From her rather improbably titled office, Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, “UFO Director at the Anglican Communion Office,” reminds us that the Anglican Covenant hovering over us poses no threat to Churches whose antics may be referred to the First Fifteen, but they must accept that if processes of mediation have broken down their actions have (Euphemism alert) “relational consequences.”
Frankly, this phrase needs very careful handing before can possibly be wisely applied by to Christians to other Christians. I cannot get away from a queasy feeling that it would belong more fittingly to a Mob Protection Salesman or Gestapo Dentist.
It could even be used as cover for a Pelagian three card trick that horrifies me. Why?
What drives and resources my faith is Jesus’ giving himself up to death on a cross, what BCP calls his “one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” Think on these words. This, in itself, is a mighty powerful mediation process. No talks between factions that do not acknowledge its paramountcy are worthy of Jesus’ name.
When I become a follower of Jesus Christ in baptism, when I receive the bread and wine, I am swept up personally into a process of reconciliation between heaven and earth in which all principalities and powers are disarmed, all sins forgiven, all and, in the end, every tear wiped away from all eyes. The ordinary business of worship is my point of contact, now, with that glorious reality where Christ will one day be all in all.
I really believe this stuff, and, it has, for me, unmistakable “relational consequences” of its own that are far deeper than any merely human falling out however justified. I exercise saving faith when I allow Jesus to break down barriers that divide people, not when I define them. Any label I slap on others who disgust me (what a comical concept in itself) will be torn off anyway, on the day of unveiling. Any dividing wall has been fatally undermined by the earthquake that came after Jesus died. Any protecting veil for what human beings hold, rightly or wrongly, to be holy, been torn in two.
Therefore, in the end, if we take the cross seriously, there can no longer be “us” and “them.” There is only “us,” at the foot of the cross, even though, confronted with the other people involved, some of us find that distasteful for now. Defining people by their acts, gathering them into self-validating camps within which they can huddle fantasizing about their own righteousness and the opposition’s faithlessness is childish, unworthy and sub Christian. All we have to do to find healing and grace is stop doing it. And designing hidiing places where anyone can hide from the true implications of the cross is the silliest and most perilous policy for Christians to contemplate. It really is alien to our best tradition.