So-called crime and punishment

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Gilbert and Sullivan’s wonderfully imagined Mikado purports “To let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime.” In their guest opinion column in the Anglican Journal (May 2010, p. 5), Catherine Sider-Hamilton and Dean Mercer have already decided the punishment- “a second-tier status in the larger Anglican Communion.” It remains only to conjure up the requisite crime.Their opening gambit is to accuse our church of a “willingness to walk apart from the universal church.” Never mind the long list of Canadian Anglicans who have served and are now serving the life of the Communion. The Anglican Indigenous Network (Donna Bomberry), The Compass Rose Society (Bishop Philip Poole), Theological Education for the Anglican Communion (Archbishop Colin Johnson), the Anglican Covenant Working Group (the Rev. Dr. Eileen Scully) and Unity, Faith and Order (Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan) don’t count. And never mind those bishops who have abandoned almost 2,000 years of Catholic ecclesiology to interfere with the integrity of the local church in this and other provinces because they alone know how to receive and interpret God’s word revealed in scripture. In 2004, General Synod heard both the chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Gregory Cameron, and the bishop of Colombo, Duleep de Chickera. While Canon Cameron counselled caution, Bishop Duleep reminded us that not all voices in the wider Communion spoke as one and encouraged Canadian Anglicans to cherish our contributions to Anglican diversity. In 2007, the General Synod heard both Archbishop of York John Sentamu and General Secretary of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon. Last year, Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki Mukasa of the Faith, Worship and Ministry department of General Synod established personal contact among bishops and theologians in Canada and Africa, to build respect and mutual understanding. This is not a church unable to embrace “a primary commitment to the universal and apostolic church” or inimical to “the wider voice of the church.”Next, the writers imply that the current conflict pits those who love and faithfully receive scripture against those who despise it, who find its teaching “oppressive and outdated.” But we know that those who support the blessing of committed monogamous same-sex relationships include many who know and love the Bible as living witness to the living God. Conflict and contested truth are not unfamiliar to Jesus’ disciples and need not tear apart the foundational covenant of our common baptism into one body. We could renew a healthier and more faithful discourse by acknowledging contested truth and engaging in honest and charitable conversation about the practices, values and contextual realities that shape our reception and interpretation of scripture.In the communique issued from their 2000 meeting in Portugal, the primates of the Anglican Communion said: “We are conscious that we all stand together at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ, so we know that to turn away from each other would be to turn away from the Cross.”The Anglican Church of Canada has not turned away, either from those provinces whose leadership is visibly distressed by the divergence apparent in the current conflict, or from the Lambeth Quadrilateral. And we have not turned away from those among us whose lives of commitment we experience as vessels of God’s blessing. Ms. Sider-Hamilton and Mr. Mercer argue that if we won’t turn away from those among us whose lives of intimate fidelity are shared with a person of the same sex, we must turn away from covenant relation with those with whom we disagree on this singular issue.But in the Anglican Church of Canada, we turn away, not from covenant relationship, but from the sin that binds and blinds us, from the structures that impair justice and right relationship. And as we turn to Jesus, we find him standing in a community of divergent truths and fear. He begs us not to turn away from any of his sisters and brothers, but to accept the unity he offers up out of his own breath and blood. ΩThe Rev. Dr. Michael Thompson is the rector of St. Jude’s Church, Oakville, Ont., in the diocese of Niagara.

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The Ven. Dr. Michael Thompson is the General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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