21 February 2007

More thoughts on the cost of Communion

I've just come back from an Ash Wednesday service at St. Alban's Cathedral here in Dar es Salaam. It was a vivid reminder to me of the value of the Anglican Communion. I could still have attended the service without an Anglican Communion, but it would not be my Communion. And that would be a shame.

I didn't understand a word of the service. It was all in Swahili. But I understand everything important about the service. I understood that we were all there to praise God and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I understood that we are all sinners, especially as I knelt and ashes were placed on my forehead. And, finally, I understood that in the life of Jesus Christ we are redeemed, especially as I knelt and received Christ's Body and Blood.

The structure of the service was high church Anglican, so it was pretty easy to know what was happening. The only part of the service I couldn't comprehend at all, but whatever the preacher said was delivered with gusto. As I was leaving the church, several people greeted me. I was easy to spot. I was the only white person there. People were, as Tanzanians always seem to be, endlessly warm, friendly, and hospitable.

I was be saddened if we lost our special fellowship with our sisters and brothers around the globe. I've been reading some of the reactions to the Primates' Meeting. There has been some criticism of my own initially optimistic reading. Fine. I can handle disagreement, and I even enjoy the conversations it creates.

Here's why I still think this is was a positive outcome for the movement toward an inclusive church. One of the real possibilities was the immediate breakup of the Communion. Another was a rollback of the gains LGBT people have made in ECUSA. A second province to rival ECUSA was possible. All of these have been averted.

Instead, it appears to me (I'm prepared to admit I'm quite wrong!) after a quick reading that our current status quo is preserved. General Convention's actions have been endorsed, and our church has been asked to clarify its position on Rites of Blessing for same-sex couples.

Sure, I would much prefer to have full inclusion immediately. And if we are asked to roll back what we've gained, I think the cost of Communion has become too high. By staying in Communion, we from ECUSA are able to have built-in relationships to strengthen the movement for inclusion around the globe. Priests will still bless same-sex couples, but they will not be able to do this -- much to my dismay -- with officially authorized texts. So I'll Anglicanize another more progressive denomination's prayers or write my own or use Google or...

We have much work to do. Of that I am certain. But I'd rather us be doing it with people from around the world, who look to us for hope and inspiration. If ECUSA is cut off from the Anglican Communion, it will be much harder to witness to people in other nations.

For the first time, the dissidents in the US will be reined in. I don't know exactly what a Primatial Vicar will do, or how that will work, but I'm confident in our Executive Council. They will not approve a scheme that bypasses Bishop Katharine entirely, and our canons would not permit that anyway. Bishop Jack Iker will still need to face the fact that his primate is a woman.

In all this, we'll have some great conversations. The primates of the Anglican Communion will soon learn, I'm sure, from others that we may not approve of their power grab (see the last section of the communique). The House of Bishops in the US will be reminded, I'm sure, that lay people and other clergy have a role in church governance. But we're doing all this work in the Communion.

Bishop Katharine's place is secure is the primate of all those Americans legitimately in communion with Canterbury, and she's even on the primates' standing committee. And that is all good.

Don't get me wrong. I will continue to pray daily for a church that lives the Gospel by welcoming all people fully, with no regard for...anything. This was, in many respects, disappointing to me. I know it especially hurts for my lesbian and gay friends, and I look forward to hearing more from them. I choose to believe that we're headed in the right direction, albeit too slowly. Let us hope that this is true.


Sioux said...

I don't think you realize how many of us there are out here who don't accept Ms. Schori as a priest, let alone a Primate. And we are backing our Bishop 100%.

JP said...

I just wanted to say how moved I was by this posting. I can't quite find the words to say what I mean, so this will probably come out wrong.

The outcome of the Primates Meeting cannot have been what you hoped for, and the general tenor of the post-match commentary in the blogosphere and elsewhere (from "conservatives" and "liberals" alike) has been pretty strident - either triumphalist or resigned, depending on their perspective.

You, however, have managed to remain singularly gracious and optimistic, which is a remarkable achievement in the circumstances. Thank you for reminding me in this Lenten season to put my trust, not in human constructs, but in the God of faith, hope and love.

Merseymike said...

Sorry, your weak compromising is not satisfactory.

Just for once, have a bit of backbone, accept that the Communique is totally unacceptable, and leave the Communion - it is a sick and sorry organisation.

TEC must refuse to sign the communique, and do what they claim to believe - include and support gay and lesbian people. That cannot be done within the context of the communion.

Face that fact. You have to make a choice. You can no longer sit on the fence.

Jim Strader said...

Scott - I too deeply respect & care for our relationships with Anglicans across our shared communion. I have spent time in the Diocese of Litoral, Ecuador during the Lenten Season of 2000 as well as in The Philippine Islands. I know that the relationships we build with one another in these companion experiences act as the foundation for our unity within Christ and within the Anglican Communion.

