Yesterday was a raucously interesting day in the Anglican world, though perhaps for reasons of no consequence to the average American Christian. Nevertheless I wanted to just say one or two things, because I’m Anglican, and sometimes it’s nice to have a little ‘inside baseball’–which expression seems completely strange to me. I would not want anyone to play baseball inside. That seems like a very poor idea.
So for some while, the Rev. Tory Baucum has had a friendly affinity with the episcopal Bishop of Virginia, Shannon Johnson. This wouldn’t make you blink except that Tori is part of the church that left the episcopal group in the last decade, and is part of the Anglican Brand in America that is not in communion with the Anglican Brand in England (you probably don’t want to know why this matters). Confused? Of course you are because both Tory and Shannon are not gorgeous female members of that cool 90s show where all the young people live around a square in soap operatic fascination, they are actually two middle aged men. Although, I suppose I shouldn’t notice this oppressive socially constructed cis-normative detail.
Where was I? Let’s see, Tory and Shannon got on well together. They wanted to smooth over the terrible trouble caused by the unfortunate theology of the break away Anglican Church–theology that unhappily gives primacy to the scripture as being true and understandable, to a biblical worldview about human sexuality, to the culturally insensitive conviction that the best way to love people is by letting the plain word of God take place about the human condition, about our proclivities, our sin nature, our need for a savior. These are surely important matters, but Tory and Shannon thought they were not so insurmountable that each couldn’t support the ministry of the other.
And so they did. And, even after being told not to, they continued to, and now they are joining together in a project of Reconciliation. Here is the Archbishop of my church, the ACNA, wishing that they had really not gone ahead when they were asked not to. And Tory’s own bishop.
Cue many angry comments about how Christians are such jerks and we should all just love each other. To which I reply, this is a matter of love. Truly it is. It always has been, since the very first moment the whole mess broke open. The problem is that we, here in the west, are living side by side with two incompatible world views and definitions of love. One view says that the only objective truth that can be known are the feelings and inclinations of the self whom God will surely bless, no questions asked. And the other view says that the only objective thing that Ultimately matters are the feelings and inclinations of God Who Can Be Known, in the scriptures, whose love extends so far that he entered his own creation to save his creatures from eternal destruction.
And truly, though I feel enormously sad about the whole thing, I also understand that I am on the ‘wrong side’ of this historical moment. The tide is against me. I am the hater. By saying that God gets to decide who we are, and not we ourselves, I know that I am the narrow, intolerant minded country bumpkin who should go back into the shadows and never see the light of day. And yet love demands that I keep talking as long as I can.
The gospel–that God created us male and female in his image, that we rebelled against him and fixed ourselves to death, that God did not accept that choice but came in the Person of the Son to destroy that death by dying and rising, that we can be united to him in repentant faith and kept safe with him forever–is about love. It’s not the Love of me getting to define who I am and self identify as whatever kind of thing that makes me feel happy today. It’s the Love of God that pulls me out of the pit that I have dug for myself. This love says some things about my sexuality, my identity, my inclinations, my actions, my desires–and it says that if I submit myself to God, he will gradually destroy the rebellious desires of my soul, will undo the wrong thinking of my mind, will train my hands towards the works of his kingdom, and that when I go through that painful and difficult training, I will ultimately see what is good and true and happy.
It is the narrow way that leads to salvation. The lonely trudge up the single path of God’s mercy towards the one whose love is stronger than any human peace, any human desire, and human project that lies about who he is and his plans for us.
And now I will return to praying for all people everywhere to come within the saving embrace of Jesus who stretched out his arms on the hardwood of the cross that everyone might see this great love.