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September 18, 2013

Talking about things you will never agree on

by Admin

Ephraim Radner of Wycliffe College, Toronto, who describes himself as a Realistic Traditionalist, reflects on  Indaba in the Anglican Communion.  He examines the viability of Indaba-style dialogue in a widespread and diverse Anglican Communion.  He examines the organizational analyses of Albert Hirschman’s 1970 title Exit, Voice, and Loyalty.  Hirschman’s study looks at the balance of the right to voice of the members of an organization in balance with the loyalty they feel to the organization.  In the push and pull of voice and loyalty, there is always the choice for members to exit the organization by choice or with encouragement.  Radner attempts to apply these concepts to the current discussion of human sexuality in the Anglican Communion, and to predict Continuing Indaba’s ability to play a positive role in that discussion.

A.  The scope of the Indaba project

The “Continuing Indaba Project”, as its organizers have described it, is geared towards “decision making by consensus “, in a way adaptable to the Anglican Communion. (The word “indaba” is of Bantu [African] origin, and connotes a meeting or council to discuss a serious matter.)  In particular, it is about seeking a “common mind” in the face of “hard questions” that “threaten to divide us”.  What are these conflicted questions?  Sexuality is one, along with other matters, like “the authority of Scripture, faithfulness to tradition and the respect for the dignity of all”.

The Project’s organizers recognize, however, that its outcome may not be actual “agreement” over these questions.  Still, at least some agreement is hoped for; and where not agreement, then some “clarification of disagreement” such as to create more “positive missional relationships”.  So, Indaba will seek consensus around conflicted questions that either leads to actual agreement on the matter at issue, or at least to a better understanding of the disagreement in a way that promotes closer cooperation in mission.

In what follows, I wish to reflect on how this approach might in fact play itself out on the first hard question mentioned, that of sexuality.  (It is, after all, one upon whose difficulty subsequent discussions seem to founder.) What conflicts are resolvable in this way?  And is sexuality one of them?  And if so how, and if not, then what? Although I want to turn to Scriptural examples, I also want to begin by laying out a way in which to locate the dynamics of consensus decision-making in general, as it might take place within organizations.  And, of course, Anglican churches and the Anglican Communion as a group of churches are organizations, if of a particular kind.  Thereby the Scriptural examples can have some systematic purchase on our practical understanding for the Church.

B.  Hirschman’s Model

So let me outline what I consider to be a persuasive account of how disagreement presents and resolves itself variously within organizations in general. To do so, I will make use of a secular description, that given in Albert Hirschman’s influential 1970 volume Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (1970).  Hirschman’s book is initially about business firms, but he applies his model – and others have also done so – to a range of membership organizations:  political parties, nations even; and, of course, churches.  His basic idea, deceptively simple, is this:

Organizations deal with challenges and dissension through a proper (and it varies by situation) balance between the loyalty of customers/workers/members and the exit of the dissatisfied.  The place of “voice” in this balance is important, but again, varied: voice (the ability to question, inform, deliberate, engage in and influence decision-making) is necessary for internal critique and reform; too much voice, however, can be disruptive.  “Exit” is encouraged through the provision of many choices, under circumstances where voice is constrained; it is discouraged by either loyalty, lack of choice (say, for instance, extremes in a political party, with no other parties as real choices), or coercion.

Finally, there  are the situations where dissension and the exercise of dissenting voice is bound to the satisfaction of the struggle itself – “movement politics” is about this, for instance, and choice is not at issue, but rather the struggle itself is what gives energy, and the struggle itself, then, becomes an ethical act on its own.  Even in religion, this is a factor for some.   So, in a much less sweeping way, there are those in churches for whom dissent and conflict within an organization is itself a part of engaging the fulfillment of membership.

In the best situations, in any case, exit is a “safety valve” for “too much voice” or too great a level of internal dissatisfaction; it releases from the organization’s system tensions and conflicts that, if left in place, would destroy the whole and ruin individual integrity.  So governments themselves are sometimes willing to let go of the dissatisfied, e.g. 17th c. Puritan emigration from Britain, Soviet Jewish emigration in the 1970’s, Cuban emigration, and so on.  There is, to be sure, a kind of emotional “exit” as well, when – for lack of choice – members simply drop out of engagement, through a form of acquiesced marginalization.

