[ACNS source: Episcopal Divinity School] Episcopal Divinity School announces the inauguration of a major new ministry for reconciliation within the church, “Good News: A Congregational Resource for Reconciliation.” In the aftermath of controversy and confusion following the decision of the General Convention to endorse the election of the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, the seminary has responded with a program designed to bring people on “both sides of the argument” together in mutual respect with a shared hope for healing and peace.
“Good News” is a model for small group conversation within any parish built on the gospel of Jesus Christ. The content for the dialogues comes from the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The process is simple and accessible. Guided by a covenant which honors persons of all opinions, “Good News” seeks to fulfil three goals: (a) to promote a fair and respectful dialogue among persons who hold different opinions, (b) to offer a context of reflection on the shared values of the gospel, and (c) to encourage a process of reconciliation within the life of the community.
Participants receive a booklet written by EDS’s President and Dean, the Rt Revd Steven Charleston, which guides them through a prayer-centered experience in how Christians can (and indeed must) stay together even when the differences between them seem irreconcilable. These booklets can be purchased from the seminary and then reproduced by the parish making the “Good News” ministry affordable for any congregation.
As Bishop Charleston writes in the introduction, “Good News” is not about trying to resolve the debates on human sexuality, but about helping the Christian community find reconciliation. “At the end of that path,” he writes, “people may still disagree, but they will have found the peace of Christ which is at the heart of community…. To use Good News, no one is asked to give up his or her own opinions. They are only asked to enter into a shared journey with others to search for reconciliation…they are asked to take the path to peace, even if it means only taking a few steps at a time.”
Those steps are built on the three central visions of the seminary’s own mission: Justice, Compassion, and Reconciliation. “Good News” walks participants through these three viewpoints on the gospel, shifting the focus away from the usual repetitive cycle of arguments on fixed positions and placing it on the call to discipleship every Christian hears when Jesus says “come, follow me”. “Good News” helps communities discover that they can find reconciliation without resolving all of their disagreements. Parishes can experience compassion rather than conflict. They can embrace the peace of Christ, calming fear with the forgiveness of Jesus.
While “Good News” may be especially timely and supportive for communities struggling with the issues surrounding the last general Convention, it is equally helpful for any congregational conflict. It is a flexible model that can be carried out over a one day retreat, or, divided into separate sessions over three days. It is intentionally created to be an adaptable, welcoming, and yet challenging resource for any congregation to use in its own ministry of healing and Christian education.
“In a time when people were being called to take sides," said Bishop Charleston, “EDS decided to stand with Christ in the crossfire. Our mission is one of reconciliation and that is what the church needs now more than partisan politics.”
For further information, please contact:
99 Brattle Street