25 September 2007

Clarity, please -- and my own "radical solution"

Not too long before the House of Bishops began to meet, Kendall Harmon made this plea:
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.


heartafire said...

You write, re: SSB:
"Then if some priest (possibly including this one) wants to do them anyway, let's face the consequences."

What the heck does "possibly even this one" mean?

Where is the clarity in that?

I am still laughing over your title about "clarity" and "radical solutions"

"Hey everyone! Get on board. And....guess what? I might even be on board too.....Ya never know."

AKMA said...

Amen, Scott.

(Though my appreciation of Pharisaic theology prevents my using the term in a pejorative sense, as you do here.)

Verite said...

Let's not forget TEC's institutional self interest in the decision to (once again) 'fudge' ... their legal cases against dissenters would be significantly damaged if they prophetically departed the Communion ... shameful yes, but entirely in character ...

Ryan said...

Scott, I personally think this is the latest ploy from conservatives. Now that the bishops have found unity and are moving together (albeit slowly) they are panicking since this means they won't be able to move off with the property after throwing TEC out. Besides, the HOB couldn't go against GC - save up this energy for 2009. Let's get there together and then do the right thing then. Don't let the radical conservatives break us up too much before then.

Verite said...

To RYAN, with respect ... This is not about the bishops' unity or even TEC's unity. It's about the Body of Christ's witness to the fact that "a new way of being human has been launched upon the world" (NT Wright). Letting 'dissenters' depart in peace with "their" property proclaims to a watching world that the unity and witness of the global transhistorical ('catholic' if you will) Body of Christ trumps EVERY local or denominational interest. To scandalously sue 'dissenters' over property sends the not-so-subtle message that they are no longer deemed fully a part of that glorious Body.

Ryan said...

verite, repectfully, thanks for proving my point. As to the rest, no one is covered in glory when the property issues come up. Personally I am ready to burn anything in dispute to the ground so that neither side can have it. Better yet, turn them all into homeless shelters and soup kitchens, exclusively. Both sides can go start fresh. Want to join me in that sentiment?

Verite said...

Reply to Ryan (with esteem) ... And your point was? (seriously!) YES, if it turns the cynical eye of the world to our Truth, our Way and our Life, burn it all down. But better yet, get the world's attention by following Jesus and giving up our life (TEC property) to gain it.

Ryan said...

verite, my point was that I view this current call for clarity as a way for conservatives to further the split in the church. Cynically (I admit) I think it boils down to property since not much else should be tying such people to TEC these days. Go be under Martyn or whoever else, oh wait, except the you can't take the property easily. So...what was it you wanted from us again?

Verite said...

Ryan ... I asked for bread and you give me a stone ... peace be with you, brother ...

Troy said...

The bishop's statement is so unfortunate, because it is not true. What kind of church is this that cannot say it does what it does?

Ryan, I agree with Verite..you gave him a stone. Those who believe the faith in its historic truths have found their national church has left that foundation. When the majority of a congregation feels the church has left them, what is wrong with letting them go their own way? The facility is more than money, it is where they meet, pray, share the Gospel and life events like baptisms and weddings. Forcing them to leave that because TEC has moved on to a new Gospel is lacking in any Grace.

I reside in a strong cathedral, among the largest left in TEC. A huge majority of our parishoners do not feel TEC is on a godly path, and have asked that their pledges be restricted from TEC. TECs teaching do not ring true to the Gospel for them, and many feel God wants them to support ministies true to his Word.

I will walk before I litigate for the property. But would it not be more grace filled for the diocese to allow the congregation to simply separate from TEC and TEC teachings that no longer are consistent with the faith?

Ryan said...

verite, peace means not having stones thrown at you. Will you join me in denouncing people that physically harm people because they are homosexual? Truly I wish that peace upon everyone. I still don't understand this fixation upon property. So are you saying you personally want to give up the property? I applaud that response, as I applaud Bishop Jeffrey Steenson for his honesty and his respect for the vows he made. Troy, what did TEC ever do to you? Did they force you to have a homosexual or female minister? Did they tell you that you can no longer be a minister or bishop? That you can no longer receive communion because of your disagreements with them? What about those in your church that want to stay in the Episcopal Church? What about their claim to the history of the church?

Verite said...

Ryan (with brotherly affection) ... I absolutely join with you in condemning violence against homosexuals or any of God's precious children. However our only ultimate hope in protecting victims is to follow the life and world changing Way of the crucified Victim, whose death set in motion the ultimate defeat of all human violence. TEC has begun to erode the utterly unique saving Purpose of the Crucified One in ways that the church universal has considered dangerous for twenty centuries. (For example, the PB has publicly stated that Jesus is just one of many ways to salvation.) THAT is what Troy means when by a 'new gospel.' That is, TEC has moved away from the dissenters, not vice versa.

We all agree the property means nothing in itself. (I loved your homeless shelter compromise!) It's the punitive nature of the lawsuits that's a betrayal of fellowship and our witness to a world all too glad to see us fail to love one another. I'm arguing here for a wider view of the Church's mission than just TEC's prophetic agenda. (Why not drop the lawsuits AND pursue justice for victims?)

In sum Ryan, as followers of the Risen One, we're all part of something MUCH bigger than TEC, peace be upon her.