18 May 2007

Adiaphora and communion

We can learn something -- well, many things, actually -- from the Anglican Church in South Africa. As you may know, South Africa now offers state-sanctioned civil unions. As part of that law, churches were to declare whether or not they would bless these relationships. The Anglicans have said no:
Bishop David Beetge, Dean of the (Anglican) Church of the Province of Southern Africa, said the church had notified the department of home affairs of its policy on gay marriages.

"We have informed the government that we are not in a position to bless civil unions and have made it open and clear to the government and our congregation about our policy," he said.

Now, as you may also know, Archbishop Ndungane is one of the allies of Bishop Katharine and ECUSA. So here is a man who presides over a church that will not bless same-sex relations, and yet who belives that the Communion should remain intact. I think there are many primates who are similarly moderate, but we don't hear from them much.

The so-called Global South primates need to remember a couple of things. First, they do not represent the whole of the Global South, and they do not even speak for everyone in their own churches. Second, it is the nature of mystical communion that we are bound together by things much deeper than shared doctrine. It is the mystery of the Triune God's love that binds us together.

We may passionately disagree about all sorts of things, but we should also be willing to see that some things are adiaphora, or things indifferent. If we could peer beyond angry primates, I think we would see pew after pew full of people who are concerned with salvation and life, rather than division and rancor. Let's pay more attention to South Africa. That nation, and that church, offers a prophetic witness of great power.

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