July 1, 2015

Comprehension not Compromise

The resolutions concerning liturgies and canonical amendments that will provide for marriage equality have been adopted by the House of Bishops, and will head to the House of Lay and Clerical Deputies by this afternoon. Both resolutions were adopted by very wide majorities in the House of Bishops.

Some have characterized these resolutions as compromises. I prefer to see them as comprehensive. The resolution on liturgies authorizes trial use as provided for in the Constitution, with the mandate that bishops will see to it that all couples have access to the liturgies, while at the same time affirming that the bishop is responsible for directing and permitting these liturgies. This may be too subtle for some, but I believe it will allow the minority of bishops who are personally opposed to marriage equality sufficient conscientious cover, while at the same time requiring them to find ways to provide for couples in their dioceses who wish to make use of the liturgies. This will be a time for creativity and generosity.

The canonical amendment, in the drafting of which I participated, is, in my likely not sufficiently humble opinion, simultaneously orthodox and comprehensive. I challenge anyone opposed to it to point to any line in it that contradicts the teaching of the church. It is true that it omits reference to "man and woman" -- but omission does not constitute denial. Again, some may find this too subtle, but it is true. For on the contrary, this amendment accomplishes exactly what the Task Force on the Study of Marriage was charged with providing: a canonical way to provide for marriage equality, but it does so without contradiction to the opinion of those who oppose such equality. The revised Declaration of Intention is perfectly consonant with the traditional teaching of the church, but equally applicable to all couples. It also implies openness to adoption as well as procreation -- thereby including an extremely important theological, biblical, (and perhaps more importantly) actual reality. And it is, in my opinion, suitable for framing.

The Deputies will have the opportunity to amend these resolutions, but I hope and pray that they will accept them as adopted by the Bishops, and concur. Amendment will mean sending the resolutions back to the Bishops, who may not have the interest or the time to take them up again.

So I beseech all involved to accept this moment of gracious generosity, as the collect for Richard Hooker says, not as "compromise for the sake of peace, but comprehension for the sake of truth." It is true that this comprehension will not satisfy everyone: there are hurting people on both sides; though strangely enough likely in the same dioceses -- where the bishop is uncomfortable to have to implement something he opposes, and couples may have to find creative ways to solemnize their marriage that falls short of their ideal.

I also acknowledge that the pain felt by traditional colleagues -- many of whom I regard as personal friends beyond seeing them as brothers and sisters in Christ and children of God -- cannot be compared with the suffering of gay and lesbian Christians down through the ages and to this day, even in parts of our beloved Anglican Communion. I think I can guarantee that no bishop will be beaten to death for his opposition to marriage equality.

But now is not the time to compare pain with pain, or hurt with hurt. Now is the time for healing, and grace, and with grace it will come. Many of my friends, and I myself, have been recipients of the "generous pastoral response" of this church over the last three years. It is time for the "liberals" among us to be willing to show the same generous pastoral response to those who no doubt feel their world (both sacred and secular) collapsing around them; and I can empathize with that pain, and its depth and reality. I call on all my brothers and sisters to show the same loving toleration that they expect to receive.

For I believe that some day all of us children of God will sit on the great front porch in the kingdom, and like old war veterans roll up our sleeves and compare our scars, and say, "This wound I got me at the Great Salt Lake." Until, that is, our friend comes by -- you know, the one with the wounds in hands and feet and side -- and he gives us that look, and we lower our heads, and quietly roll down our sleeves, and turn to our brothers and sisters, and take them in our arms.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


WSJM said...

Thank you, Tobias.

"For I believe that some day all of us children of God will sit on the great front porch in the kingdom..." A wonderful paragraph.

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful day for the Church. Thank you, Tobias, for all the excellent work you have done to help bring this about.