Monday, March 4, 2013

Coventry in Retrospect - A Personal Reflection


On Sunday during the Rector's Forum Q/A, I summarized what was most significant about this conference for Truro, for Anglicanism and for me personally.

1) Truro's public stand for the irreplaceable function of marriage in the economy of grace (the Bible "begins and ends with a wedding in a garden") and as a basic building block of society (it is a "load bearing wall"), has been vindicated and globally acknowledged by the platform given us by the new Archbishop of Canterbury.  The most important parts of the conference were not the plenary sessions but the workshops and various side conversations that occurred throughout the conference.  Our public witness and the active participation of five lay leaders, sparked many such conversations.  For example, several Church of England Bishops pulled me aside to discuss the merits of ACNA's recognition by the C of E as well as questions on how to manage their own conflicts around the issue of human sexuality (which is really a conflict about anthropology).  A winsome orthodox witness of North American Anglicanism has been memorialized.

2) The reason we were invited to have such a role at Coventry is because +Justin Welby, the then new Bishop of Durham had already heard our story last May at HTB and was deeply affected by Truro's marriage of doctrinal and relational orthodoxy.  He wanted the Church of England to witness what he witnessed.  I am humbled that he is holding our example up as a model for his archiepiscopacy.  The doctrinal conflict - neither in Virginia nor the Communion - has been resolved but our ability to relate to each other without enmity while still in conflict is the kind of model ++Welby promotes as a pathway toward reconciliation. This hard won space is not an end in itself, but creates a place where the doctrinal and relational wounds of the Church can be healed.   I am grateful that Archbishop Welby holds up Truro's relation to  the Episcopal diocese of Virginia as a model for the rest of the Anglican Communion.

3) We have taken a number of risks the past several years.  We have paid a high price (none more than Elizabeth and my daughters).  We walked into a cataract of litigious rage and have watched the Holy Spirit transform it into an environment of affection and respect - even for former adversaries.  We have seen 20 years of long-term, entrenched, systemic decline gradually turn into a steady stream of pre-Christian seekers coming to faith in Jesus.  And, without intending to, we have have pioneered a model for engagement with an increasingly secularized American society that is already becoming a model for other orthodox Christians who want to see "all sorts and conditions" of people loved and redeemed by Jesus Christ in the fellowship of their churches. What is that model?  Quite simply, it is the rediscovery of Trinitarian love in the love of husband and wife, and that God heals, restores and upholds Creation through it.  Salvation is a nuptial reality and marriage is its archetypal sign, and the wellspring of its vitality.  Though we remain vociferously committed to God's "No" against all sexual deviance, we put our emphasis on God's "Yes."  We think this is a pastorally wise and missionally prudent course to pursue.

There is more to be learned about this model in the upcoming conference that we helped plan, sponsor and promote : )

I am so grateful to you Truro for walking in obedience with me.

Your brother in Christ,

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