The Good News is Jesus seems to be plenty of rooms prepared for our stay. The news is of course mixed, all hotels being open to the public as it were. Other people may have prepared other rooms, and not all rooms have a view. So even in the Mansion Jesus mentions there are complexities. Who knows who is in the next room, or whose rooms is better.
The thing is we are guests in Hotel Best News and we don't get to call the shots as to who registers, who has prepaid rooms, and so forth. We are fortunate enough to be invited.
So it is that for those in Anglican Land, a wee small part of the big invitee list, there are rooms for a wide range of people in the Grand Hotel. We need to get over it and get used to it.
Some of the Anglican invitees have spent a lot of time railing against one another and against others as if they had special pre-paid packages to Hotel Best News and the other poor slobs had to come in on a cash basis only if at all.
When we get to the Hotel Best News, there we all are; low church, high church, evangelical, latitudinarians, progressives and reasserters, lovers of the traditional and of the contemporary and the visionary, English speaking and well, speakers of every other language, folks of every race, color, tribe or nation. And that's only mentioning other Anglicans. The wideness of God's mercy would astound most of us Anglicans, for I am convinced that all sorts and conditions of humankind will be in residence.
Apparently the basis on which we get the rooms prepared and pre-paid for by Jesus is this: We said "I do" when asked, " Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior? Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love? Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?" (I haven't forgotten the renunciations, but more on that in a later post.)
God's love is not limited to those people who say "I do" to these questions, but our reservations are in the name of Jesus and that is enough.
The problem with this little word picture is that most Anglicans in Anglican Land have grown accustomed to the rough and tumble world of ecclesastical infighting and do not extend to one another the hospitality found at the Grand Hotel Best News.
So it is with some joy that there are small voices here and there working for the hospitality due a fellow residence in the Grand Hotel Best News.
Over at the Living Church, Editor Christopher Wells is putting together a series of essays with the title, "Making room for conservatives" and asks in the second of these, "is there still room for conservatives?" His answer is nuanced (damn near everything Christopher writes is nuanced). But here is the crux of the matter: If there is, "it will not be by accident but by deliberate choice of the majority party, to extend a different kind of “generous pastoral response to meet the needs” of conservative members, individuals and parishes as well as dioceses (A049)."
Clearly conservatives have the requisite prepaid reservation. They said, "I do" to the baptismal affirmations. That's it. They have room there in the big Hotel. And if that, surely in The Episcopal Church and in Anglican Land they too ought to find a place of safety as well.
And we read that over in England there is a new gathering of Anglo-Catholics called "Anglican Catholic Future." Thinking Anglicans reports on them HERE. What they propose deserves reprinting:
As Anglicans from across the Church of England who have been formed and nourished in the Catholic tradition, we have established a network to help to inspire and equip clergy and laity for the work of Christian mission and ministry rooted in Catholic practice, piety and theology. By returning to the fundamentals of the apostolic faith, but without recourse to political agendas and party rivalries, we seek the renewal and revitalisation of the church’s mission and apologetic proclamation.Too right.
The Catholic identity of the Church of England has suffered a crisis stemming from a preoccupation with divisive issues. As a result the Catholic tradition in Anglicanism has become fragmented and nerveless. Many who hold this tradition dear feel that the time is right to rediscover our Catholic roots and values for the sake of the church’s witness in our land.
Following the imperatives that guided our Catholic forebears in the Church of England we will focus on
* spirituality and the life of prayer
* liturgy and worship
* vocation and priesthood
* social justice.
We will seek to model a style of discipleship faithful to the riches of our tradition, which encourages us to be creative and credible, imaginative and generous.
Generosity requires dialogue with other Christian traditions, especially those with whom we share a common heritage of spiritual understanding within the Western Church. Such dialogue will be pursued in an eirenic rather than a combative spirit.
We believe that the time has come for the implicit Catholic identity of our church to be made explicit. We look back to the Oxford Movement and the tradition on which it was built, and forward to the revitalisation of our church and nation as we recall our secularising culture to its spiritual inheritance."
