(This editorial first appeared in the February 2015 issue of the Anglican Journal.)
Don’t do it. This was the message delivered in December by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) when the Canadian church sought its opinion about amending canon (church law) to allow the marriage of same-sex couples.
It was not a surprising response, given the very public, internecine tug-of-war over sexuality in the Anglican Communion. The IASCUFO said as much. While the Canadian church has the right “to address issues appropriate to its context,” pushing the envelope would “cause great distress for the Communion as a whole, and for its ecumenical relationships,” it stressed.
Predictably, various sides of the theological divide have latched on to IASCUFO’s statement to justify the rightness of their own beliefs. It is an all-too-familiar, enervating terrain that Canadian Anglicans have found themselves trapped in for quite some time now. It is also a default reaction that suffers from a lack of courage, humility and, dare one say, imagination.
The next 17 months between now and July 2016, when General Synod decides what to do concerning the question of whether the church should allow same-sex marriage, provides an opportunity for every member of the church to look at the issue deeply and differently. (Personal, theological and legal submissions made by church members and ecumenical partners about the possible change to the marriage canon are available online: http://bit.ly/1wGlkqT.)
No doubt, some will pass up the opportunity and say that this issue has been discussed and debated to death: enough already. Others will say it hasn’t been discussed and debated enough, and therefore, more time is needed. But the reality is that the church now stands on the precipice of decision, and like it or not, action is required.
Standing at the crossroads demands a great deal of prayer and trust. But it also requires an honest appraisal of the underlying basis for the certainties of one’s convictions and an authentic openness to considering uncomfortable, opposing views.
This period of discernment could be both helpful and critical, especially for those who will vote on the motion at General Synod. For one, it could deflate the demonization of those whose opinions are contrary to one’s own. It could also make space for grace. Such a grace may not necessarily lead to a softening of stances. But what it does is help strip away smugness and arrogance, freeing up room for the wondrous spirit of wisdom and kind understanding to enter.
Of course, one harbours no illusions that whatever General Synod decides in 2016 will be acceptable to everyone. It won’t. But at the very least, it will demonstrate that it was not a decision borne out of necessity or arising out of fear, but rather, one that came from a prayerful, thoughtfully considered place.
email: [email protected]