Chris Sugden, writing for Anglican Mainstream, wrote on the first day of the Faith in Conflict program at St. Michael’s House at Coventry Cathedral. The three day conference is billed to be seeking better ways to handle conflict in the Church.
William Marsh led a discussion between The Rev. Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro Church that aligned itself with ACNA, and The Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, Bishop of Virginia. This is the end of Sugden’s notes on the interview:
WM: What is the price you have chosen to pay?
TB So many of our sisters and brothers around the world have truly suffered for the faith. My experience has been most intense. I have to say that it has not been worth it so far. But I am living in hope. I have a deep confidence that God has called us. I am looking to see what God is going is to do. I come from a place where Jazz is the music. In Jazz there is no such thing as a bad note but there are no bad resolutions.
SJ We have come to know each other. There is an incredible role of leadership in spirituality. Some of Elizabeth’s (Mrs Baucum) comments been very influential.
WM: What are the challenges to being leaders in this context.
SJ How could I have a relationship with a church that had pulled out of the diocese? They sense less than a steady hand on the wheel. I have received more affirmation than criticism. Agreement is overrated. It has been very rewarding, Many people have come out of the shadows. Though it was right that the diocese should retain the property, they felt that the way we had been going through this divide has not felt right. The way in which this was unfolding did not work for me. Something between Tory and myself enabled them to come to a better space.
Q You both seem to be kind and generous and nice people. How might it be possible to repeat the interaction you have had you have had among people who are not that nice?
TB The quality of friendship is a common heart. Can this be replicated? What can be replicated is desire not to live in fear. They are a son and daughter of God. The other issues are not defining realities. If you start there and reach out there is no telling what might happen. There are some principles we can learn – things we are not doing. In living into this conflict we are living into the mystery of Christ. It is not a problem to get around so that we can get on and do the real gospel thing.
SJ How much of what we share is based on our individual temperaments? The substance is allowed for by our temperaments. The methodology can be adapted to any sort of temperament. Reconciliation is the gospel. It is a commitment to be who you are, if the other person can feel the authenticity.
Q. Can you see the change cascading down?
TB At Truro we have more seekers in the Alpha Course.
SJ Other voices have got involved other than the lawyers. I want to cleanse the wound. God is involved in this so I trust that God has all of this going on at the same time. I do believe that the Holy Spirit has all of this going on at the same time.
WM Do you not think Shannon should repent?
TB Yes. How does one repent? The kindness of God leads to repentance not the wrath of man. My tribe have been wrong about a lot of things. The Episcopal Church stood up for civil rights in Mississipi, not the Evangelical Protestants. My history causes me to be humble. I want to hear how he has come to this place. This is not just about two individuals. We are pastors of a church. It is about how we disagree and make decisions about differences. This is different from two individuals who have a disagreement.
SJ The church is always going to have disagreements. We have not handled this disagreement well. We have made it more destructive than it needed to be.