A series of essays towards General Convention in 2003
By The Rev. Susan Russell
We filled a parish hall for four days -- lay and ordained, gay and straight – men and women from the east and from the west. We were gathered together for conversations about reconciliation -- focused on the issue “Conflict in the Episcopal Church.” What brought us to those ubiquitous round tables set up for small group discussion was the “conflict du jour”: the blessing of same sex unions. What kept us at them was the deep desire for a ray of hope that there was indeed a way to be reconciled with each other in spite of our deep differences of opinion.
That longing was expressed in these words set to music by Missouri lay deputy Mike Clark:
God who embraces all of this Earth|
Heal those in sorrow, burdened with pain.
For many are broken
Many are fearful
Many are longing to hope again
Longing to hope again.
Longing to hope that this “faith based reconciliation process” might actually offer tools to enable us to communicate beyond the sound-bite, position paper rhetoric to which our discourse has been reduced. Longing to hope that there is a way to maintain the integrity of our deeply held convictions and yet stay in relationship with those who differ from us. Longing to hope that this church we love can continue to hold us all in the embrace of Anglican comprehensiveness.
For me, the most powerful exercise of the conference was the opportunity for a representative of each constituency – progressive, moderate and conservative – to offer a list of both the hurts we have received and those we have inflicted in the course of this now decades long conflict. Speaking for “the progressive side,” I offered the following:
We have been hurt by:
We have caused hurt by:
Not a complete list. Not a definitive process. But a beginning. An effort. A baby step forward on the journey toward reconciliation. At least I hope so. And that hope is more than I had when I entered the parish hall four days ago. It isn’t about changing minds or ignoring differences or tabling resolutions. It’s about engaging in the hard work of both encountering and understanding “ the other” – and coming to see each other as equally beloved of God, equally entitled to respect, equally longing to hope.
I am as committed as ever to seeing this church authorize liturgies for the blessing of unions already blessed by God. I understand that commitment to be both a vocation and a gift. The gift I took from these “National Conversations” is the understanding that the work of advocacy and the vocation of reconciliation are not mutually exclusive. And that's enough to make me hope again!
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