Sunday, 8 January 2012
Dealing with change, conflict, difference
I have often said about our Anglican Church that we live with a great deal of difference on a range of issues. This has often been focussed on doctrinal issues, and anyone who knows the Anglican Church ( or by its other names Church of England, Episcopal Church....and even in in Japan The Holy Catholic Church (Nippon Sei Ko Kai))
We range from being almost Puritan in doctrine and worship to looking like old fashioned Roman Catholics. The casual observer could go into two different churches and not realise they were part of the same Anglican Communion. I suspect most seasoned Anglicans would be able to sense the deep-seated Anglicanism but that comes from a foundation.
Although we may not necessarily like one style or the other, by and large we have learned to tolerate and largely to accept this level of difference. Some of us would even say that this is a key characteristic of Angicanism. That is, that we are pluralistic and diverse.
In latter years (as I have blogged about ) other issues have highlighted our different opinions.
I have had a couple of interesting conversations recently about the issue of homosexuality. Some of these are tedious, some are sad and some are constructive. It is that sort of issue in our society. It is that sort of issue in our church.
What, though, do you do, when you come to the point where your personal tolerance is exhausted. At least one of these conversations this week arrived at that point.
And the party concerned had to signify a parting of the ways for him and me.
I was saddened. I do not think we hold each other in disregard. I think rather we both recognise the integrity of the other...and we must now take leave of each other. I hope this is not permanent...but it may be and if that is so then that is so
This Anglican characteristic of struggling with diversity, must always mean that there is the possibility that sometimes we must part.
We must not do this lightly (some do it almost whimsically, and we have seen some of that throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion in the last two decades...but that is another issue) but the great theologian Thomas Aquinas ...not always right, and very much a creature of his time, but usually very thorough and perceptive...says we must always act in accordance with our informed and rational conscience....and concluded "The one who acts against their conscience always sins".
If that is to have any serious meaning then the possibility of the difficult decision must always be weighed.