Unanswerable questions

Jun 2nd, 2008 | By | Category: Church of Ireland Comment

The Canadian Anglican Journal for June went online yesterday; it confirmed news already widely known, that the Anglican Church in Canada was beginning to fragment over the issue of the blessing of same sex marriages.

The outcome was inevitable, the two sides could not hold their positions with integrity and remain within the one church. To have asked the churches that have left to remain would have been to ask them to contradict the arguments they had forcibly made.

The no man’s land of an Irish bank holiday Monday gave space to ponder the gradual disintegration of the Anglican Church.

The day is a no man’s land because while it is Monday, it has no feeling of being a holiday. Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations begin on Wednesday which meant a school run this morning to enable supervised study for the day. The maxim is repeated on the car journey; answer first the questions that can be answered, don’t lose time on questions for which you have no answer.

Perhaps there are some questions that cannot be given answers, such as how one can reconcile irreconcilable positions.

The most famous quote from Gertrude Stein, who would have been very clear where she stood on the Canadian Anglican debate, suggests there is a pointlessness in seeking answers that everyone knows are not there,

There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.

While probably not the best advice to students two days before the examination season, Stein’s logic maybe has something to say to Anglican leaders. There is no answer as to how one can hold together those who believe that gay and lesbian lifestyles to be sinful and those who believe them acceptable; there was certainly no answer in the past, and there is no prospect of an answer in the future. Maybe the fact there is no answer is the answer.

Like the examination students who will sit down on Wednesday, maybe our bishops would be best advised to address the questions that can be answered, rather than attempting to answer a question we all know can have no answer that does not divide Anglicans. Why does someone not simply stand up and say that the debate is going nowhere, that we can avoid the question and have one church, or answer the question and respectfully go our separate ways?

It is a blessing not to have to contemplate such questions; being honest, no-one’s much interested. The questions here are all about the parish fete. Now there’s a chance to score some good marks.

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