Well, today we commemorate Augustine of Canterbury.  And I have to admit, I don’t normally think of him when I think of the Anglican via media.  But, at Gregory’s direction, rather than adhering strictly to the Roman rite, he made at least some allowance for Celtic practices that were ongoing when he arrived.  And, as our first Archbishop of Canterbury, that had to help set a tone.

Usually, in my mind, I think of Elizabeth and the Elizabethan Settlement as setting the tone for the Anglican via media.  After years of moving back and forth between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism (seemingly with every change in government), she determined that the Church of England would have room for both catholics and protestants in it.  The church in England would worship from a book of common (or shared, public) prayer.  Certain basics of the faith were expected.  But no one would inquire about how you believed what you believed, so long as you believed it in good faith.

In reading his commentary on Augustine’s life this morning, Sam Portaro that the waters were safer and easier to navigate when you allowed yourself to choose one of the sides in a controversy.  But using the periscope of Peter (and the others) in their miraculous catch (in the deep waters) at Jesus’ command, he commented that fishing in God’s unknown deeps allows God to provide the catch.  And I found myself thinking about Peter as a precursor of the via media again.

That was a new thought to me this year.  I always think of Peter jumping in brashly and leading the way.  And that does seem to be his temperament.  But in the big church fight over whether or not one needed to be circumcised and eat kosher food to be a Christian (which I read earlier this month lasted over 150 years in the early church), Peter seems to have been in the middle, taking it from Paul and James and their followers on either side.

I guess I’ve always thought that when people hold strong, opposing beliefs in good faith, there are reasons, usually good reasons, on both sides for their beliefs.  And maybe each one has some small part of God’s truth.  And if so, then more of God’s truth might be able to emerge from the creative tension between the viewpoints.  Assuming, always, that we are able to treat and hear each other with respect.  So a church that can make room for members who hold conflicting beliefs, without feeling a need to choose an official, correct side in controversy, seems very healthy to me.

Which doesn’t, of course, mean that I don’t have opinions.  I have strong opinions, and I like to express them.  It simply means that I don’t think I have a private line to all of God’s truth.  And it means I want to, and need to, listen to others, who hold differing opinions, as though they might have something to tell me that comes from God.  I have to hear them as brothers and sisters in Christ, for whom Jesus gave his life, because of his great love for them.

And I have to admit, I have a real problem when I am not extended the same hearing and respect myself.

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