Many early observers of General Convention have remarked on the way in which the atmosphere has continued to move, even further than in Philadelphia, in a conciliatory direction. Words such as conversation, courtesy, respect, and listen, are all in. Standing above all words seems to be the word unity.
As Bishop Shahan of Arizona is constantly reminding his diocese, we
are one. The Presiding Bishop, in his homily of July 7, expressed the hope that all who stand in opposition to the other
may discover in ways that pass all understanding that they are one. One, not in some feat of human joinery, but one in the power
and force of God's
Who would want to be against unity? I laud this emphasis and this goal, but I do need to pause and ask what it really means.
In some quarters of this Convention, it appears to mean no more than Rodney Kings famous phrase cant we all just get along?
I mean no disrespect to Mr. King, and I certainly believe that getting along is something God calls his children to do. But if the appeal to our being one means being courteous and nice to one another and that is ALL it means, it falls far short of the New Testament idea of Koinonia. Koinonia at its deepest level means that we share IN the life of God, and we share out in the ways in which our participation in the triune life has blessed us. It is not community which papers over differences, but communion where, as the writer of the Ephesians puts it, we are to speak the truth in love.
I remember the first time I saw the book of Acts portrayed on the screen, my overriding impression was how much arguing there was. Think, for instance, of the Council of Jerusalem. That was hardly cant we all just get along! There are real differences, sharp ones, expressed. There is a sense of risk to the community which ensues as a result of the truth expressed. When a final unity is reached, it is not by papering over differences but by genuinely expressing them. This is truthing through love, and loving through truth, and it is the way of the cross.
It is also none other than the way of our life and our salvation.
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