May 9, 2009
Retired Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey was a keynote speaker at a recent gathering of conservatives who say they want to be loyal to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. (See “Archbishop Carey Says TEC Likely to ‘Clean Out Conservatives” in The Living Church May 10, 2009, p.6f) He is quoted as saying two things of interest. First, he asks the instruments of communion: What should be done about those provinces which have dissented from the mind of the majority of the Communion? Can there be no hope of discipline apart from mild reproof?” It seems to me that this reveals a punitive desire, possibly with the intent of enforcing a kind of uniformity in the Communion and I wonder if that reveals either the Spirit of Christ or a firm grasp on much of the ecumenical movement in recent decades who have moved away from a vision of institutional uniformity as the basis of unity.
Second he says of the General Convention to meet this summer: “If the General Convention pursues its liberal agenda in authorizing same-sex liturgies and the ordination of homosexual and lesbian bishops and priests, this will confirm the worst fears of many that TEC considers that agenda far more important than the unity of our Communion.” Leaving aside the moral question as to whether it is helpful for a retired Archbishop to characterize the actions of his opponents as ‘a liberal agenda’, I think it is worth noting that many in the Episcopal Church, though clearly not all, do not see the full inclusion of GLBT Christians in the life of the Church as a matter of having a liberal agenda. It is rather a recognition of the full humanity of GLBT Christians and therefore, (after more than thirty years of conversation and education), the necessity as a matter of fidelity to the gospel that all the sacramental rites of the church should be open to all of the baptized. Clearly there are many who for whatever reason prefer and choose to see GLBT Christians as ‘perverted heterosexuals’ and therefore sinners who need to repent. At this point they are a minority in TEC and appear unwilling to take seriously where the conversation of many years has led.
For me, this is no longer a theoretical o theological discussion but a discussion that forgets to take seriously my friends. Why are our leaders no t looking for a solution that is true to Anglican Heritage that has managed to shift our cosmology and anthropology (admittedly with difficulty) many times over the past few centuries? (Does anyone remember Essays and Reviews?) These days, at least in the American context, whenever I hear someone saying they are ‘traditionalist’ I hear them saying that they do not approve of the inclusion of gay and lesbian christens in the life of the church. I believe that traditional Anglicanism has made room for Christians who take seriously such things as the insights and effects of Galileo and Darwin, Einstein and the new physics, and sociological/psychological research and practice in any number of areas of our common life.
I hope that General Convention thinks first about the human effect on many of our members of continuing to tell them that they are ‘not quite really OK in the eyes of their church’ and declines to continue to be willing to sacrifice them on the altar of an idolatrous vision of unity as uniformity of thought and action. Unity is to be found in our common transformation into the image of Christ around the Table of the Lord open to all the baptized (and perhaps even to those desirous of baptism) and our growth towards the creeds.