I would like to do a little reflecting on [what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said], to put it in our context and how I heard it. I think we will continue to hear more in it as we share it this week, but this is a near first-impression.
In our work on the “Windsor process” and the development of a possible covenant for the Anglican Communion, much of the attitudes and the work drafted thus far is very legal in its foundation and seems to be based in fear and formed by politics. Whether apologies from TEC have not been heard elsewhere, or whether they have been diminished by someone’s dismissively saying, “They did not really mean it,” or “That’s not enough” (both have been said repeatedly)””for whichever of those reasons, the reaction of a good many is still anger and sometimes hostility. It is understandable, given that we have really upset the Communion, some because our actions go against profound beliefs, and some because the response to those actions has severely impaired our ability to engage in mission partnerships around the world. I have sympathy for both of those reactions. But reactions are feelings and responses are actions and behaviors which, especially in a conflicted situation, need to be helpful for healing and reconciling the body, not causing more harm. The response of many is to want to punish us, to make sure that we have suffered “enough,” and that drives the wish to make a covenant for the Communion that will identify clear behaviors that are acceptable and others that are unacceptable, and clear consequences if anyone transgresses or deviates from the acceptable behaviors.
What I hear in Rabbi Sacks’ address is 1) a profound emphasis on unity based in the “faith covenant”””the many shared sufferings in our past and present; 2) the need to forgive each other in order to redeem the past; 3) the need to respect the dignity of each other so that we can come together to share, to be in relationship, to find our emerging identity in Christ, and to be transformed. On that basis, and only then, will we be able to build a “faith covenant,” full of shared dreams, aspirations and hope in order to make commitments for mission. This is where I come back to what I was writing the other day about a covenant which is about invitation, persistently inviting back to the table those who would isolate themselves or ostracize others.