Sign of Truth

Kendall Harmon points to a comment (#5) over at Leander Harding’s blog in which Dr. Harding says something (about the “Connecticut Six” controversy) that promises great possibilities: “this will be an extreme test of charity and require the willingness to live with uncorrected injustice for a defined interim period” (my emphasis).

I’m not going to say anything about the Connecticut situation since so far I haven’t heard anything that suggests even the thinnest rationale for applying the “departure from communion” canon, and charity forbids my thinking that Bishop Smith is acting without even a flimsy reason.

I will note Dr. Harding’s vision of an interval of uncorrected injustice — not because I’m in favor of injustice, nor because I don’t care about those who suffer it, but precisely because there’s a large group of people who care very much about the Anglican venture*, who as an aggregate do not know where our present path leads. In these circumstances, almost everyone needs to live with uncorrected injustice for a while, until we reach together a clearer vision of what “justice” entails. It would take a lot of persuading — the kind typically associated with biblical miracles — to convince me that justice in the church should involve one party prevailing over the other in an unambiguous way. Under the circumstances, though I know no one will like it and everyone feel wounded, it looks to me as though the only way that leads closer to God involves us all enduring for a while in uncorrected injustice, and having faith that the God in whose grace and love we put our whole trust will bring a church of frayed-but-bound-together affections to a fuller understanding of what justice requires of us.

* With regard to this affection for Anglicanism as a lived test of an ecclesiastical hypothesis, I quote John Henry Cardinal Newman: “I doubt not Roman Catholics themselves would confess, that the Anglican doctrine is the strongest, nay the only possible antagonist of their system. If Rome is to be withstood, this can be done in no other way” (“Retractation of Anti-Catholic Statements,” from the Advertisement at the beginning of Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, cited online at the Newman Reader). I have no interest in “withstanding” Rome, nor in acting as an “antagonist” to magisterial governance, but as I have been given to understand the call of Jesus Christ to follow in an articulated community of differentiated ways of serving, I share Newman’s estimate that the trajectory of the Church of England, at its truest, best serves the liberty and guidance of the people of God (thought I otherwise, I’d be a Roman Catholic, or Orthodox, or whatever).

7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Interesting, but I do wonder about something.

    It always seems that, when “living with uncorrected injustice” is suggested, the one making the suggestion is never the one who will have to do the “living with” 🙂 Most of us, myself included, readily volunteer others to live with injustice – but rarely volunteer ourselves.

    Warning, actual opinions follow: I see this as esp. problematic in the current fracas, as those which I’m sure will be “volunteered” to live with injustice (Gay and Lesbian Christians wishing a full, complete life in the Church) are the victims of blatant prejudice and violations of their civil rights, outside as well as inside the Church. Perhaps a re-reading of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letters From a Birmingham Jail are more in order vs. calls to live with injustice…

  2. It’s a nicely-put idea, though. I’m fine with “living in the question” for awhile; if only the incendiary speech and defamations would end, it could work. I do sort of sense a weariness on all sides these days, anyway; we’re certainly all less into flame-throwing than we used to be.

    (The problem, I should add, is compounded in this case by the fact that the Church itself is the source of most of the injustice. That’s probably why feelings are so high on all sides, and it’s in contrast to other movements for justice, where the church often took the side of the oppressed against whatever societal forces were arrayed against them. In this case, it’s necessarily Church v. Church, or Church v. itself. It means a Reformation of some sort; always a bigger deal than simply “fighting injustice.”)

  3. (I should add that I don’t really agree with the “Truth” vs. “Justice” dichotomy, though. I think we’ve been laying many “Truths” over the years for our argument; mostly they simply haven’t been heeded.

    Nevertheless, I do agree with your suggestion as to how to proceed from here.)

  4. (Sorry about that last post, BTW. I brought the “Truth” vs. “Justice” idea in from another discussion, I think; I see now that this isn’t actually exactly what you’re talking about here.

    In any case, I think you’ve come up with a good idea here – a reasonable approach to the problem we’re all living in – and I agree with what you’re saying.)

  5. Dear bls,

    I didn’t respond to your original point because it’s quite well taken; since I’m not gay nor (what we may call) “conservative” or a “reasserter,” it’s cheap and easy for me to say, “Well, we’ll have to kive with injustice.” Were I to try to exculpate myself, I’d just aggravate matters.

    When I commend “sitting with uncorrected injustice,” it’s not because I care less for justice, but because I care that we attain a practice of justice that everyone involved — or as many people as possible — can understand (in some way) to be just.

    Thanks for your willingness to hear this universally-frustrating possibility.

  6. Well, it’s not that terrible a thing, I don’t think – unless I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying. The “injustice” isn’t going to be cured overnight – this we know from the past – and as long as we can simply sit still for awhile, I don’t think any gay person would complain. But this is not what the AAC wants to do; in fact, they reject the possibility outright.

    The error, if there is one, is that Gene Robinson came along too soon. But that isn’t a moral question at all. It’s a problem of adjustment to a new reality – and this of course takes many years among a large group of people (and an especially long time in religion, the most conservative of all human institutions).

    What I absolutely concur with in your post is related to this problem, in fact: we are all at a different place on this issue. A very different place, in fact – which is why there is such confusion. Or, as you express it, why we “as an aggregate do not know where our present path leads.” Gay people know, because we are the ones who know the reality of the situation from the inside. But others are genuinely confused, because they don’t.

    But it will all work out the way it’s supposed to, anyway. I think the frustration is that we recognize now that it’s going to take a long, long time.

    Sorry for going on and on about this. I’m not expressing myself very well, for whatever reason.

  7. And I fear that I may not have expressed myself clearly, either. While I certainly meant what I said above, I was in no way implying that Fr. Adam was to be singled out as guilty of it himself.

    The original post certainly did contain good, thoughtful ideas.

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