I was working in the library the other day and a student wandered in. He was vociferous in his opposition to homosexuality during my class on the Episcopal Church the other day. We chatted for a while and it was clear he wanted to talk about the Episcopal Church and gay bishops. But he worked around the subject for a little while.
I happened to have my little tape recorder running so I caught our conversation. I’ve corrected some of his grammar.
Him: “If there is some certain point that the two of us reach that makes us disagree, we have to come to agreement. Let us not reach it so that we will not be apart.”
Me: “But we already do disagree.”
Him: “OK, OK, you say you are fine for the gay bishops and I say no so let us agree don’t practice it, don’t practice it.”
Me: “I don’t think so [I thought about making the point about how there’s no different between a “practicing” gay person and a gay person but I couldn’t figure out how]. I think we can say that there are important things that we agree on: that Jesus Christ wants the world to be at peace, that Jesus Christ wants people to be reconciled to one another, that Jesus Christ wants poor people to be included. We can agree on all of that and say, ‘Oh well, we disagree about some things but we stay together on big things.’”
Him: “So we agree that let us live as the people of God faithfully.”
Me: “Yes! Amen!”
Him: “This is correct.”
Me: “We agree.”
Him: “And then we agree that if it is a matter of the Gospel, you carry the Gospel and I’m carrying the Gospel. Let us reach people with it together.”
Him: “There is not any difference between us. We agree.”
Me: “We agree. We have not reached the point where we go separate paths.”
Him: “Let us not reach that point.”
Me: “Let us pray that that day never comes.”
Him: “Yes! this is what I say.”
We then proceeded to get in an argument about what the Gospel means. But it was more in what we emphasized in the Gospel than a schism-causing matter of interpretation. And at least we were arguing about something different than gay bishops!
In the grand scheme of the Anglican Communion, this student and I are nothing special or significant. We are just two theological students with different views, committed to the same God and the same church. But I’m convinced there’s a lesson to be learned in these kinds of conversations.