One key point in all of this is that the greater provision of choice makes exit more and more likely, and at a certain point, organizations start losing what would otherwise be perhaps constructive dissent, as well as the gifts of those who embody it.  The departure from France of Protestants after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the late 17th century is an example of this, and it crippled French culture into the future in many key ways. (To be sure, in this last case, it was not so much “choice” that was at issue, but a deeply misguided expulsion.)  Indeed, too much choice undercuts both loyalty and voice, except in special situations.

We might note as well situations in which voice has been constrained but exit is not possible in a sustained way – whole peoples (e.g. large minorities or even disenfranchised majorities [one can think of the Balkans or certain nations in Africa]), who either cannot leave a country, or whose refugee status elsewhere is unmanageable.  Loyalty is less an issue here than are the perceived or real needs for survival.  Civil war is usually the outcome to such convergences of restrictions on both voice and exit .  Sometimes – often only after the exhaustion of civil war – negotiated settlements can be reached, motivated by the need to avoid further bloodshed (see, for instance, the work by Donald Rothschild and Philip G. Roeder).  These represent interesting cases of “consensual” decision-making (e.g. South Africa) among previously “irreconcilable” parties.  But they are rarely useful models for church disagreements, apart from state intervention, because their single purpose initially is to avoid murder rather than agree upon religious commitments, let alone worship together.  (I bring this up because there have been attempts to create parallels between such negotiated political agreements between hostile parties within a single nation, on the one hand, and internal church discussions on the other.  These attempts strike me as, on the whole, category mistakes.)

One of the things that Hirschman’s model explains – something most people know intuitively in any case – is that in most organizations what we know as “consent” by members is often only very “thin”:  either consent represents the lack of choice in the face of constrained voice (it is a suffered consent); or it represents the outcome to an appeasing policy, constantly shifting, in the face of too ready access to exit in response to easily available alternative choices.  To this extent, “procedural justice”, in the sense of a robust framework of regulated debate, deliberation, and decision, with the regular possibility of subsequent re-visitation of a controverted matter – a liberal political notion — may be an ideal that has little value in a culture of easy choice.  For persevering in the engagement of “procedures” demands loyalty and committed voice both, and both of these are diluted by too much choice.  On the other hand, it is precisely when procedures are no longer trusted, or when their engagement does not in fact give constructive scope to voice, that they are abandoned, whether physically or emotionally.  (The real analogous parts with the Anglican Communion are here obvious.) Finally, Hirschman’s model locates what one might call the option of “conscientious disobedience” (discussed below) as either a form of engaged marginalization or as a form of participation that is fed by conflict, but that nonetheless does not abandon loyalty for exit.

One can readily see parallels here with dynamics that are being played out in Anglican churches and in the Communion.  My purpose, however, is not to dwell on these details, but to move on to the more general issues of churches and the debate over sexuality.

C. The Church:  New thresholds of participation. 

Taking up some of the key aspects of Hirschman’s model, we can return to the case of the Church or of churches.  In general, it seems clear that membership in a church is sustained by loyalty (leaving aside the divine motives for such loyalty).  And that the balance between loyalty and voice may vary, depending on the perceived needs of members.

But even in churches, loyalty can be subverted when voice is reduced, especially in times where the church faces challenges.  Sixteenth century Europe offers a good example.  One of the most significant transitions in the early modern period of the Western Church, one that now defines religious affiliation in general, is the explosion of alternative ecclesial choices.  (We should note that, for Anglicans in particular, this factor has grown in significance recently, with the emergence of alternative Anglican ecclesial bodies standing alongside existing ones.  This factor – earlier “continuing churches”, the AMiA, ACNA, GafCon, TEC’s own “international communion”, etc. – should not be underestimated as a process-changing element.) This, understandably, has lowered the sustenance threshold of loyalty to a given church:  exit becomes easier, and more readily taken advantage of, in a religiously plural and tolerant society.  The amount and kind of voice sought after by Christians in their church also changes in the expanding market of ecclesial options:  often, members of churches want more voice, and it takes little resistance to such desires to elicit an exit.  Recent studies, e.g. by the Pew Foundation, have shown that this pattern has become more prominent within the ranks of all American Christian denominations and traditions over the past few years, including the more “catholic” traditions.

D. The “Hard Question” of Sexuality among Anglican Churches:  What are the options?

Now, moving to the particular situation of the debate over sexual behavior within Anglican churches:  How does this hard question sit within the shifting balances of loyalty and voice within our churches?  Consensus would come into play when dissenting voices to this or that state of affairs or church policies (including teaching) resolved themselves into a renewed commitment of loyalty to the church.  So, with respect to this particular question, we might ask:  About what is there debate, and about what might consensus be achieved?  What is the proper place of expressed same-sexuality in the church?  Partnered bishops for a given diocese?  How much voice needs to be granted around all of this to preserve loyalty and prevent exit?  Is it possible that in fact, a procedural consensus can be pursued and achieved that would maintain the balance?

