Talking, Conversation, and Reconciliation
Talking, conversation, and reconciliation- three bulwarks against disaster- are not means to an end. They are ends in themselves. And it seems, to Andy Trenier, peculiarly Christian ends.
Week after week I look askance- nay agog- at the international news section of my copy of Church Times. What catches my eye and ignites my ire is the drip-drip of argument, litigation, and general apparent anarchy that seems to characterise parts of the Episcopal Church in the USA. The same kind of thing occasionally bubbles up in cases involving individuals in England, and yes of course, our public battles are hardly bridled. And yet- it is that bit, where conversation has so deformed that fellow Christians end up in court with one another, that is so terrible. I always think there is an irony in some walking this way since it is so clearly advised against in Scripture – especially when what is at stake is at heart- or is it?- a question about scriptural observance and interpretation.
So it was with a great rush of interest that I took up my front-row seat to see two former protagonists sit down together- as they are obviously now very used to doing- to talk. Not to agree necessarily but simply to talk. Talk, that most excellent of bulwarks against disaster, that most effective enemy of enmity – turns out to be a quite difficult Christian activity. A difficult activity, but the Rev’d Baucum, and Bishop Shannon were really rather good at it. I suppose practice makes perfect.
The Rev’d Baucum suggested that the law-suit, in which they both found themselves embroiled, was the occasion but not the reason for their meeting as they did. Discovered first in secret and then in public, their tentative personal then later improbably prophetic, dialogue really is a good in itself. It is reason enough. Online people will moan and groan that they have given up on this principle or that: ‘How could you talk to him?’, they will ask or, ‘Don’t you know what he is?’. Anonymous posters will harp, and crow, and shout blue murder, that talking is not enough. It is agreement that counts; it is truth that counts; it is winning that counts…
However, beyond the nuance-less world of the blogosphere, up close and personal with these two men, it was clear to us hearers that the talking was enough; that reconciliation was an end it itself, for it had converted them both. It had converted them not to another more truthful point of view but to Christ- who is the truth. If talking to others who are different represents the ‘best charism of Anglicanism since the Elizabethan settlement’ , as the Rev’d Baucum suggested, then it is so precisely because friendship with difference is a converting experience. We meet Christ there in the face of the stranger.
For these two witnesses before us one thing was crystal clear- ‘agreement is overrated’. Talking, conversation, and reconciliation are not means to an end. They are ends in themselves.