When SSP answers the question: “How do we behave?” we come up with our three core values. We behave in ways that are rooted in Scripture and tradition, post-partisan, and oriented to wise action.
We want to behave in ways that are Post-Partisan, but what does that mean? SSP is not meant to represent a party in the Church’s life. We are not a special interest group. We want to work to welcome theology home now and in the future, which means that we have work to do that goes beyond the special interests of any one General Convention or Synod. SSP hosts people from all different parts of our churches. There are, of course, limits to that acceptance, but they are self-selecting limits that will be set by the attitude, orientation, and practice of our first value, not by party politics of the day.
The point is this: we will happily work with people who do not share all of our opinions. We are going to seek out and forge partnerships between evangelicals, catholics, and progressives. We’re not going to rush to find fault or point blame. We will probably never issue a report on General Convention or weigh in on the issue of the day, important as those things might be. We’re not going to take sides where reasonable people reading Scripture and tradition together can disagree.
Even though SSP’s Rule of Life is still in formation, I hope that part of it will be the Beer Principle, which goes something like this: whenever a member of the Society of Scholar-Priests disagrees with someone on the floor of a synod, they must buy that person a beer. Or a gin and tonic. Or anything, really. The point is that public disagreement, while necessary, represents a break in community. Members of the SSP will see it as their duty to make amends – preferably over a pint.
There are obvious problems with a value like this, though. It’s squishy. The attempted even-handedness of post-partisanship can lead to either avoiding conversation or seeking too-easy agreement. When taken too far, it can lead to isolationism on the one hand (just becoming another party of post-partisans) or dithering on the other (when we don’t want to either make a decision or don’t believe that there is a center upon which a decision might be based). This leads us to our final value of being oriented to wise action, which we will discuss next week.