Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Contested Questions

Perhaps at the risk of seeming to become an N.T. Wright blog, I would like to share a quote that I really appreciated from my interview with him:
I have noticed in pastoral work over several decades now, that often when there are major crises in somebody’s life, that it may be the case that God is doing a new thing in and through them and that they have to work through that very difficult and painful crisis to get to the place where the new things can happen. My hope and my prayer for the Anglican Communion at the moment is that that is where we are corporately. In the nature of the case, you don’t see it. If you could see it, it wouldn’t be a crisis, because you would be able to say ‘oh, look, that’s where we’re going.’

This ties in to what I have said elsewhere about "contested questions", (namely, here) in the church as well as in our nation and the rest of the world. The questions have quite a lot of existential "bite" because they involve our hearts: our minds, our passions, our bodies, our deep-seated convictions. As a result, the debates about them become quite rancorous and even personal. This is common when anxiety is high. The challenge I see in a time like this (and which Bishop Tom indicates) is to discern the activity of God in it all, and (I would add) remain open to the other with whom we are in disagreement, at least in part so that we might possibly discern that we could be wrong. Perhaps we might serve the same function for the other as well. Of course this is incredibly difficult, much moreso than hunkering down with like-minded compatriots and lobbing grenades (verbal or otherwise) at the other. But perhaps this listening (to God and others) is what we are called to do, at least in the church, if the church is (also) a divine institution, rather than (merely) a human one.

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