The breaking controversy about the acceptability of things like gayness and the ordination of women in the Anglican Church is important for all of us, whatever we think about these issues and whether or not we are even Anglicans. Why? Because the way this struggle is unfolding, whether at the just concluded Jerusalem conference of Anglican conservatives, here in this country or around the world is about something much larger – something which effects all spiritual communities and also personal relationships. It’s about the importance of recalling that the people in front of us should always be more important than the ideas inside of us.
A quick read of the statements from players on both sides of this conflict show people more interested in power over each other, than in relationships with each other. This isn’t about sex, or ordination, or anything else. It’s about who controls the boundaries of orthodoxy and the terms of membership in the community. If it were otherwise, there would be statements from both sides about how painful the prospect of separation of the factions would be. There would be a process of re-examination of the values which these sides share, even if those shared values translate into different policies on critical issues.
I am not naïve, and I do appreciate that sometimes, different members of a church, community, or family must go their separate ways. But when they do so without taking every opportunity to affirm the dignity of those from whom they are separating, they loose whatever moral edge they think they have.
If each party to this dispute really wants to work it out, they probably can because the emotional pain that each feels is identical. Each side feels abandoned. One side because they are not fully included equals in the church, either because of their gayness or by virtue of being women. And the other side because it feels that their understanding of what it means to be Anglican, has been thrown over, and them with it.
I hope that the coming days see an effort from the Church, not to clarify orthodoxy, but to reaffirm relationships among all those who would call themselves Anglicans. If they did that, they would provide a role model for a world filled with religious folks who would rather fight about who understands God properly, rather than experience how much they share with all those who are making the effort to understand God at all.