They came from as far as the antipodes: primates and bishops, laity and clergy, theologians, journalists and politicians, gathering in Chicago at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary for three days of intense discussion, planning, and strategizing. Theologians and canonists read papers (which will be available on the web in relatively short order), the assembly divided into small groups and regathered into plenary, and much newsprint was marked. Why? A modest goal — To help the church recover its soul, as a community of neighbors, a fellowship of diverse members unified by the love which called them together, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Chicago Consultation, as it is being called for short, addressed the prevailing boundary issue that has beset our church and our Communion over the last decades, and most irritably over the last six years: the place of GLBT people in the church’s life and ministry.
In plenary sessions and small groups, we challenged ourselves to find a way forward that would be grounded in the powerful message of Jesus’ call and care. We focused on the the full inclusion of those whom some have determined to be inappropriate minsters of the Gospel, embracing the mandate and charge which comes with the highest authority, and in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
Lambeth is coming, little more than half a year away; and it too will be a forum which will provide the bishops, albeit non-legislatively, an opportunity to consider and reconsider their own past actions, and to recognize that the so-called consensus of 1998 was far from complete even then, and has demonstrably revealed itself no longer to exist, having led to increasing conflict, dissent, and in some cases, division.
Further away on the time-line is the next session of the General Convention. This will provide us with the opportunity to reevaluate the usefulness of resolution B033, and address the underlying issue of the appropriateness of moving forward in our growing recognition that same-sex couples, particularly in those parts of our country where the civil authority already recognizes the value of their relationships, deserve the church’s full support in ordering their lives in consistency with the Gospel principle: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is the only “agenda” guiding the Chicago Consultation: to call and help the church to live the Gospel it proclaims.
Tobias Haller BSG