Promoting a faith based culture of reconciliation is the hope of 65 Episcopalians attending “The Third Way” training seminar led by The Rev. Brian Cox, who developed the program
“Our purpose is not to solve the conflict in the Episcopal Church but rather to promote a culture of reconciliation in the life of the church, a paradigm shift away from win-lose advocacy to faith-based reconciliation,” said Cox, rector of Christ the King Church in Santa Barbara, California.
About 65 lay and clergy Episcopalians from across the nation are attending “A Third Way,” a faith-based reconciliation training seminar being held through May 25 at St. James Church in the Wilshire district of Los Angeles.
Pat McCaughan, Episcopal News Service, writes that participants learn, “This is about creating a third way, a positive way, a proactive way, in the life of the Episcopal Church. It also offers people hope. Our experience has been that the whole seriousness of the conflict hasn’t changed but people come away with a feeling of hope.”
Cox developed the training following a 1995 Eastern European visit a few months after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and Marxism. He recognized the need for a compelling individual and collective moral vision and that “as a person of faith from the Abrahamic tradition, I was carrying in my heart the seed of an ancient moral vision whose time on the world stage had finally come.”
The first faith-based reconciliation training seminar was offered in 1996 and “we witnessed the transforming power of the Spirit in bring together polarities to build bridges, demolish walls of hostility and promote the dynamic of forgiveness,” said Cox.
“We found it also challenged people at the deepest level of being about their relationship with God, to come to that place to surrender and submission to God.”
Submission to God, ironically, was a turnoff for Joanne O’Donnell, now a trainer. “When I first attended this training, I stumbled hard over this area and refused to participate in the follow-up exercise,” said O’Donnell, an L.A. Superior Court Judge and General Convention deputy who authored Resolution A039, that called for church-wide faith-based reconciliation training.
“As a lesbian committed to the cause of full participation by gay and lesbian people in all ministries of the church, I had an underlying deep suspicion that the notion of God’s sovereignty was being used to browbeat me into acknowledging that my life was sinful,” she recalled.
“I’ve thought a lot about it since then; God’s sovereignty is the single-most important element of faith-based reconciliation. It’s the factor that distinguished it from secular forms of diplomacy and peacemaking, which don’t seem to be terribly effective these days.”
During her presentation to the gathering, she outlined eight core values which will frame their conversation during the next few days: pluralism; inclusion; peacemaking; justice; forgiveness; healing wounded communities and submission to God and atonement.
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