Such an occasion happened recently when I heard the response of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church in the US to the decision by 38 of his fellow bishops to sanction his church for changing their rules for marriage, called Canons, to include both opposite and same-sex couples last year.
Bishop Curry, in a video recorded on January 15, shortly after the decision said, “This is not the outcome we expected, and while we are disappointed, it’s important to remember that the Anglican Communion is really not a matter of structure and organization. The Anglican Communion is a network of relationships that have been built on mission partnerships; relationships that are grounded in a common faith; relationships in companion diocese relationships; relationships with parish to parish across the world; relationships that are profoundly committed to serving and following the way of Jesus of Nazareth by helping the poorest of the poor, and helping this world to be a place where no child goes to bed hungry ever. That’s what the Anglican Communion is, and that Communion continues and moves forward.”
It hit me square in the face. The way of Jesus of Nazareth, for those who follow that way, is not about right belief but about right relationship. It's not about jots and tittles of specific passages of scripture but about how those of us who say we follow Jesus, and I count myself among those who do, live out that relationship with others in the world.
Bishop Curry makes it clear that church relationships will continue and will not change. I suspect it’s kind of like a family. You love your brothers and your sisters and your kids, even though they may do things you disapprove of. That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to their behaviour, but it doesn’t mean you love them any less.
The Anglican Church in Canada is looking at similar changes in the Canons on marriage at their upcoming General Synod this year. It was proposed that they also be suspended, but that proposal was withdrawn as no changes have been made to their marriage rules.
I have to agree with Bishop Curry. I believe in his vision of inclusion of all. This is what the Christian faith is all about. Although I am not an Anglican, “...we are part of the Jesus Movement, and that Movement goes on, and our work goes on. And so we must ... claim the high calling of love and faith; love even for those with whom we disagree, and then continue, and that we will do, and we will do it together. We are part of the Jesus Movement, and the cause of God’s love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated. God love you. God bless you. And you keep the faith. And we move forward.”
And the people said, “Amen”.
Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.