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Hallo again to all.

It seems the Anglican Communion may be headed to further serious and heated discussion on human sexuality. The bishops of the Church of England presented a report to General Synod last week that attempted to square the circle of being in favor of treating different sexualities with charity while still maintaining marriage as between one man and one woman. The resolution, which needed passage in all orders to be adopted, was accepted narrowly in the lay order and had the bishops' total support, but it was voted down by the clergy, which forced a reconsideration that is on-going. In a slightly more farcical moment, the unity of the bishops on the matter seemed rocked by a single dissension, but any premature clutching of pearls was averted when the Bishop of Coventry admitted that he pressed the wrong button by mistake.

None of this is perhaps shocking. Cantuar has made his opinion that the traditional understanding of marriage should prevail well known, and such a move would surely help cement ties between the Church of England and more conservative provinces of the Communion. The rejection is, however, more than a little confusing insofar as what it all means.

We are minded of the Gospel we heard a few weeks back when Jesus, as told by Matthew, commands his disciples that they say 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'. Or perhaps more colloquially: that they let their 'yes' be 'yes' and their 'no' be 'no'. Strong words from the one who is the ultimate head of the Church. That seems also to have been what was on the mind of the fourteen retired bishops who wrote prior to the resolution's rejection that its 'call for change of tone and culture, while absolutely right, does not carry conviction'. vegan chocolate fudge (via Wikimedia)

Anglicans have a long tradition of treading through theological fudge. A church broad enough to be established has often had to encompass a wide variety of theological position. 'Latitudinarian', now a descriptor, was once a pejorative against the various divines who tried to accommodate the differences between Calvinist and Laudian wings of the Church of England. So serious were the theological implications of considering matters of doctrine as 'things indifferent' that Pope Pius IX took the time to decry it. Whatever one's stance, it is hard not to admire how well the Thirty-Nine Articles dance around theological controversies while articulating a common core of worship and polity for Anglicans.

The phrase 'focus of unity' has been dragooned into service as a reason for the bishops to support a single doctrine on matters of marriage and against such a latitudinarian spirit. Without speaking for one position or another, perhaps what is most needed is an honest reckoning of where the Church of England stands on the matter. Not just in the counsels of its bishops, but in the worshiping community that lives with the policies of the broader church, the liturgies of the prayer book, and the messy and needful realities of lives that are more urgent than a mission statement.

We hope then that the joint letter by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York lives up to its call. As they discuss disagreement around human sexuality they write:

To deal with that disagreement and to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.

We need to work together - not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone - to move forward with confidence.

With luck, the discussions called for at the diocesan level will bear fruit that can help not just the 'mother church' of our Communion sort through these issues, but which will shape our beloved Communion as a whole in a spirit not of fear, but confidence that we can find meaningful unity while acknowledging our mutual humanity.

See you again next week.

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19 February 2017
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