By the Rev. Deacon Ed Jones
“So what’s the ‘center’ in Center Aisle?”
That question was posed to me recently during an adult forum at a church in our Diocese. It was not wholly unexpected, since I’ve had the pleasure of serving as editor of Center Aisle, an opinion journal published by the Diocese of Virginia, through five General Conventions – with a sixth on the way this month.
While I was formulating an answer, a follow-up was launched: “And how quickly is the ‘center’ moving?”
My mind was spinning through the different layers of these questions. They are, at heart, theological. But, depending on who’s asking them, they also may suggest “political” considerations. And let’s not even go to the geometric aspects of trying to track a “center.” Geometry was never my strong suit.
So here’s where I came out.
The “center” is NOT moving, even though many would argue that our Church has shifted “left” in recent years. In fact, the “center” is what it always has been, which has nothing to do with politics or geometry.
So what gives?
From its birth in the months leading up to the General Convention of 2000 through today, Center Aisle has never been an effort to find some moderate, mushy compromise that will please those pulling from the left and the right. It’s not the midpoint of a line between two extremes.
Our “center” is the core of a circle – the foundational truths that unite all of us at the foot of the cross. The issues that General Convention faces in 2015 may be less divisive, less left-vs.-right, than the issues of the past 15 years. But the core of our Christian beliefs hasn’t changed. To put it simply, there is more that unites us than divides us. It’s not about agreeing on everything. It’s about learning how to disagree better.
These values may sound abstract, but they are grounded in concepts of community that impact our daily lives. I’m talking about the communities of our parish, our diocese, our national church, our Anglican Communion, and all of God’s creation. Successful communities depend on finding ways to disagree without division.
Take a look at some of the key issues facing this year’s General Convention and you’ll see the thread of community that runs through them:
- The election of a new presiding bishop.
- The next step in the continuing conversation about marriage equality.
- The TREC proposals to “re-imagine” the Church.
All three of these issues call on us to draw from the principles of successful communities – to witness to our call to love one another by drawing on the foundational strengths that unite us.
Who can provide the leadership as presiding bishop to be a prophet for change and also an upholder of our rich traditions? How can we be more inclusive in our approaches to the unions of loved ones, while strengthening the bonds of “traditional marriage”? What are the new community models for General Convention that make practical sense, while enhancing the spirituality of that triennial experience?
You can just feel the Anglican balance, can’t you?
These are not issues of the left, right and center. They are issues that draw from the core – the same core that was there at Center Aisle’s creation in the year 2000, the same core that was there 2,000 years ago.
That’s the “center” in Center Aisle.