My liberal correspondent (see message, dated April 14, 2005) responded to my citation of the Lambeth Conference of 1998, which in Resolution 1.10, "reject[ed] homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture" by saying "Integrity (the Episcopal Church's homosexual lobby) has worked for years to change the biblical interpretation of the scriptures used to discriminate against homosexuals." This effort at changing the interpretation of Scripture is at the root of our disagreement--which is a major disagreement because it is a divergence of theological worldviews.
By the way, Louie Crew (the founder of Integrity) does a fine job of documenting the push I am talking about in his article "Changing the Church." In the very first sentence of the article, Louie touches on the real heart of the matter dividing Anglicans from each other when he mentions that "women and lesbigays have organized to promote a more egalitarian and inclusive spirituality." Now egalitarian and inclusive are fine words; but what they stand for in this case is a spirituality that includes the efforts at changing the interpretation of Scripture, and it also includes the various efforts aimed at "reimaging God," which goes hand in hand with the effort to legitimize same sex relationships as a part of radical, feminist and liberation theologies. Here I am using "radical," not pejoratively, but in its literal sense of "at the root." Those who embrace these theologies are bent on redefining Christianity at the root.
The issue is not merely one of sex or sexual behavior or expression. The issues of sexuality only serve as occasions for discovering how deep our theological differences really are. Another contributor to this list made the point quite well in her message with the subject, 'the myth of common prayer' (March 14, 2005) when she says: "Not only do we have different ways of interpreting scripture, here's the truth of it, straight away: We do not worship the same images of God." She hits it right on the head: Lex orandi, lex credendi--the law of prayer is the law of belief. We pray differently and so we believe differently. Just wait until we try to draft a new Prayer Book, and all this will become painfully apparent.
So the question is not whether Anglicans who are divided on issues of sexuality can achieve reconciliation or accommodate each other. It is whether people who pray to different images of God can co-exist in the same Church. Can people whose theological understanding comes from radical feminist and liberation theologies co-exist with people who adhere to historic evangelical and catholic theologies?
Finally, you ask the crucial question: "...is this issue big enough to destroy the Episcopal Church?" I think that is a question history is going to have to answer. I certainly don't advocate the destruction of the Episcopal Church, but I also don't see any way of reconciling two such disparate theological worldviews. The solution, if it is not to involve theological compromise, will have to involve political compromise, such as, but not limited to: (1) allowing the rest of the Communion to adjudicate which position they recognize as "Anglican," (2) some sort of amicable divorce that respects both sides enough to include division of the property, pension fund, trust funds, and other assets, or (3) a form of alternative episcopal oversight that is deemed adequate by those who are requesting it and not merely by those who are allowing it (or, more to the point, NOT allowing it). And here I think Bishop Duncan is to be commended. If those on the liberal side had been as generous as Bishop Duncan has been in allowing DEPO (Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight—alternative bishops for congregations in crisis), we wouldn't be watching the disintegration that is happening in many places.
One thing on which we all agree: Pray for the Church!