Being challenged to tell the truth

Eyes on the Floor: Tell the Truth

(or On Dealing with Inflatable Elephants)

By Richard E. Helmer

This afternoon, Tobias Haller and Nicholas Knisely met with the new deputies over lunch to hold conversation over their impressions of the process that led to B033 in 2006.

What emerged early in the discussion was something a number of us knew already, but it bears re-telling.

A critical drive behind the passage of the B033 was the belief that the resolution constituted a deal:

That if we as The Episcopal Church abided by the terms of the Windsor Report, those violating our jurisdictions would likewise comply; that if we demonstrated official good faith to the Windsor process, we would guarantee our bishops entrance to Lambeth.

What we have learned since, and even more so in recent days in conversation with visitors here from elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, is that there were very few of our sisters and brothers outside The Episcopal Church expecting or even contemplating such a deal.

Experience bears this out even further. Clearly, jurisdictional boundaries and abandonment have continued at the same pace since B033 passed in 2006, if they have not intensified. Moreover, there are indications that there was actually no articulated hurdle to our bishops as a whole, and our Presiding Bishop in particular, in their gaining entrance to Lambeth or the other Instruments of Communion.

In short, B033 rode in large part in the House of Deputies on the basis of rumor only – although these rumors were viral at the time B033 passed. While the elephant in the living room was indeed a big one, what we’re learning is that it was inflated by nothing more than air.

Tobias Haller, speaking for a moment as an ethicist, noted that he is not a consequentialist. That is, he does not believe that our behavior as a group or as individuals will necessarily have the consequences we intend. Nor will our actions and words ultimately determine the behavior of others. We must, then, be true to ourselves first and foremost, and pray and hope that unity flows from that truth through the authentic relationship that comes when we offer others our real selves. We’d best avoid trying to simply please others in the Anglican Communion. . . or even worse attempting to meet the perceived or projected expectations of others.

Nick Knisely affirmed this guiding principle. When engaged in conflicted situations, he said he has repeatedly learned that truth-telling and acting upon that truth is the only path forward that works – as hard as it can be at times. I agree.

Both affirmed that this kind of truth-telling will be critical in our moving forward with integrity as The Episcopal Church and with the ongoing processes in the wider Anglican Communion, including the future consideration of a proposed Covenant in whatever form it takes in the end. Indeed, as Tobias reminded us, the motto of the Anglican Communion consists of Christ’s words found in John 8:32: “The truth will make you free.”

So it seems to me certain in this moment, as General Convention meets and considers next steps in the aftermath of B033, our primary call is to speak the truth about who and where we are as a Church – perhaps with gusto, perhaps with some humility, or offered with the spice of both.

But it must be the truth. Period.

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