I am no biblical scholar; however, I admit to being an expert on falling down, both metaphorically and actually. The concept of the “three-legged stool” always made sense to me because I understand what happens when one rests too much weight on one leg of a chair – boom, crash, another two weeks of watching my bruises darken, then fade into memory.
It is this concept – the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, on which the Anglican Communion (of which the Episcopal Church is part) rests. It appealed to me particularly that I wasn’t required to check my brain at the door and blindly follow, or accept black and white answers in a thoroughly gray world. Reason allows the church to change and adapt as a living, breathing organism, to view Scripture and Tradition afresh as new information is discovered; the three legs together distributes the weight of our faith, knowledge, and humanity, preventing us containing Holy Spirit in a prison constructed from any one of the three.
Leaning heavily on the Tradition leg of the stool, the larger Anglican Communion has chastised The Episcopal Church, put us in the corner and sent us to bed without our supper for the next three years, citing a majority view as any mob does when stones are thrown. And to all of that, now my anger has cooled, I say, fine. Go ahead. Because in my continuing growth into adulthood and maturity, I have learned to make unpopular decisions, to stand alone for what I believe to be right. Every decent parent learns this, that sometimes we risk our child not liking us in order to do the right thing. While I must hope those on the other side of the fence believe they are doing the right thing, I must also ask again: from what part of the Gospels do they take their authority? Because if we’re all following the way of Christ, I remain unable to find the passage where Jesus says, Except for those people over there. They’re icky, and I’m not dying for them.
The Communion has found over the centuries that it is a good and reasonable thing to allow divorced persons to remarry within the church. That it is a good, reasonable, and blessed thing to allow women to be full participants as ordained clergy. Yet it remains intractable on this one point: full inclusion in the life of the church, granting all Rites and blessings upon our LGBT brothers and sisters, despite empirical evidence (reason) telling us that being gay is not a choice; those who are gay are born that way. And for me it follows that if they are so born it must be their God-given destiny requires it be so, and it’s not for me or the Communion to treat any human being, any of God’s children, as less-than.
I am so proud of and thankful for our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, who put into eloquent words what many of us feel, “Many of us have committed ourselves and our church to being ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as the Bible says, when all are truly welcome”.
So sit us in the corner, Anglican Communion. We’ll be sitting here on all three legs of our stool, still loving you, and will be here to help you up when you topple off having rested all your weight on one leg of the stool.
*edited to add this link to Presiding Bishop Curry’s on-point response. What an amazing man!