The Archbishop of Armagh has called for a ceasefire between the warring factions of the Anglican Communion, arguing that as truth is unknowable, faithful Christians must suspend their critical faculties and place their reliance wholly upon God to lead the church.
However, read the original. Is this what it says?
First of all the sermon (19th September) comments on the restored and renewed church building in which Alan Harper is preaching. He has fond memories of the place.
Then he repeats the reading of 'Paul''s view of two once hostile groups made one by abolishing Law and reconciliation through the cross.
He then refers to division, possibly that between Jesus and Judas that led to betrayal, the Jerusalem Church and resources for the poor, the Jew-Gentile division, the Orthodox East and Catholic West still affecting the Balkans, and Catholic versus Protestant.
Then he is back to the writer on Gentile and Jew and that both can approach the way to God: elsewhere Paul has people as new creations.
However he is in Northern Ireland, city of division, and now sees the Anglican Communion where division is replacing difference. He arguably overdoes the consequence of inter-Anglican hostility in saying that whilst this goes on the poor are not fed, the sick suffer and die unnoticed, the earth warms up and greed carries on. I have to wonder if Anglicans at peace would make much difference. Still.
Then he says the change has to happen, first, with him. Nothing he can conceal from others is concealed from God. He clings to Christ and so God sees only Christ in him. He is the least of people to judge others, and so sets aside any pretence in judgment and to see only Christ in the other person. Such removes division. Through the cross by faith, behaviour must change. Real security only comes when the walls of division are taken down and the other person is one's brother. "Peace", the word of resurrection, is said one to the other, that follows the cross. We should not be adding to those wounds. Look instead at the other through the eyes of Christ alone.
Where does he say then that:
- truth is unknowable
- faithful Christians must suspend their critical faculties
- place their reliance wholly upon God to lead the church
?Not in that sermon.
In fact, what George Conger has done is twist it all around, so that he is not looking through the eyes of Christ, but making it look as if the Archbishop has said stop thinking. George Conger is just continuing the division. It's like the recent reporting from Ruth Gledhill that The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks in support of Karl Marx, when Rowan Williams actually said that little else Marx said is true, but agreed with Marx on a point Marx never actually made. We mustn't let truth get in the way of sensationalism, or division.
Now there are criticisms of this piece from Alan Harper, which is that for a Jew as a religious Jew, the eyes of Christ are a matter of division, and that he is an Archbishop who represents an authority system that is itself divisive. Back to canonical obedience and all that. Religion alongside religion, when it represents the interests of a tribe alongside another tribe, leads to division, and Christianity is a religion that can service division within itself and between itself and others. In the end, one just has to be a bit more organic about division, that divisions will happen, and sometimes it is best if people go their own way, and to hope to patch things up later.
I'm not sure that Jesus did represent unity: he represented a reverse ethic and a peaceable one in the midst of oppression and conflict. In the changes Paul made, there was an attempt at universality of tribes, but only via belief through cross and resurrection, which many were going to reject. Thus a unity leads to a division. The real effort has to be between those who accept some beliefs and those who don't, and a conversation between them that is of peace.
My peace to another is regardless of what they believe. That's a bigger challenge, I suggest.