Pragmatism or Principle?

Recently there has been much discussion about the decision not to invite the spouses of gay bishops to the Lambeth conference – I think there is a reasonably fair post from a more conservative perspective here.

A lot of this has focused on the apparent inconsistency of inviting the bishops, but not their spouses, and the majority of views that I have seen have either expressed the view that if you are inviting the bishops you should invite the spouses as if it is wrong to invite the spouses it is wrong to invite the bishops, or that if you aren’t inviting the spouses you shouldn’t invite the bishops for a similar reason.  Both then rail against the decision because it is placing pragmatism above principle (the Archbishop of Canterbury apparently having told one of these bishops that if their spouse were invited there would be no Lambeth conference).

What I wish to look at in this blog post is the assumption that Christianity is about holding a principled position on this issue or that.  The two great commandments:

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40

and numerous other quotes suggest that the most important thing about Christianity is love; love for God, love for neighbour, love for enemy.

If instead of assuming that we have to hold onto a principled position – and that our principle is more important than someone else, whose principled position leads them to the opposite conclusion, both then requiring those in authority to decide who is right – we assume that we have to love one another where does that lead us?

I have long thought that the 10 commandments, or the 613 laws of the Torah, are far easier to keep (ho ho) than the two great commandments because they are so black and white, and allow for little need of interpretation; whereas the two great commandments can leave lots of scope for ambiguity, and debate as to who has got it right.

I for one would have more sympathy for the decision if I thought that it came from the wrestling with the two Great Commandments, than if I thought it was a purely pragmatic attempt to get as many bishops to Lambeth as possible – even if the answer were the same!

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