I am writing this on a plane somewhere between LAX and ORD bound for the first
meeting of the Episcopal Church's Communion Across Difference Task Force.
The group -- called together by Resolution 2018-A227
adopted at our 79th General
Convention -- consists of equal numbers of
those holding that marriage is a “covenant
between a man and a woman” and those holding that marriage is a “covenant
between two people” -- and our job is to seek a pathway toward mutual
flourishing in the Episcopal Church.
But wait. There's more.
We are charged to seek that lasting path forward for mutual flourishing "consistent
with this Church’s polity and the 2015 'Communion across Difference' statement
of the House of Bishops affirming:"
(1) The clear decision of General Convention that Christian marriage is a
covenant between two people, of the same sex or of the opposite sex;
(2) General Convention’s firm commitment to make provision for all couples
asking to be married in this Church to have access to authorized liturgies;
(3) The indispensable place that the minority who hold to this Church’s
historic teaching on marriage have in our common life, whose witness the Church
Needless to say, we covet your prayers as we gather for this first meeting and
work together to imagine how we will respond to this arguably daunting task and
high calling. I am privileged to be co-convening the task force with John Bauerschmidt
-- Bishop of Tennessee -- and although our work is just beginning today, we
stand on the shoulders of a great cloud of witnesses who been striving to
figure out just how to manage mutual flourishing across deep divides for
It is a cloud of witnesses I would argue dates back to the original architects
of the "Elizabethan Settlement" -- those who dared to imagine mutual
flourishing across the seemingly intractable divide of whether we Anglicans would
be protestant or catholic in the 16th century. Rather than continuing to burn
each other at the stake over real presence vs. transubstantiation, our forebears
found a way forward. And the reason I signed up for this gig is I am convinced
that if they could find a way where there was no way in the 16th century we can
find one in the 21st.
This is not say I am convinced it will be easy. My email inbox is full of
missives from folks around the church about equally divided between "you
are an intuitionalist sellout perpetuating toxic homophobia and patriarchy"
and "you are an apostate heretic leading sheep astray to burn in the Lake
The jury is still out -- but it is fair to say I hope the truth is somewhere in
I hope what I am is someone who loves this church enough to challenge it to
live up to its full potential and revolutionary roots of being a particular
people of God with the DNA of Anglican Comprehensiveness still coursing in its
I hope I am someone who knows our history well enough to
know that from the get-go we have been a people of God who came to the
communion rail every Sunday knowing that half the people sharing the pews with
us thought we were as wrong as we thought they were.
And I hope I am someone who can trust that if we started out doing that around different
theologies of how the Holy Spirit made holy the bread and wine we received in
the sacrament of Communion we can continue doing that around different
theologies of how the Holy Spirit blesses and sanctifies those who come seeking
the sacrament of marriage.
What I know is that there is an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're
disagreed with and being excluded
because of who you are. And so in order for us to continue to live out our Anglican
ethos with Integrity there absolutely must be a place in this church for those
who hold the minority theological position that my marriage doesn't exist. And --
equally essential to living out our Anglican ethos with Integrity -- is that
place is not and cannot be between any couple seeking the sacrament of marriage
in this church. All the sacraments must be available to all the baptized,
period, full stop. [See (2) above.]
Yes, the challenge of finding the place of "mutual
flourishing" is a daunting one ... but it is the challenge the Holy Spirit
has put on our plate and it is the challenge we will be striving to mutually
address in the days, weeks and months ahead.
To say we live in polarized and divided times is to damn by faint adjectives
the times in which we live.
And so it is my deepest hope and most fervent prayer that whatever
the Holy Spirit has in mind for us as we engage in this work over these next
weeks and months, She will equip and inspire us to bear fruit that transcends
the issue that has brought us to the table. I hope our history will equip and
empower us to live into our future and model a way forward that is both an
antidote to the many challenges that threaten to divide us and an inspiration
to others who look for ways beyond the challenges that divide them.
I believe this is good and holy work to which we have been called. And I pray
that the God who has given us the will to attempt these things give each and
every one of us the grace and power faithfully to accomplish them.