SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
I received this question the other day from someone in the community. "Your congregation left the Diocese because of same sex marriage. This is the only reason according to the Press. Is this true?" Here is how I tried to answer the question.
Dear neighbour, I can give you a short answer, a slightly longer answer or a long answer. Feel free to read the one you want (or all of them).
The short answer to your question is" No".
The slightly longer answer to your question is, "The press likes story lines. They like to get information and tell it in terms of a story line. There are several story lines which the press could have chosen. One would be the little congregation (the little guy) standing up for integrity and principle against the Big Organization. Another would be the person who stays true to the Master when others abandon Him. Another would be the person who sacrifices much for the sake of conscience. Another would have been a story of discovery as to what is true, Another would be a story about sex. That is the story the press has, by and large, chosen to tell. In fact we separated from the Diocese because we believed they denied and abandoned some of the core aspects of the Christian faith."
The longer answer to your question goes something like this. "At its heart, the Christian faith is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. The Christian faith or 'way', is not about our wisdom or insight or achievements or spirituality or our goodness. It centers around a 'repentant helplessness' or 'humble openess'. It is always one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. With this in mind, two of the fundamental marks of the Christian way is that a Christian is an ordinary person who has become a disciple of Jesus Christ. To be a disciple means that you put yourself under the guidance and wisdom and care of the Master because you trust His insight and wisdom and His ability to change you for the best. A second key aspect of the Christian Way follows on the first. It centers on the growing understanding of who Jesus Christ claims to be. He claims to be God who took on humanity and came to walk among us and die for us. Among other things, this means that the Christian Way is understood to be a revealed faith or Way. In other words, we are not claiming that we have invented better symbols or rituals or disciplines or that we are better - remember that we are one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. It means that we come to the point of recognizing our helplessness (a beggar) and we desire to receive what only God can say or do. This is seen preeminently in Jesus, who Christians believe to truly be God who took into Himself human nature and lived among us and died for us.
How does this connect to the issue as to why we separated from the Anglican Church of Canada and came under the jurisdiction of another Anglican body? The answer is that we believe the Diocese of Ottawa set aside these two fundamental keys to the Christian Way and now holds to something quite different and uncertain. At an official and a lived level, they no longer see themselves as one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. They no longer see themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ. They no longer see the Christian way as being revealed. We recognize that people are free to choose what to believe and that they should be free to organize with others. We also recognize that many people do not accept the Christian claims - that in fact Christian claims are contested. That is fine, we will talk and listen and share and explain. But fundamental beliefs do matter. If someone told you that they were a devout Muslim and then said, by the way, "I do not believe Mohammed is a prophet". It does not matter what you think about Mohammed, you now know that they are not a Muslim. If someone told you they were a committed Marxist and then in the next breath said that they believed that private property rights should be enshrined in the Constitution, well, you might agree with them on property rights (or not), but they are not Communists. I could multiply examples.
So why did we separate? It is not about same sex marriages.It is about what Christianity is. We still desire to be Christians and we are willing to relinquish our property that we might follow Christ. The Diocese of Ottawa has decided that it is wise and good to offer same sex marriages and that people who disagree are wrong. That is fair enough. The problem is, a Christian is simply an ordinary person who has become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus teaches the opposite of what the Diocese teaches. The Diocese's decision is saying that they are wiser and better than Jesus. If that is so, in what sense are they still His disciples? They are not. What happens to those of us who want to remain as His disciples? We need to choose. We chose Jesus over a building or an institution. The second key follows the first one. If the Christian way is a revealed faith, and then if the diocese says, "It does not matter what is revealed. What is revealed is wrong and wicked and we now know better." Well, think again about my earlier examples of communists and Muslims. Maybe the Diocese is right. We can talk about that. But they are no longer Christians. They are something else. What do people do who want to remain Christians? They have to choose. We have chosen the Christian way over buildings and institutions. We see ourselves as beggars telling other beggars where to find bread. We desire to follow Jesus, because we believe that it is in Him, that God provides life. We would rather have life than a building."
Dear neighbour, I have given you a short answer, and a slightly longer answer and a long answer, if you want, I would be glad to meet with you and talk.
Under the Mercy
Rector, Church of the Messiah, Ottawa
Anglican Gathering of Ottawa