And ... I believe that, because of the unity we share, because of Christ's reconciliatory action in the Cross and Easter that we should not delay the day of salvation any longer for anyone or any group. We are all baptized members of Christ's body and therefore called to conduct Christ's work in any of the Church's orders of ministry, regardless of our sexual orientations or partnered status.

Paul's "2nd" letter to the Corinthians reminds us that now is the day of our salvation. We should not accept God's Grace in vain and we should, without obstacles, work together with Christ to accomplish our "no-fault" ministries. Paul’s teaching in 2nd Corinthians and elsewhere confirms that no-thing or no-one should deny the sacramental offerings of women, people of color, Gentile, Jew, or bisexual, gay, or straight, to the work of participating in Christ’s salvific work in the world.

I have many questions about where we as Anglicans are headed in mutual and corporate examination this Lenten season. I ponder the extent to which the institutional church is yet, once more, demanding that people who are on the margins of the Church’s community bear the burden for the majority. This principle seems also contradictory to Paul’s teaching. See
Romans 12 and Ephesians 2 . I offer these questions here .

Peace and Blessings in your pilgrimage.

Ann said...

Thanks Scott - hope you are seeing lots of Tanzania while you are there. I appreciate your thoughtful reflections. The big breakthrough was that The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was accepted at the table as THE Presiding Bishop of this Province (sorry sioux - your acceptance or not is beside the point). What a witness to girls watching her process into the Cathedral on Sunday, what a witness to all women around the world who are discerning a call to ordination. I remember my first experience of a priest who was a woman - I cried and cried. I did not even know how deeply alienated I was until then and how much I felt a full member at that point.

Weiwen Ng said...

Scott, thanks, your post reveals a point of view that many people on the liberal blogs have missed - there is value in staying and witnessing.

I should point out, though, that even if we leave or are forced out, we will still be able to witness, to some extent at least, to the rest of the AC. there are a lot of moderates and liberals out there. the Akinola crowd is making the most noise. seven Provinces would definitely break communion with us. who's to say that the rest would follow? and indivdual Bishops in each Province might try to have relationships with us. I hope the name Mdimi Mhogolo rings a bell to people: http://revjph.blogspot.com/2007/01/tanganyikan-letter.html

right now, I'm on the side of doing all we reasonably can to stay. we need to listen first to the LGBT community in our church, though. I would ask them to fast, as ++KJS said, but I would have everyone else fast with them. we also need to be humble, and avoid any actions that would breed ill-will down the road. we need to think long-term. yes, LGBT people in our church have pastoral needs. so do LGBT people currently in, say, Nigeria, and LGBT people still unborn around the world. if we can best serve them by staying in some sort of relationship with the AC, we should endeavor to do so.

that said, if we really face the choice between selling out our own and leaving the Communion, I vote for schism.

by the way, we should prayerfully consider deposing Bishop Iker, as I've stated on my own blog.

Craig Nelson said...

Dar es Salaam offers lots of interesting possbilities to promote the inclusion of LGBT people in the church, not just in the US but all over the world and sometimes there is a need to be inventive in the way we go about the task of affirming that the gospel of God's love is for all and also of affirming the Catholic duty to affirm the God given humanity of all and in particular of LGBT people.

I agree that it's more powerful done *with* others in the Communion and I think it's also good to *try* to do it with Conservatives on board.

I am not sure that mersymike's contribution is that helpful. We can't just not engage the church or not try to take the rest of the Church with us. That means having dialogue and accepting it may take some time for people to accept our way of seeing things. Though I think I am right in saying that Mike has for some time now held the view that the Communion should break up.

I'm against that view. The litigation alone would be very destructive and would harm the whole Church. The Church is on a journey, so let's stay together.

Dennis said...

I just have a feeling that you are looking for light where there might be precious little light.

Our ties with those people you saw at the Ash Wednesday service are ties through Christ, not through the bishops and archbishops and primates. Our unity is in Christ, not the pushy men in robes who believe that they have the answers.

The primates have said clearly that they do not want to see acceptance of gays and lesbians in the church. Rowan has even said that as things stand right now the church can't accept who we are (read the press conference he gave after the communique went out).

We have been given an illegitimate ultimatum by foreign prelates with no authority in this church. In return for giving in we can be guaranteed what, exactly? The right to keep paying the bills for the communion?

And for this gays and lesbians get shoved back to second class status?

No thanks. Pass.

Catherine + said...

I would have to agree with Ann+, Sioux. Even though we may not agree on a lot of things, at the heart of it all we are Christians bound by our baptismal covenant. Therefore, I may never understand your point of view, but, all the same, I love you as my sister in Christ.