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August 14, 2003
I was hoping you'd write more about what happened at General convention, an eMo reader wrote. I'd really like to hear your thoughts.

But you are hearing them. Just about every eMo since I got back has been about what General Convention did. Can't you tell?

No. Yesterday's was about flowers and weeds. The one before that was about parenting. Not a cleric in sight. Okay, there was the one that began on the floor of the House of Bishops. And you mentioned it, sort of, in the one about manna and quail in the wilderness. But what did the one about different kinds of butterflies have to do with the Episcopal Church?

Well, that's easy. Butterflies are very territorial.

The recent eMos were about trust. About not prejudging things of which you have no direct experience. About fear of the unknown. About how scripture might be read and understood. That's what we did at General Convention -- talked of those things.

Parables are a great way to talk about God, maybe the only way -- since any direct statement we might want to make about God is bound to fall seriously short of the mark. Even Jesus didn't try to tell his hearers directly about God, and He had the language to do so. It was always a story: "The Kingdom of God is like a man who went out to sow....The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed....God is like a woman who has lost a coin of great value...."

Consensus didn't emerge from our gathering in Minneapolis. Consensus never emerges from church councils. It grows afterwards. When St. Athanasius returned home from the council of Nicea, which articulated the summary of complicated relations within the Godhead that we recite together at every Sunday Eucharist, he sat down and wrote a book called "Athanasius Contra Mundum" -- Athanasius Against the World. And he was one of the winners.

We have always lived without consensus. Unity has not meant uniformity of opinion among us since there has been a Church of England -- it was Elizabeth I who said "I have no wish to open windows into men's souls," erecting a standard of freedom of conscience that has endured among us, interrupted only by the brief and censorious Puritan era, which was put aside with great relief as soon as it was possible to do so. There are Anglicans who understand their faith to be very similar to that of their Protestant friends and neighbors, and Anglicans who feel much more Catholic in their approach to it. There are Anglicans who find unassailable support for conservative politics within the pages of scripture, and Anglicans who point with equal certainty to the burden of argument within scripture and its study, within which they find support for a liberal posture. Our Church knows that everybody has a lens -- you can't see without one. And every lens is different. We don't all see the same thing, and we don't see things the same way.

That's okay. Now we live in what we have done, and walk a while to see how it fits. Now hearts and minds follow where law has led -- or they find that they cannot. The story continues, either way.
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