Pentecost is the feast day when the church celebrates the releasing of the Holy Spirit. This year, Pentecost was an occasion for the Archbishop of Canterbury to release a letter -- which prompted the releasing of a post-Pentecost letter from our Presiding Bishop.
The missives from these two Primates have prompted me to ponder about the Holy Spirit. We sing and pray about the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit holds down one side of a holy triangle called the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is foundational to who we are as Christians.
The Archbishop and the Presiding Bishop have written eloquently about what the Holy Spirit is and how it speaks. About ten years ago, in a guided mediation on the Holy Spirit, I had a quiet -- but powerful experience, as to what the Holy Spirit does.
It brings people together.
Out of difference and distraction, the Holy Spirit brings people together. The Spirit does not bring us into agreement -- or make us the same, or into a condition where we can even say we like each other. The Spirit brings us beyond our disagreements and beneath our differences -- to a place where we can have the experience of being brothers and sisters in a divinely created and nurtured humanity. I don't know how that happens, but I am very grateful that it does. I have seen it, and felt it -- and been transformed by it. And I trust it.
I trust that the Spirit can bring people together to be able see the presence of God in each other's faces -- no matter how different the face; no matter that prejudice or projection may have scrambled one's view. I trust that the Spirit has the divine capacity to bring hearts together -- no matter that hearts have turned to stone or have been broken -- or are just absent from the place we normally find them.
So when there is a recommendation that members of the Anglican community not participate in conversations and consultations of that same community, I understand the politics of that recommendation (even though I don't agree with them), but the recommendation seems to undercut the opportunity for the Spirit to bring people together. The recommendation doesn't defeat the Spirit -- because I don't believe the Holy Spirit can ever be defeated, but it certainly seems to give the Spirit an unnecessary challenge.
I have had times -- we all have had times, when being at the table with a certain person or a particular group has not been a good idea. Times when everyone involved needed a cooling off period so that souls might have a chance to have their equilibrium restored after an incident which has released toxic amounts of anger and fear. "Time out" times when the Holy Spirit is in strategy mode, preparing for a more opportune moment to bring people together.
That is not what is being asked for here. The Archbishop's recommendation is being presented as a consequence, if not a punishment, for actions taken, which -- our Presiding Bishop has graciously and clearly written, are the result of 50 years of discerning the work of the Spirit bringing us closer together on the issue of human sexuality. We are not in agreement as a Communion. Nor are we yet together as a church. But the genius of our Anglican tradition is that we have a nearly 500 year history of living in the midst of tension and disagreement -- trusting that that Spirit will at least hold us -- and at best, bring us together.
We need to give it that chance.