The Primates of the Anglican Communion have been meeting over the past several days. While their agenda addresses a range of significant challenges facing us, news outlets have focused on a communique that someone leaked prematurely and has, as a result, been issued prior to the end of the meeting.
As the headlines read, a majority of primates has voted to sanction The Episcopal Church for a period of three years for our actions extending access to marriage rites to same gender persons. Here are the precise words of the document:
“It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”
This is a difficult and painful time for our Communion. We disagree about weighty matters. All parties to this conversation are people of deep, abiding faith. The Episcopal Church remains committed to our inclusive understanding of the Gospel, understanding that some within our own pews as well as many across the sea disagree.
What seems to have been missed in the headlines and in the words of various commentators is the first line quoted above: “It is our unanimous desire to walk together.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby opened the meeting by calling for reconciliation, not agreement. The primates took up his call by acknowledging the distance between us and reaffirming that our relationship in Christ is too valuable to abandon. We are showing the world that in love and faith we can walk together even when it is painful and difficult.
We continue to walk together as we disagree about divorce. Some provinces outlaw it. We hold fast to our relationships while some provinces reject the ordination of women or the elevation of women to the episcopate. Our bonds of affection have been strained, but the love of Christ that unites us remains unbroken.
Granting access to marriage for same gender persons joins the list of points of tension among members of the Communion. Nevertheless, the love that makes us one remains undiminished. The Holy Spirit reweaves the torn fabric of our shared community. Our role in the process of reconciliation is to persevere in our common life, loving each other as the imperfect gifts to one another that we are.
I am grateful to be an Episcopalian and a member of the Anglican Communion. There is no corner of my life in which love is always easy and seamless. It would be unrealistic to expect that to be the case in the Church. But abiding in that love always stretches us toward holiness, because that love issues from Jesus Christ.
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