For the past few months I have been thinking about how I will decide to vote on the resolutions originally drafted by the Special Commission on Communion. I decided to write down some principles that will be my starting point in considering whatever comes before us.
I have been drawing from several sources in thinking and praying through these principles.
1. It's Communion, Stupid. The battle lines happen to drawn around sexuality and the full inclusion of gays and lesbians into the life of the church. These discussions are important, and to the extent that our communion decisions affect people, they are very important. But the central issue is how we live and work and pray and serve Christ in communion especially when we disagree.
2. Never talk about people who are in the room as if they are not. Gay and lesbian people are not "issues" nor are they chess pieces or furniture. I agree with, and I hope hear, Bishop Robinson when he says "I am not an abomination."
3. Structural solutions are important, but they are not the only solutions. The Windsor Report mainly focuses on structural and procedural issues in attempting to describe the difficulties in communion we face. I understand that dealing with structure is important. But the main arena of Christian living is in relationship. We are an incarnational people, who follow the incarnate Christ and worship the Triune God. How we are with each other, especially when things are tense, is at least as important as how we are organized.
4. Sacrifice will be required and we should not take that lightly or for granted. If the solutions require that once again we as a community will ask GLBT folks to once again bear the brunt of the sacrifices for the sake of the communion--say through some kind of moratorium on partnered gay or lesbian bishops or through a mortoriam on official rites of same-sex blessings--then we should be prepared to bear that burden with them. Some gay and lesbian deputies here have said to me that they would be willing to sacrifice once more out of love for this church if any moratorium is time-limited and specific with assurances that other parties will also live in their restrictions. I think this fair, just and right. I am not the one who will sacrifice the most if the solutions I think are coming arrive, and so I am responsible to be sure that those who will bear these do not walk alone.
5. Some people will walk no matter what we do. Corporate unity for it's own sake is not to be confused with life in communion. Life in communion ought to reflect the dynamic of the struggle to live in union with Christ Jesus. It is a gift from God that we live in communion, not something we can create by sheer force of will and grit. How we choose to live will have an impact on the quality of our communion.
6. Hew close to Windsor Language whenever possible, but set clear and measurable parameters as well. Again, if a moratorium is requested it must only be through the next Lambeth or General Convention at the latest and there must be no more incursions of foreign provinces into American provinces, no inappropriate movement of American bishops across diocesan boundaries, DEPO must be for everyone including so-called liberal churches in conservative dioceses.
7. An argument from pain is not by itself an argument. As a chaplain, I am trained to hear and minsiter to people's pain. In our culture, we tend to argue from our feelings when we are not getting our way. For years, we have heard of the pain of the conservative side trying to locate the source and blame for that pain onto a few discrete groups. Now that is not to say that the pain is unreal. Quite the contrary, the pain is probably very real. I want to hear of a person's experience behind the pain. To speak of one's experience is not the same thing as arguing from ones emotions. But whatever we decide will be painful to someone, probably some more than others. It will take some fortitude to do the right thing for the Communion even in the face of people's anguish.
8. Even if we do the right thing, we may fail. It is possible that, after all this work, that we will find ourselves in a continued crisis or worse yet out of communion with Canterbury. If that happens, we should not blame nor recriminate, but we should stick to our mission, our Gospel message. If the worst comes to pass, then we will know something of what our GLBT sisters and brothers already know--the questioning of our validity for simply being who we are.
9. When in doubt, go to the first priniciple.