I have argued before that consensus around the “proper place” of, e.g., same-sex unions, cannot be had in the church of the West today; as a result the resolution of dissenting voices in Western churches is unlikely in any first-order fashion.  And we can see, following Hirschman’s model, why this must be the case:   Because of the intervention of the secular state on the matter of same-sexuality in many Western nations,  voice and dissension have in fact been practically ruled out as having constructive capacity.  This intervention has rendered impossible a balanced ecclesial debate and possible consensus, in the sense of minds coming together (and therefore changing).  Because of enacted civil legislation permitting and protecting these same-sex relationships,  gay unions/marriages and families (via surrogate conception and gestation or adoption) are now legitimized and upheld by the state, rooted in social ties, and therefore ensconced within the membership of many church bodies.

What then is left to be discussed and consensually decided in this situation?  Is it the question of whether membership of civilly married gay couples is to be permitted in the church?  But if this were an actual discussion, with broad scope for voice, and thereby developed decision-making, this would mean that it is at least possible that those churches where such persons (i.e. same-sex couples) are now members could in fact decide to throw them out (or at least impose membership limitations), or conversely, that those who disagree could come to change their mind and agree to their continued unlimited membership.

Such “change of mind” on the part of either group is theoretically possible, but pragmatically unrealistic.  Given the practical realities of a socially and legally upheld same-sexual relationship, only one group can be allowed to change their mind, and thus only one outcome is actually possible within most Western societies as a consensually achieved result, viz., that those who disagree with continued full membership would change their minds.  And is such an outcome in fact one that reflects an open-ended consensual process?

Let us return to Hirschman’s model.  At this point, because of the intervention of the state in legitimizing actual same-sex families, complete with children and their assumed obligations, voice (in the sense of decision-making power) has effectively been constrained:  families will not, because they cannot in this society, be broken up. Furthermore, churches are now subject to civil litigation, with at least a prima facie plausibility of losing, if they choose to discriminate against the full membership privileges of same-sex couples.

There are therefore three real options for the Western church around this hard question:  loyalty trumps disagreement (i.e. those who oppose the membership of partnered gays subordinate their disagreement to their church loyalty, and somehow tolerate the alternative);  dissent is coercively marginalized, or eliminated, through various means (e.g. those who oppose the full church membership of partnered gays are refused voice or positions of leadership or decision-making, or resources, in a way analogous to their desired membership limitations on same-sex couples); or exit (i.e. those who oppose the full membership of partnered gays leave the church altogether, either for some other church or for none).

If these are the real options in this situation in Western Anglican churches, the consensus-seeking discussion around sexuality in the Church cannot be about the proper place of same-sexuality within the Christian church (a first-order question), but will instead be about what to do with an asymmetrically entrenched set of commitments (i.e. a disagreement that takes place within a disequilibrium of power) within the church itself.   In this case, I therefore suggest, Indaba can at best “clarify disagreement” – not only that it exists and of what kind, but what to do with it (that is, where it leads).   It remains, furthermore, a real question as to whether this kind of disagreement can be clarified in a way that strengthens missional relationship, largely because the “exit” strategies pursued by some are likely to disrupt rather than strengthen such relationships.

Finally, we should be aware that the dynamics within the world Communion, among various Anglican churches, is related to the above, although the weight of relationships and the constraints on voice and exit are very different.  By and large, Western churches are in the minority view on the matter of sexuality, but also have demonstrated the capacity, for various reasons, to control voice.  Exit has been the choice of some conservative Anglican churches;  while, as the dynamics of control over voice begin to shift against them, Western churches, like TEC, begin to consider exit on their own terms.  The Communion, however, has been built primarily on loyalty, and here the rise of putative alternative communions begins to prove unsettling.  The balance of exit, voice, and loyalty is, as in most cases and especially here, very complex and unpredictable, affected by changing attitudes, new projection of various kinds of leadership, changing economic and legal contexts, and malleable self-understandings among participants. Still, the general dynamics currently at work are fairly straightforward.

E. Scriptural examples of decision-making.     

At this point, let us turn to Scriptural example.  By looking at how “disagreements” are engaged in Scripture, we can perhaps help answer this last question.  I will provide some simple, if broadly sketched, exemplars.

