The final section offers several questions for reflection. I will offer my responses to these questions in light of my comments above.
How can the Episcopal Church affirm and strengthen these precious bonds?
I think that the best way in which we can affirm and strengthen the bonds of fellowship to the Anglican Communion is to honestly, decisively and forthrightly meet and implement the requests of the Dar Es Salaam Communiqué. This may not be what many in TEC want right now, but it is the only way forward to maintain true unity in the Anglican Communion. To do anything else is to cause untold damage to a precious gift of God.
How is the gift of communion manifested through diversity today?
The Anglican Communion is diverse in many, many ways, and I believe that this diversity is one of the Communion’s greatest gifts. I think that what must be remembered is that the issue is not about diversity. Rather it is about what the outer boundaries of diversity of doctrine and discipline are.
Can we find in the midst of our current diversity of theological and cultural “language” a deeper unity in Christ—not “a compromise for the sake of peace, but a comprehension for the sake of truth”?
As explained above, as it relates to human sexuality, I believe that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is an excellent example of this.
What makes it possible for us to live with differences and maintain the Anglican “middle way”?
Is it possible that our witness today might be to hold to the via media and remain in communion despite what at present seem diametrically opposed positions? Might our gift to the world be the ability to embody Paul’s word to the Corinthians: that one part of the body cannot say to the other, “I have no need of you,” nor can one part say “I am not needed”?
Communion is only possible when all parties agree to submit to a mutual accountability and correction. It makes no sense for TEC to act unilaterally in some areas while protesting similar unilateral actions by others. Our gift to the world is when we adhere to the Communion teaching and discipline, even if we do not agree with it, and seek to change minds in a prayerful, godly, honest, upfront, and non-political manner.
Are we called to live in mutual forbearance in the midst of similar differences long enough for the faith community to discern God’s will?
We are called to submit to the current Communion discernment on doctrine and discipline even as we might seek a further discernment of God’s will.
Some suggest we have reached an impasse, with seemingly “irreconcilable differences.” If so, how then might we live together confident of Jesus’ promise that the Church will endure for eternity?
If majority of TEC’s bishops and dioceses are unable to live within Communion boundaries as they relate to doctrine and discipline, then I believe that this should be openly and honestly acknowledged, and a creative way found to permit for alternative jurisdictions. I believe that an appropriate way forward would be to permit those dioceses that are able to live within Communion boundaries to form together into one jurisdiction, while those dioceses unable to remain Anglican, to form into a separate jurisdiction. Then parishes and clergy who are at odds with their dioceses’ choices could realign, such that in the end, there are two jurisdictions. This division ought to be done in a spirit of graciousness and cooperation, and some ties could remain between the two bodies, such as the pension fund.
A church that is rent asunder by anger, suspicion, lawsuits and harassment is a church that will never heal. On the other hand, a church that maturely acknowledges its differences and decides to split in a spirit of cooperation and goodwill is a church that just might unite again when the underlying issues change.
How might we live this wisdom in the life of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in this moment?
The problem within the Anglican Communion currently is not a diversity of opinion. There would be nothing wrong with advocating the acceptance of homosexual behavior if TEC continued to adhere to the Communion discipline. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with the Sydney diocese in Australia advocating for lay presidency at the Eucharist provided that they do not act in opposition to Communion discipline. The problem is when one Province unilaterally decides to ignore Communion discipline.
Accordingly, the wise course of action in the Anglican Communion would be for each Province to adhere to the mind of the Communion in regards to discipline and decisions. As time goes on, the Communion discernment on the issue of sexuality might change. But it might not. There is always room for disagreement. There is, however, no room for one Province to simply ignore the Communion doctrine and discipline and expect the rest of the Communion to do nothing.