So let the TEC leaders have the courage of their convictions and say what they actually believe before God and the global Anglican leaders. If they fail to do so, where is the justice in that?I'm in full agreement with Kendall here. Too often, we progressives in ECUSA have been willing to duck behind polity or otherwise obscure our actions. The bishops needs to acknowledge their authority and their responsibility. (I read a great blog posting about this last week, which I can't find just now.)
Yesterday, Kendall wrote this:
Any attempt to put out a mushy statement and then have people go home and do what they have done before will be a disaster. And that has been the pattern again and again. A system that is stuck needs a breakthrough; a radical proposal that actually creates space, movement, and offers real hope for the future to all as well as calling for sacrifice from all. Pray with me for that.Again, I heartily agree. We do need a fresh idea, and Kendall's (widely blogged) proposal is for every ECUSA bishop to absent herself or himself from Lambeth 2008. I think that's a lousy idea, as does the other blogger in these parts, Giles Goddard.
We need clarity now, not obfuscation. In the draft statement our bishops are now mulling over (as reported on BabyBlueOnline) the reader will find this:
No rite of blessing for persons living in same sex unions has been adopted or approved by our General Convention. We wish to make it clear that the House of Bishops has not voted to authorize such liturgies.Well, I suppose in a Pharisaical sense that might be true. But SSB's are happening all over the place, with official sanction of diocesan authorities in a few places. Now I happen to believe that SSB's are completely in line with Christian practice and belief. And I long for the day when we can celebrate these blessed moments publicly as a church. But we're trying to have it both ways here. We're doing them, but we're saying that they're not sanctioned.
As a province, I think we should do one of two things. We should either come out and say what we're doing and why (with strong biblical and theological support), or we should stop doing it. If we take the first option, let's face the consequences, if any. It is neither honest nor helpful to do something and then say we're not doing it. It smacks of the worst kind of American imperialism to tell the primates that we've honored their requests, when we really haven't.
Here's another example. Resolution B033 from General Convention 2006 talks about refraining from the consent of candidates whose "manner of life" is problematic for others. Since we're talking about GLBT people, let's name them. It's hardly honorable to place a burden on a class of people (and on the whole church, I think) without showing the burdened class the simple respect of at least naming them. Why didn't we do that? Because our constitution forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, perhaps. Or maybe because a motion that named LGBT people might not have passed that last-minute effort in Columbus. Either way, we've done something without saying what we've done.
Here's my radical proposal -- as solicited by Kendall Harmon -- for breaking the impasse. (I'm sure it's too late to have an effect in New Orleans, and I'm not sure any bishops other than my own bishop read this corner of cyberspace.)
Let's say what we mean, and let's mean what we say. All of us. Liberal and conservative. American and Nigerian. All of us.
If our bishops have discerned that now is the right time for ECUSA to move ahead with SSB's and GLBT bishops, so be it. Let's say that, go to Lambeth, and face the music. If we say that we're not ready to authorize SSB's, then let us ensure that they are not happening in our churches. Then if some priest (possibly including this one) wants to do them anyway, let's face the consequences.
Our House of Bishops needs to get its act together soon. Bishop Duncan and his ilk should not pretend to be a part of something they obviously no longer support. It's not right to fly to Africa to consecrate invading bishops and then say you're still acting in good faith within ECUSA. Likewise, if Bishop Chane and his ilk don't like what happens in Columbus or New Orleans, they should not issue a "statement of conscience" explaining how they intend to flout the mind of the house. You see, bishops, unlike other orders, have a special vocation to guard the unity of the church. It's not acting with integrity to practice subterfuge, from either right or left.
Now, it will be objected that prophetic witness cannot wait until there is consensus. Of course. I agree completely. Then let these prophets stand up, say what they've done, and let us all say how we'll respond. We should think of what we are called to do more like civil disobedience (if we're departing from the consensus) and less like word-smithing.
I happen to think that if there were more honorable, faithful action on right and left, we'd get through this. It won't make us agree. But it could allow us to see each other as people of faith, trying to serve God in this early pilgrimage.
Hear what I am not saying. I am not saying we should "sell out" our GLBT members any further. I am not saying we should ask conservatives to leave. Just the opposite. I think we can follow what I understand as Christ's invitation to offer blessing to the world, and I think we can provide a home for people of diverse theological views.
Will Peter Akinola change his mind about us? No, but he and his friends are gone already, in spirit if not in fact. The moderate primates and provinces of the Communion would be very likely to have patience toward us if we said what we're up to, and why. We'd be respecting them, and they would almost certainly respect our conscience in return.
It can work, but only when we say what we mean, and mean what we say.
UPDATE: Kendall has written more about our need for clarity here and here.