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Once More, Clearly and Charitably:
Deimel and Wells on the Issues before Us
by Lionel Deimel and Christopher Wells

I t is now several days before the start of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church—where, we may hope, meeting one another, again or for the first time, the corporate prayer, conversation, laughter, and decision-making of the bishops and deputies will be conducted with both charity and clarity; according to the Lord’s own prayer to the Father: “Sanctify them in the truth; ... so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:17, 26).

And yet, how easy it has been for many of us in the last months and years, the present writers included, to talk past one another when it comes to the difficult matters at hand—not presuming charitably, not conceding points whenever possible for the sake of a common pursuit of truth. The problem here is that we have rarely gone the distance together—even, say, to the point of convincing our interlocutor that he or she has been heard and understood, much less advancing to initial agreement or tentative coöperation.

In the conviction, however, that it is not too late to make good on our Lord’s particular “commandments” (John 13:34, 14:15-17), we have followed up our recent, rather different essays—Deimel’s “Saving Anglicanism” and Wells’ “Wounded in Common Mission”—by committing to read and think carefully about the other’s reflections—according to a standard assignment in three parts:

  1. What can I agree with in the other person’s essay? For instance, what do I recognize in it as truthful or especially useful?

  2. How, briefly, would I restate the central contention in my own previous essay with the point or points of agreement enumerated in (1) in view?

  3. Given (1) and (2), how shall I respond to either (for Deimel) the Anglican Communion Institute’s (ACI) piece on the Special Commission’s resolutions (“What it will take”) in a way that coordinates with my own suggestions for amending the resolutions; or (for Wells) Lionel Deimel’s piece on the Special Commission’s resolutions (“What Should General Convention 2006 Do?”)?

We do not pretend to agree when we come to (2) and (3), though we agree on some points. Our goal, however, has been to state clearly, succinctly, and charitably (avoiding rhetorical inflation) the choices before us; in a way, furthermore, that we hope is interesting and fruitful—putting off (3) till we had exercised the discipline of (1) and (2).

Come and Grow 2006 (General Convention logo)Granted, there is not total parity in the assignment, on several counts. Lionel has written two pieces—an essay and a commentary on the resolutions—whereas Christopher has only written an essay (albeit with some engagement of the resolutions) and is not formally associated with the ACI (though his essay was “published” on their Web site, and he agrees with much of their work). Further, Lionel is not a deputy to Convention, whereas Christopher is; and the latter served on the Special Commission that produced the resolutions in question (included in the Commission’s report, “One Baptism, One Hope in God’s Call”), and will also serve on the legislative committee slated to handle the Commission’s resolutions at Convention. We share, however, a passion for the future of our church and the perduring of our Anglican Communion; and also a passion to try to state once more the issues that are before us, in a way that may be useful for deputies to Convention as they organize, in their minds and hearts, the welter of material that will be coming before them concerning the nature of the church and “communion.”

To read the dialog, click on a link below. These pages are linked to one another, so you can start at any page and work forward or backward. To start at the beginning, click here.

Introduction to the Dialog by Lionel Deimel
Introduction to the Dialog by Christopher Wells
Reflection on “Wounded in Common Mission” by Lionel Deimel
The Spiritual Exercise of “Saving Anglicanism” by Christopher Wells

Rethinking “Saving Anglicanism” by Lionel Deimel
“Communion,” Once More with Feeling by Christopher Wells
Another Look at the Resolutions by Lionel Deimel
Resolutions for What Sort of Communion? or Against Craftiness!
by Christopher Wells

Conclusion by Lionel Deimel
Conclusion by Christopher Wells

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