is a very bad place to be in, and no way forward. Separation is risky. Ironically enough, lesbian and gay folk know much about this dynamic. Many of us either are separated from our families of origin or spent a significant amount of time separated from them. In my case it was the latter, and it was only in that period of separation that both the rest of my family and I were able to grasp our deep need of one another and able to clarify how we felt and thought (including being able to let go of constantly being in a reactive state). If we do have to let go of one another I hope it is in this sense and not in any kind of “I have no need of you.”

* In any statements that the House of Bishops or the Executive Council or the General Convention makes in an attempt to state our desire to remain in Communion, I ask that the following three things be included as an honest statement of who we are (the inability to do this would signal that it was not actually a healing process that the primates had in mind, but an exercise in domination).

* A significant portion of our Church clearly does not receive the teaching of Lambeth 1.10 that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture” and we are unable to accept that it is “the standard of teaching” in the Anglican Communion even as we recognize that perhaps a majority of persons in the Communion hold it to be true.

* Baptized persons, including clergy, who are gay or lesbian, many of them living in same-sex relationships openly in our faith communities, are valued members of the Episcopal Church. That is a simple statement of who we are, even though we understand that a significant number of Anglicans worldwide do not understand how this can be so.

* The pastoral life of many of our parishes includes these persons and the fullness of their lives, something that we committed ourselves to in 1976 (a commitment that, in part, prompted the first call for dialogue on this issue by the Lambeth Conference of 1978). Conversation with this pastoral practice must be part of any Communion-wide listening process for it to have integrity for us. At the same time, we expect to have to be in dialogue with fellow Anglicans who absolutely disagree with us on this matter.

Right now I do not want to comment further on the structures being proposed for alternative oversight, although I remain deeply troubled by them. I have needed to focus on where the Communiqué most directly impacts my life and that of my local faith community.

Lastly, I continue to hear something that I first heard at our General Convention last summer, that there has to be some sacrifice on “this issue” if we are going to be able to continue to do mission with the truly suffering of the world. I would hope that this rhetoric would be taken off the table. It is degrading all around. All of us want to do mission with the truly suffering of this world and all of us are doing it in varied ways. I trust that all of us will continue to do them even if for some reason we are cut off from official Anglican channels of doing so. My own suspicion (partly coming out of my own experiences in Africa) is that channels will remain open with Anglican partners even if official channels are closed.

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