Admiral of Morality: The Beating of Wings

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Beating of Wings

By this afternoon, the Anglican Church in Canada will have elected its next primate, and it may be that the Anglican Communion suddenly finds itself with its second woman primate. What a wonderful development that would be.

The candidate who might take this step in history is the Bishop of Edmonton, The Right Reverend Victoria Matthews. She studied in the United States, receiving her M.Div from Yale. She has quite a bit of pastoral and other experience at all levels of her Church and in Anglican Communion bodies.

Perhaps her most interesting recent contribution to the life of her Church and our Communion, is the St. Michael's Report she chaired. The St. Michael's Report is a "graciously magnanimous" (to paraphrase the Archbishop of York) contribution to the ongoing discussion about human sexuality that has become so important to our lives as Christians and Episcopalians/Anglicans. If the Episcopal Church were to decide to initiate its own theological commission on same-sex blessings and human sexuality and how our liturgies and churches should respond, it could certainly look to the St. Michael's Report as a prayerful and deliberate model.

The Report lays out in plain language and with clear grounding in Scripture, the importance of the question of blessing same-sex unions and why this has become a question for the entire Church. The Report does so within a framework of careful and prayerful consideration, mindful that this and related issues, have become divisive and at times destructive ones.

The Report is the result of a theological commission formed after the last Canadian Synod in 2004; it was comprised of various points of view from the various theological colleges and positions throughout the Anglican Church in Canada. This in itself is a very positive development, ensuring a due process that has always been a hallmark of Anglicanism.

The Report itself is a step that many, inlcuding the Archibishops of Canterbury and York, complain the Episcopal Church has not taken prior to its own actions--a precise, reasoned, and reflectve presentation of the issues before the Church, within a theologically deliberative process incorporating the diverse voices within the Church.

Having allowed for this deliberation and voice, the Report does not call for more study or debate on whether this issue is significant or in need of even further debate. It calls for a vote on this matter. The Synod is expected to hold this vote sometime in the next few days.

In the end, the Report is a bold document with ringing language affirming the place of all persons in God's Kingdom and in His Church. It indicates quite strongly that the Anglican Church in Canada should move boldly and decisively to affirm this truth.

"It is commonly assumed that doctrinal certainty is required before pastoral actions can be taken," the Report says. "But history also demonstrates that clarity emerges when thought and action occur simultaneously."

This is a fine statement of integrity, discernment, faith, and process.

It's hard to say given the framework and approach of the Commission, what role the chair herself played in crafting this sort of language. But we can certainly be optimistic that if she becomes the next primate of her Church, Bishop Matthews will continue to work on this issue and others, with grace, integrity, and concern for all parties.

Can anyone doubt that the wings of the Holy Spirit are beating through the world in ways that we may not always discern until the wind is right upon us?

Grace and peace in the Name of the Lord.

On the Web
The Anglican Church of Canada
General Synod 2007
The St. Michael's Report
Biographies of the Canadian Primatial candidates

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