Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Recent Pastoral Letter from our Bishops and one from Archbishop Akinola.

March 25, 2009

Our House of Bishops met earlier this month at Kanuga and issued a pastoral letter that takes on the greed and consumerism that they believe has driven our financial crisis.

In the midst of their reflection they say the following: “In this season of Lent, God calls us to repentance. We have too often been preoccupied as a Church with internal affairs and a narrow focus that has absorbed both our energy and interest and that of our Communion – to the exclusion of concern for the crisis of suffering both at home and abroad. We have often failed to speak a compelling word of commitment to economic justice. We have often failed to speak truth to power, to name the greed and consumerism that has pervaded our culture, and we have too often allowed the culture to define us instead of being formed by Gospel values.”

All this may be true provided that we do not assume that in addressing the proper place of GLBT people in the life of the church we are either dealing exclusively with ‘internal affairs’ or ‘allowing the culture to define us’.

Our experience at All Saints’ is that addressing this particular controversy head on is what frees us for the kind of proclamation the bishops are seeking.

In that regard I hope that The Episcopal Church will continue to move toward corporate clarity at our General Convention this summer. Those who are unable to be open to the possibility that affirming GLBT people as such could be a legitimate advancement of our understanding of what it means to be human and so inform our faithful reading of scripture will never be satisfied with anything that allows the possibility of affirming gay and lesbian relationships in any way. We have seen this in the way they have acted in recent years, especially in the Diocese of Virginia which could not have tried any harder to be an expression of church that included the fullness of Christian belief and expression (if not practice). The Archbishop of Canterbury for whom I have great respect as a person, poet and theologian continues to follow a path that he hopes will keep everyone together even as some Archbishops refuse to attend the Lord’s Table with others.

Archbishop Akinola of Nige3ria has signed the pastoral letter of his standing committee ( in which he affirms that he is in ‘full communion’ with the Common Cause Partnership otherwise recognizable as those who have chosen to leave the life and ministry of the Episcopal Church. I’m no longer sure what it means to be part of the Anglican Communion in such a world. They seem to believe that communion is dependent on right thinking about matters of doctrine and if that is the case there are plenty of churches which offer such a system,--Rome chief among them. If, on the other hand they desire to be in a communion attempting to be defined by relationship before doctrine rather than the other way around then it seems that they would approach communion with all Christians with the kind of humility that recognizes that we are all being transformed around the Table of the Lord and would happily remain in communion with those with whom they disagree.

I would certainly be willing to go to the Table with the Archbishop even as I would also go to the mat to resist someone who can write: “Same sex marriage… is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this county. It is also capable of existincting (sic) mankind and as such should never be allowed to take root in Nigeria.”

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