Worth watching

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, head of the Anglican Church of Canada, is a very different primate than some of his predecessors. He favours the direct approach - telling the church's bishops they'd better work together more peaceably - which they have.

Hutchinson has done a lot of travelling. Already he's been out to the West Coast twice, the second time spending several days in the diocese.

Another initiative has been what he calls Conversations with the Primate. These are webcasts - in effect television over the Internet that can be easily viewed on most computers with a high speed connection. They're produced by Anglican Video with help from the Anglican Foundation.

They last about ten minutes and Hutchison reflects on the places he has been, people he has met, and conversations he's had. He also shares an email he got as feedback from Anglicans. Diocesan Council member Monte Worthington's comments were featured at some length in one session. Another topic he shared with the whole Canadian Church was the plight of refugees, and in particular that of Amir Kazemian, who has found sanctuary in St. Michael's, Vancouver, and was visited by the Primate late last year.

There's a new Conversation from the archbishop monthly. They're worth watching. Check them out at www.anglican.ca. It's a modern way this Anglican Church might be encouraged to stick together.

A matter of language

Language, how we string words together, goes a long way towards defining the reality we experience.

The diocesan Reconciliation Task Force will be reporting next month to Diocesan Council on how to keep Anglicans in this diocese in relationship with one another in a spirit of mutual respect and Christian love.

The language they use to define the problem is key - and one big problem the task force faces is that the various "sides" in the dispute over the blessing of same sex unions use very different language to talk about what the dispute is really about.

Those who support the blessing of same sex unions justify their action as choosing "compassion" and "love" and "inclusiveness" as the words they use, and say it's concepts like "purity" that those on the other side of the debate are concerned about. Jesus himself at times didn't seem to attach that much importance to Jewish purity laws, as he ate with publicans and sinners, healed on the Sabbath.

But those opposed to the blessing don't use those words and concepts - at least not in the same way. To them, (following theologian Edith Humphrey), the dispute centres on an "understanding of scripture and tradition", of "creation and humanity," and of "the universal Church."

Both sides use their own language to justify their own positions - which means they're talking past each other, engaged in their own reality, but not in the other's.

How do we get out of these word boxes? One way might be to be more conscious about the language we are using, and make a very serious effort to use the other's language and concepts.

"Conservatives" might engage Liberals to explain in more depth how a rejection of the blessing is in line with the compassionate care of homosexual persons, and how it works in light of Jesus' insisting that love trumps purity.

"Liberals" need to explain fully how and why the plain sense of certain scriptural passages is not violated by the blessing, and fits with traditional Anglican understandings, and the need for obedience.

Some of this was attempted during the diocesan "dialog process" preceding second and third votes on the blessing issue - but apparently not enough.

Trying to sincerely make one's case sincerely using the other's language is quite a challenge. But then real dialog takes place.