One the of problems of the current debates in the world-wide Church is we tend to focus on the issues which separate us rather than the beliefs we have in common.
Historically this is a profoundly un-Anglican ethos and takes us back the the battles of the 15th and 16th century. I can hear some of our reformation predecessors in the faith saying to us words to the effect of:
"I thought the we had sorted the ethos that to be Anglican is to be tolerant of a breadth of tradition which focuses on what we have in common and allows for a diversity of views on secondary matters"
As in their day, we live in an age when culture and politics influence us more than the ethos of tolerance and diversity. (on both sides of the debate about the nature of homosexuality for example where Africa and American culture is the ultimate motive for theological views and biblical interpretation). In the States it seems the labels of "conservative" or "revisionist" have become terms of abuse.
I was encouraged by Sarah Dylan's suggestion that what is needed is a new breed/trend of "reasserters" ( potentially from both sides of the existing debates) who focus on what we have in common. She offers her initial list:
- Jesus is Lord.
- Jesus and the God who created the universe are one.
- The Old and New Testaments were inspired by God, and are useful for teaching and Christian formation (a la 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person who was born of Mary, gathered disciples and taught, healed, and confronted evil powers in ministry the first-century Roman province of Palestine, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate's authority.
- Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Christ of God.
- The God of Israel raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. I know some Christians struggle with this, but I believe this was a bodily resurrection, and the tomb was empty (and John Dominic Crossan never persuaded me that there was no tomb).
- Jesus' disciples met the risen Jesus -- some had visions, some corporeal encounters (though Jesus' body was different in some ways -- e.g., he didn't seem to need doors to be opened or unlocked to get into a room), but in all cases reported in the New Testament it was Jesus they met.
- I think the list of canonical books in the New Testament is a good one. There is no non-canonical gospel that I would have liked to see in the canon, and no book currently in the canon that I'd exclude if I could.
- I believe that the kingdom of God was inaugurated in Jesus' ministry, and that Jesus will come again to realize fully his work among us.
- I believe that the God of Israel has chosen Jesus, the Christ, as judge of the nations.
- I believe that Jesus is really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
- I believe that Jesus is really present wherever people gather in his name.
I can't help but wonder as I prepare intercessions for the Communion at the local Methodist Church tonight whether our zeal for unity has been sacrificed by our desire to be proved right - and that God might actually be saying "whatever" about some of the things which we argue about.