1.  Consensus decision-making around open-ended disagreement:  Probably the most attractive kind of Scriptural example will be one that demonstrates the people of God dealing with a difficult matter, around which there is disagreement, and then coming to a common mind and from this, a commonly upheld decision.  There is a sense in which this is what, in the first instance, Christians are after (cf. Jesus’ prayer in John 17).  And probably the most prominent exemplar of such consensus decision-making is the gathering in Jerusalem, described in Acts 15, which sought agreement and made a decision regarding some of the demands placed upon Gentile believers.

We know that the disagreement was deep and heated.  And the format of the gathering has been well-studied and broken down:  there is a gathering of the “apostles and elders”, who hear the testimony and views of those in debate;  there is consideration, and the search for coherence whose foundation lies in the Scriptures;  there is finally a common acceptance of the leader’s (James’s) discerned decision, that is attributed to the Holy Spirit’s work, as being one and same with the Spirit’s Scriptural witness.  Much of the actual human process is evidently unreported in the account.  Still, it is a winning picture of open-ended discussion, leading to consensus, through the “facilitation” of a leader and a faith in God’s more primary direction.

But the example here is important to understand in its context, for it would be wrong to assume that this way of proceeding is indeed possible or at least accessible to any church at any given time.  For the context of the Jerusalem gathering – both rhetorically, and we may assume historically – lies in the thick description of the apostolic community and its growing church already given in the previous chapters of Acts.  Indeed, this is what, to an extent, fills in the blanks of the “procedure”.  And in particular, I would single out – as has the Church’s tradition – the description of this apostolic community in Acts 2 and 4.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:32-34)

These texts, with their use of vocabulary and imagery that overlaps with Acts 15, is clearly meant to describe the practical character of that church that actually makes a difficult and significant decision.  And “practical” is indeed the issue here, in the sense of outlining the “procedures” of common life in which decisions are made.  Hardly understood by the Church as a past “ideal” (contra some modern critics), Acts 2 and 4 became the touchstone for a range of renewal movements in the Church over the centuries.  These movements include Augustine’s own community life, built into his Rule that is then disseminated in the West; the pursuit of the vita apostolica in the 11th-13th centuries (including Franciscanism); the deeply influential retrieval of “primitive” holiness among Anglicans in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, including the model of the Religious Societies that so transformed Anglican mission; finally they reach into the charismatic renewal and the “new monasticisms” of the present (cf. the Fraternité de Jérusalem).

In all this is embodied the shape of the church within which consensus is achieved.  And this shape is built around regular gathering, devotion and submission to an apostolic center of teaching, the sharing of the eucharist, persistent prayer together, and the sharing of property.  Out of this comes “one mind and one heart”.  And it is important to understand, then, that Acts 15 is possible because of such a shaped church of regular practice, and that consensus emerges from within it.  The shape of the church is not the result of consensus, but rather the opposite genetic relation pertains.

Hence, consensus of the kind envisioned in Acts 15 presupposes something already existent.   Without it, the bare procedural elements of counsel just as easily become the tool of deception and judgment, as in 1 Kings 22, when God actually makes use of a “lying spirit” to mislead those who search for God’s will with a seeming genuineness.

And it is just this shape to the church described in Acts 2 and 4 that has now seemingly slipped through the fingers of the Anglican Communion.  I need not go through the elements enumerated above as applied to our “common” life; suffice it to say, that on the most tangible of levels – the sharing of the Eucharist and the holding of shared property – it is obvious that Anglicanism is no longer either “a” church or a set of churches capable of reaching a consensus in the Spirit.   While it may be possible to see such a church one day restored, such restoration is not so much a question of discernment as it is dependent upon the power of God apart from human discernment.

So, if this example no longer fits our situation, what other Scriptural examples may?

2.  Entrenched Disagreement:   This is disagreement within the people of God that admits of no free movement towards consensus.  And this, presumably, is the kind of disagreement that an Indaba process might seek to clarify without, however, resolving.  Within Scripture, there are various ways that entrenched disagreement has been dealt with:

a. Coercive marginalization, in the sense of restricting the voice of one party to the disagreement.

i.  Numbers 12:  Miriam and Aaron are at odds with Moses over his leadership.  Having voiced this disagreement and opposition, Miriam is punished by God with leprosy, which is designed to constrain future dissension, as indeed it does.

ii. Prophetic marginalization (cf. Amos and Jeremiah), whereby those who voice disagreement – with the king, with the religious establishment and so on – are threatened, demeaned, imprisoned, and in some cases (cf. Matthew 3:34ff’s list) killed.  The deliberate acceptance by dissidents of the coercive elements here can represent what today we would call “conscientious objection”.  One might wish to place this as a separate response (see below), although it must be said that it is rare that such objections do not end in the actual disappearance of the objectors altogether (although, as in some of great modern movements of e.g. popular rights, in India, South Africa, and the United States, that is not always the case – something worth bearing in mind).

iii. The early apostles themselves, in their denunciation of the authorities’ treatment of Jesus, are similarly constrained, imprisoned, and in some cases killed.

