A Call to Reconciliation

The Windsor Report that was released by the Lambeth Commission [TLC, Nov. 7] seeks to address the gravest crisis that has come to the Anglican Communion in my lifetime. How does the Communion grapple with the actions of General Convention in approving V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire? How does the Communion grapple with the actions of some American bishops and one Canadian bishop in aggressively moving forward in blessing same-sex unions?

Militant conservatives are disappointed with the Windsor Report because of its lack of punitive measures for the Episcopal Church. Militant liberals take umbrage that the report upholds the Church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality.

The Windsor Report has, in the spirit of James of Jerusalem, put the focus right where it needs to be — on healing and reconciliation in the Anglican Communion.

The focus on reconciliation brings us back to the heart of the gospel. Perhaps, in an ironic way, the Holy Spirit is bringing the Anglican Communion to its knees so that we will have no choice but to rediscover the heart of the Abrahamic tradition of tikkun olam; to heal, to repair, to transform. In a sense, the Windsor Report is a prophetic document that calls the Anglican Communion back to our roots. In the end, if we cannot discover and live out the gospel of reconciliation among ourselves, then we truly have nothing to offer a conflict-laden world. The greatest danger facing the Anglican Communion is not schism, but irrelevance. In a world convulsing with ethnic, cultural and religious conflict at every level, the healing, reconciling work of Jesus is needed more than ever. Could there ever be a greater opportunity for mission than to lift up Jesus as a messianic healer and reconciler?

What is reconciliation? I have spent the last 15 years of my life and ministry dedicated to the work of faith-based reconciliation in some of the world’s roughest neighborhoods such as Kashmir, Sudan, Bosnia and Kosovo. I’ve paid my dues and earned the right to weigh in on this question. Let me begin by saying what reconciliation is not. Reconciliation is not capitulation or negotiation or even compromise. It is not about discovering some theological Esperanto that offends no one.

It is not about sacrificing truth or justice at the altar of unity. It is not about simply agreeing to disagree. It is about transformed hearts, lives, and relationships. It is not about burying our heads in the sand and pretending that we do not have deep and profound differences within the Anglican family. It is not a win/lose scenario as is so often the experience for many in the Episcopal Church. It is not about sacrificing the biblical mandate of social justice for the sake of “making nice.” So what is reconciliation?

In individuals, reconciliation is a spirituality — a spirituality of transformation. In communities, reconciliation is a moral vision. As a spirituality, faith-based reconciliation is grounded in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, of surrender and submission to the will of God. Reconciliation at its core is about transformed hearts, lives and relationships. What is needed in most intractable identity-based conflicts is  not creative solutions or gifted peacemakers, but changed hearts. I am deeply disturbed by the militant hostility that I have observed among many leaders on both the conservative and liberal sides of the conflict. Perhaps my experience of working in Kashmir has sensitized me to the dynamics of militancy. In Kashmir militants carry AK-47s. In the Episcopal Church militants may not carry AK47s, but the hostility in their hearts is just as lethal. There will truly be no reconciliation in the Anglican Communion until we are prepared to confront and repent of the hostility in our hearts. The cause may be righteous, but the anger and hostility that creeps into the human heart is not.

As a moral vision, faith-based reconciliation provides a paradigm for our life together. It is grounded in the understanding that the scriptures provide us with a moral vision of how God’s children are to live together in this world. As a moral vision there is no single core value that completely describes faith-based reconciliation. It is like a diamond with eight gleaming facets that must be held in dynamic tension with each other: pluralism, inclusion, peacemaking, justice, forgiveness, healing, sovereignty and atonement. These principles are not a strategy to be mastered but a divine blueprint for shaping the contours of not only the body of Christ, but the society in which we live.

I want to start a revolution in the Anglican Communion of conservatives, liberals and moderates who love Jesus, are willing to surrender to God and be transformed, and who are willing to pay the awful price of being reconcilers. It’s time to stand up and be counted. The Windsor Report is the shofar calling us to report for duty.

The Rev. Canon Brian Cox is the rector of Christ the King Church, Santa Barbara, California. This article was first published in the December 5, 2004 issue of The Living Church.

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