Fr. Will Brown is one of the bloggers at Covenant, and he has a deep and thought-provoking blog entry posted simply titled “Ramsey and Unity.” The title might cause many to overlook the piece, but Fr. WB has some very interesting reflections on the current crisis, and questions for those of us on both / all sides of the current divide. Here’s the excerpt that most caught this elf’s eye:
[Note: The portion we’ve excerpted here in no way begins to do it justice (we’ve skipped over the meaty theological reflection and jumped to the conclusion, I confess… But the reflections on the meaning of the cross are particularly interesting given that ECUSA’s lectionary this week included 1 Cor 1:18: [b]18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.[/b]]
Anglicanism has become factious in the extreme, and one cannot help but wonder if the spirit of Christ-like gratuity, of self-effacement for the sake of the Body, has been quashed by a climate of hyper-self-consciousness. One wonders whether TEC might not be given pause by the non-recognition with which its “gifts” have been met by the one Body. One winces at the self-awareness of TEC’s rhetoric: “our church law”¦ our canons”¦ our autonomy”¦ our Constitution”¦ our founding principles”¦ our own liberation from colonialism”¦” etc. (cf. the TEC House of Bishops “Mind of the House” resolutions from March 2007). One would do well to ask whether TEC has not “succumbed to the peril of thinking of these gifts as possessions of their own and interpreting them in terms of human wisdom, knowledge, and individual ownership” (51) ”“ terms born of the spirit of Anti-Christ, as we have seen, inimical to the life of the Body.
Neither has TEC given an adequate theological account of how her innovative gifts bear witness to God in Christ. There has been much talk of “justice” and of the making-possible of our gay and lesbian brethren’s appropriation of what is theirs by right. But if the sexuality between persons of the same gender is to have a place within the one Body, it must be accounted for in terms of the given life of the one Body. It is not enough that it should be accounted for in terms of the autonomous life the Body’s members. We know something of the iconography and sacramentality of the gift of human sexuality. But the one Body has rooted human sexuality in the differentiation and complimentarity of the sexes, which our Lord himself placed under the rubric of creation and grace in one of his very few explicit teachings on the subject: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ”˜For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”¦?” (Mat. 19.4). And as intimated by St. Paul in Ephesians 5, the Body has known the gift (the datum) of sexuality within the one Body as complimentarity within differentiation, as iconographic of the mutual self-gift that takes place between the different but complimentary natures of God and man in the one flesh of Jesus Christ, the theanthropos ”“ the consummation of which is constitutive of the Body’s life.
How might Anglicanism gesture “toward the question mark of Calvary at the center of its teaching” (4), even amid the difficulties and disagreements we face? Here are some far-fetched ideas:
1. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the liberals are right:
If, as TEC seems to be claiming, the gift of sexuality must be revised or elaborated, let this revision or elaboration take place within the context of the common life of the one Body, within the spirit of mutual recognition and self-gift which alone characterizes the love by which our Lord said we would be known (Jn. 13.35). Let TEC offer her gifts in patience and humility, knowing that love is patient, kind, and does not insist on its own way (1 Cor. 13.4-5) ”“ knowing that in autonomy she is nothing (1 Cor. 13.2). And if it is true that TEC’s interlocutors in the Communion at large are blinded and ignorant, as many within TEC have suggested, let TEC bear the burden of their brothers’ and sisters’ blindness and ignorance, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6.2). Let TEC bear it “with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4.2).
2. Assuming, for the sake or argument, that the conservatives are right:
For the conservatives’ part, let them listen in humility for the voice of the Spirit in their interlocutors, knowing that the Spirit’s groanings are too deep for words, even traditionalist words. Let them be willing to suffer at the hands of the litigious. Let them be eager to be defrauded to keep the scandal of factionalism away from the consciousness of the unbelieving world for whom the Lord suffered and died. Let the conservatives prefer to suffer injustice for the sake of the souls of their brethren; let them know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5.20).