It should be stressed that, in the context of these examples, what is at issue are situations where discussion, by definition, will not and even (from the perspective of divine truth and vocation) should not be open-ended:  only one party is in the right, and the other must either repent, as it were, or be silenced, although in all these situations, it is the divine voice that is coerced into a hoped-for reticence, even as its utterance is an entrenched and immovable demand.  But such coercive response to entrenched disagreement is not the only one demonstrated within the Scriptures.

bExit:  just as Hirschman suggested, exit is also a response to constrained voice within the Scriptures.

i.  Gamaliel’s advice in Acts 5:33ff. is a form of suggested exit that is in fact followed up on:  “keep away from these men”, he advises, and “they took his advice”.  This kind of separation, in this case an enforced separation, is repeated several times in the book of Acts, e.g. when Paul walks away from the Jews finally in 18:6:  “your blood be upon your heads!… From now on will go to the Gentiles!”.  In these cases, there is no “room” for an adjustment of commitment in either party, but there is room to leave (unlike the cases above in a.); there are, in other words, choices available, even perhaps invented ones as in the case of Gamaliel.

ii.  Paul and Barnabas choose exit to deal with their “contention” in Acts 15:36ff, and go their separate ways.  (It appears that at least the subject of this contention was later resolved — cf. Col. 10 – although there is no evidence that Paul and Barnabas themselves ever reconciled).  In this case, Barnabas is presumably too tied to his kinsman Mark to give in to Paul, and exit is possible simply because there is a great world wide open for various missionary endeavors that do not require ongoing cooperation.

iii. The Letters of John contain various references to exit within the church:  1 Jn. 2:19;  1 Jn. 10; 3 Jn. 10. That the early Christian church was already a place of fissure and, to that degree, choices – ones permitted or ignored by at least the civil authorities – makes the situation here closer to our own in many ways.

c.  Active disobediencedisobedience may be an alternative to marginalization on the one hand and exit on the other.  The dissident party simply does not comply but it does so out of a certain kind of loyalty to the body to which it is disobedient.  Thus, the dissent and disobedient party also insists upon paying the penalty and it does so to make clear that its disagreement is not a rejection of a more fundamental loyalty.

i.  Many of the prophets followed this path, e.g. Elijah, in his relationship with Ahab.  By and large, however, Elijah’s disobedience included flight and hiding more than the acceptance of the penalty, so the example is not perfect.  Jeremiah represents a more obvious form of disobedience with accepted consequences, although in his case these consequences probably ended in his own demise, and therefore represent a final “marginalization”.

ii.  Jesus is clearly an exemplar of this attitude.  Like Jeremiah, the accepted penalty is death.  More obviously than Jeremiah, however, the final outcome is not only death, but new life, if in a way that is strategically (because metaphysically) decoupled from the disobedience itself:  resurrection is not a logical outcome to conscientious objection!  In any case, Jesus’ exemplar points to (F.c) below, and stands as a decision internal to his own vocation, quite apart from common discernment. He does not need to consult, either with his friends let alone with his opponents. That might not be the case, however, for his followers.

iii.  The Apostles, in Acts 5:27-32, provide a more classic example of disobedience and accepted penalty, “obeying God and not human authority”.  The outcome to this disobedience, however, is not consistent, and (as noted above) in one instance gives rise to a form of “exit”.