Conservatives in TEC and Anglo-Catholics in the CofE have to contend with the problem of being in the minority at the moment at least, and sometimes for great stretches of time. The question is, are they given to positions that are not only minority but increasingly considered irrelevant and so become more and more quirky and finally leave feeling unwelcomed, or are they carriers of the same assurance given by Our Lord to all across the spectrum of response?
They have been invited. Of course there is room in the big Mansion, and there ought to be here too in the little house of TEC, or the little house of CofE, or anywhere in the world where those who hold minority opinions feel unwelcomed.
So what does welcome look like in the places where the majority opinion holds, and commands at least some level of compliance with majority held policies and polity?
Well, for starters, the same baptismal covenant that forms the basis for much of the arguments for inclusion is the instrument of inclusion for all those we think wrong, or foolish, or unjust. We are already bound together by future rooming arrangements and even present sensibilities.
The Episcopal majority inclusivenss party is doing some powerful hospitality work, but it falls short if it does not extend that hospitality to Episcopalians who are firmly against abortion, against marriage for other than one man and one woman, against women's ordination, etc. So where are the signs from the so called majority that there is welcome and openness?
For starters, I think we ought to give the new ABC, Archbishop Welby, some room to work at applying models of reconciliation to the seemingly intractable conflicts in the Communion. It helps that he personally seems to have a level of humility that is rare in high office combined with a will to make the machinery of church government turn towards the needs of the oppressed. Here in TEC we need to revisit the desire behind the words in various resolutions of inclusion. We too might do well to have the majority, that is, the governing structure of the Church - General Convention, its commissions, committees, boards and agencies - undergo some assessment of how those structures treat those who were on the losing side of various ecclesastical struggles, and engaged remedies if needed.
I think, for example, of the clarity with which the Presiding Bishop and the presidents of the House of Deputies, particularly Bonnie Anderson and Gay Jennings, have taken care to include voices from across the church in appointments to governing bodies. At the same time there has also been care to have the mix in those bodies be such that "mainstream" views were in the proponderance.
It would be interesting for the leadership of a major committee on matters close to the bone, say Liturgy and Music, to be in the hands of conservatives of the sort Christopher Wells describes. If the majority of Episcopalians support blessing of same sex relationships and want a rite for blessing, wouldn't it be interesting for them to have to make their case before a committee that was conservative, both in process and in ideology? The struggle for a "yes" vote for a rite of blessing might have been more difficult to achieve, but it might also have been crafted with a different sort of listening to conservative voices. Most likely the proposal that came before convention would have looked different and the floor fight would have been more intense and interesting. At any rate, those who believe in a liberal way that democratic processes have value in themselves (and not simply because they serve the majority) would neither be put off by conservative "control" of the commission or the product of their work being too conservative. Liberals, in the majority in TEC, would simply have to work harder.
The use of the "indaba groups" and the "indaba project" have been well received in some Anglican Communion circles and not in others. The idea of "deeper" conversation across apparent divisions of opinion seems a way forward. But one of the conservative positions in the AC is that some of what liberal westerners consider negotiable are not, rather they are core values. One of the interesting effects of the Righter trial was the "rule of thumb" that heresy concerns only "core" beliefs. The sexual orientation of a candidate for ordination, the matter of obedience to particular interpretation of canons or other churchly expectations, and so forth, do not touch on core beliefs.
The notion that only core values and beliefs constitute "deal breakers" in the church does not solve the issue of what constitutes such core beliefs.
The belief that there is room for many in the Grand Hotel Best News, the Mansion Jesus mentions, opens the possibility that even Christian core beliefs and affirmations is not a limitation on the guest list in the Mansion. Rather affirming Jesus as Lord and Savior is an expression of confidence in Jesus' invitation. But it also reduces core belief to pre-church matters, to matters of basic confidence in the Lord.
We do share that across the Anglican Communion, and within TEC. With that confidence shared, perhaps there is room for conservatives, for indaba conversations, for greater risk taking in leadership, for reconciliation.
And without that confidence shared, there is no future for communion of any sort, and no future for conversation across religions.
I believe that there are indeed many rooms in the Mansion, and I am likely to get one by the elevator and ice machine, and without a view. But there it is. The company will be grand and life good.