In the western world we live in a socio-political cultural climate that now considers same-sex relationships to be normal. Those who struggle to accept this are often considered homophobic and judgmental, deficient and grossly outdated. Such labelling can easily create a reverse discrimination of sorts, with a certain relief that the shoe’s on the other foot now. Is it still possible, therefore, to engage in compassionate and respectful conversations without sliding into emotional mud-slinging or risking glib yet unhelpful labels and judgments on both sides?
Anglican Archbishop Fred Hiltz has pointed out that the Anglican instinct of inclusiveness and embracing diversity is being tested severely at this time (Anglican Journal, Nov. 10, 2017). This particular Anglican expression of discipleship constitutes one of the Anglican gifts to the Christian family. But every denominational charism also comes with its accompanying weakness, its shadow side.
Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, the Vatican’s papal preacher, stated in his homily at the Church of England’s General Synod in 2015: “The Anglican Church has a special role. . . . It has often defined itself as a via media (a Middle Way) between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Christianity. From being a via media in a static sense, it must now become more and more a via media in a dynamic sense, exercising an active function as a bridge between the churches.”
While discussions on same-sex marriage/relationships are taking place in both traditions, they occur of necessity below the radar in Roman Catholic circles while they occur in the Anglican public square. However messy and chaotic, painful and challenging that is, I wonder if there is something healthy about the open nature of such discussions, challenging all parties into a demanding, mature loving.
Love is an orientation, the foundational orientation: God is love, and those who live in love, live in God (1 John 4:16). Such is truth — a relationship of love: “Truth is a relationship. As such, each one of us receives the truth and expresses it from within, that is to say, according to one’s own circumstances, culture, and situation in life.” — Pope Francis
Loving as Christ loves is demanding and painful and sometimes distasteful. Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, used to echo St. Teresa of Avila when she’d tell Jesus: “No wonder you have so few friends!” Yet Jesus loves each of us, sinful creatures who, by God’s crazy design, nevertheless walk around with God’s dream imprinted on our souls. Loving in Jesus’ name involves deep listening — why else do we have two ears and only one mouth? Divine loving requires living humbly and open-mindedly, patiently and graciously with everyone (Ephesians 4:2-3), but especially with those whose lives are most different from our own.
In his report to the Council of General Synod, Archbishop Hiltz said, “More than ever we need to be mindful of who we are and what we are about — who we are as the Body of Christ, and what that means for our regard for one another, how we work together, how we enable the church’s commitment to God’s mission in the world” (Anglican Journal, Nov. 10, 2017). Citing Ephesians 4:2-3, Hiltz mused how the apostle Paul would look at Christ’s followers today with a penetrating eye.
Falling and rising, we can only do our best with what each of us has been given according to our own circumstances, culture and situation in life. Can we rise to the belief that the demanding God-style loving has the power to reveal truth, to heal wounds, to reconcile differences, to increase understanding and respect? Claiming to follow the One who revealed God’s reckless loving, we have already signed up for this in baptism: to love in all circumstances, in all relationships and in all conversations.
Rev. Marie-Louise Ternier is now an Anglican deacon, serving the Anglican and Lutheran parishes in Watrous, SK. In her spare time she serves on the programming team at Queen’s House in Saskatoon. Marie-Louise is a published author and spiritual director, retreat leader and conference speaker. This column is co-published with the Saskatchewan Anglican. Marie-Louise blogs at http://graceatsixty.wordpress.com