F.  The Anglican churches scriptural paths

If we accept that Anglicans are in a situation of entrenched disagreement over the hard question of sexuality – and I have argued that we are – then the examples above can show us what are the matters that Indaba, as it were, might helpfully address.  As I see it, they are the following:

1.  What are the dynamics at work in our disagreement?  Since I am only proposing a personal judgment about what they are, I assume there are views other than mine out there(!), and these need to be discussed so as to “clarify” the disagreement.  Having done this, however, and assuming we all acknowledge the nature of the entrenched disagreement we are in, then we have yet to reach some consensus on a response.  Since I imagine most Christians today agree that coercive marginalization of dissenting voices is not a desirable response, we would need to come to agreement on:

2.  Terms of exit.  This would be a useful consensus to achieve in many current situations in North America especially.   Attempts have been made by the larger Communion (and generally in a rather timid way) to at least facilitate such discussion, but these have failed – largely, perhaps, because a mediation model was used by those who had not really accepted its premises from the start.  In any case, it is also possible that Indaba about terms of exit would be helpful within the Communion at large.  Although this was certainly not my original vision for the Covenant, perhaps one thing that the Covenant “process” is in fact doing, despite itself, is embodying just such a discussion about the “terms of exit” from the Communion.  I imagine, however, that more forthright ways could and should be found.

Finally, one might consider Indaba within entrenched disagreement as engaging a:

3.  Discussion of the terms of “loyalty”.  This is the only really theological point within this argument.  In Christian terms, such a discussion has to do with whether those marginalized will see a greater value to maintaining membership than in holding on to their convictions in an exclusively focused fashion.  Adapting one’s convictions towards an underlying loyalty to the common church can be achieved according to varying models:  all the way from, on national analogies, negotiating regions of autonomy within a larger entity (this is the model, e.g. of “flying bishops” and, to an extent, Communion Partner Dioceses, etc.);  to persistent and well-publicized agitation (one would probably need to fall into that group that finds meaning in struggle in order for this to work); to agreeing to suffer the demise of the material structures upheld by one’s conscience – a form of martyrdom, to be sure, where one “counts everything as loss for the sake of…”, in this case, for the sake of a notion of loyalty to the church, in entrenched disagreement, that somehow embodies the reality of Christ.

One way of describing this last option would be to say that one group – in this case, whichever group feels driven to consider strategies of exit —  determines to continue to be a living example of (1.) above (Acts 2 and 4), as if God would empower its form – gathering, devoting, apostolic centering upon, breaking bread, praying, giving away — even when there is no reciprocal character at work within the whole church;  even when, that is, there is no integral church that could ever sustain actual consensus. To repeat, this is a kind of ecclesial martyrdom.  It may well include a form of disobedience via a vis the authorities in control, as well as including an accepted penalty, giving oneself up to God’s initiating judgment, after the example of Jesus (cf. 1 Peter 2:21-23).  In a sense, we are talking about a kind of voluntary and active embrace of coerced marginalization, such that the coercive reality is itself unhinged and disarmed. This is, paradoxically, still an ”exit”, because it is a choice made without reference to the will of the other party;  indeed, it is made explicitly contrary to the will of the other party, as if living in another world (“.. my Kingdom is not of this world; if it were of this world my servants would fight…”[Jn. 18:36]).  The onlookers seek from him a desperate demonstration of his failure, crying out “he saved others, let him save himself!” (cf. Mt. 27:42));  Pilate asks that he plead for mercy (“do you not know that I have power to release you and power to crucify you?” [Jn. 19:10);  one thief  challenges him, “save yourself, and us!” (Lk. 23:39).  Jesus’ choice, in this one case, is made apart from all other human choices.

A major question here is who should be in discussion about something like (c.)?  Is this an Indaba for both parties to an entrenched disagreement, or only for the one who might decide to be martyred for their loyalty?  I tend to think that, while the decision for such a path is for only one party to make, nonetheless it would be at least interesting to share in a discussion about it with those who have, as it were, remained in the “kingdom of this world” vis a vis the other party.  It would further, in any case, the notion of testimony that the embrace of this option assumes.  From the Indaba perspective, it is probably not necessary.

And finally we should recognize that we will need to deal with another kind of asymmetry here:  discussions within a given local church (e.g. TEC or Canada) represent one kind of asymmetry;  but discussions within the network of churches of the Anglican Communion may well engage an opposite dynamic, for here, arguably, the character of membership, voice, etc. is very different (as mentioned above in D.),  and therefore the roles assumed by the disagreeing parties  – at least as linked to positions on e.g. sexuality – may well be reversed in certain respects.

In sum, the conditions for a consensus-building Indaba are probably not present within Anglicanism on the hard question of sexuality.  For various reasons, disagreement is entrenched, and the constraints on voice are asymmetrical in their force.  Instead, what Indaba may prove useful for is building a consensus around terms of exit or around the character of loyalty that might rightly trump the need for exit.  This last, however, can only base itself on the difficult decision made by the party who is considering such exit, independent of the views and motives of the other.  Personally, it is to this last choice that I would turn my own spiritual and theological attention.

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