Sunday, July 19, 2009

General Convention is Over

July 19, 2009

General Convention is over and while much good work was done on things like health insurance and the calendar of people we remember in worship, the work that has rightly garnered attention was one statement of ‘who we are’ which makes clear that in principle the episcopacy is open to GLBT people as to anyone else should they be elected. A second acknowledges the variety of liturgical practices that celebrate and bless same sex unions asking that these resources be collected and presented to the next Convention for response. In both matters the Convention went out of its way to affirm our desire to remain a constituent part of the Anglican Communion. Whether that will be possible remains to be seen.

We have viewed the Windsor Report as an important, even defining, part of the Communion’s ongoing conversation about matters of sexuality. Others in the Communion, notably the Bishop of Durham, have seen it as the rules by which we can continue to be in the conversation at all. ‘Stop making any progress on the affirmation of gays and lesbians or be gone with you.’ What strikes me as I read the posturing that is attempting to spin the meaning of these resolutions is that conservatives and liberals on the matter of sexuality are continuing to talk past each other, often in shrill ways. According to some we have ‘renounced the Bible and the entire Tradition of the Christian Faith’ and to others have ‘struck a blow for justice and full inclusion of a persecuted minority’. It is wearying and tiresome to keep at this. I have some instinct which I keep in check for the most part, that schism would not be so bad and then we could begin planting Episcopal Churches in England and elsewhere. The instinct that usually wins out however is the one that says there must be a way for people of goodwill to stay together in difference on this issue.

What I notice is that the ‘liberal’ argument is dependent on recognizing that GLBT people are made and formed as such and that ’orientation’ is bound up with fundamental identity, neither chosen nor in most instances, subject to change. As such we are talking about something fundamentally new, --as new as when the solar system was first described to people who believed the sun revolved around the earth. This position is usually (or so it seems to me) dismissed in favor of something like ‘we’ve always known about sexual proclivities and been counter cultural in saying that they are not in accord with God’s intentions for humanity’ or ‘It doesn’t matter what you claim about this ‘new’ thing. The Bible is clear that sex is reserved to one man and one woman in lifelong committed relationship.’ Neither statement acknowledges the seriousness of the claim which is at the root of the actions of TEC in the past two weeks.

There are all sorts of things that could be said while holding on to a conservative position. (“While there is much anecdotal evidence of this business of ‘orientation’ science still has not found a physical component that would make it a similar marker of identity to race or gender and therefore we should hold with Tradition for now.”) Such statements would have the merit of letting people like me know that we have been heard and that we are dealing with disagreement rather than rank fear of the new and prejudice against GLBT people which is how it seems at the moment.

I expect that the movement in England to recognize ACNA will continue to gather steam and that the effect of such a move would be further ‘impairment’ of relationship. Will that be the point at which we ‘pull stumps’ (an expression which marks the end of a cricket match) and start planting churches in England? So much of the spin at the moment is designed to say ‘we are not the ones causing schism but you are’. As long as that is the game we will not exactly be kicked out. Thus far we have avoided allowing those who would redefine the rules of communion (Windsor as rule book) to force us out of the family, and so we are not exactly going to leave. For me the point of departure would be anything that has the effect of amending the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral by a new clause or a footnote to the one on Scripture, making clear that in any scheme of unity you must believe that sees between people of the same gender as each other is immoral and against the Bible. When that becomes a defining matter for being ‘in communion’ (as it is for ACNA), then I’m out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bishop Wright and TEC

July 15, 2009

Bishop N. T. Wright of Durham in England has published a column in today’s Times which is worth reading as the highest and best concise expression of a genuinely Christian and conservative position on homosexuality.

He, along with most of the press that I have seen assumes that resolution D025 does something new and explicitly ends our willingness to accede to a ‘moratorium’ on the consecration of gay or lesbian bishops, when in fact it is a positive and descriptive statement of the current position of The Episcopal Church. (This is certainly a contrast to the controversial resolution B033 which was pushed through in the last hours of the 2006 convention as a compromise resolution.) Bishop Wright articulates his point of view on inter Anglican relationships in light of his reading of scripture. At the same time he makes use of less than honest polemic to push his agenda. He believes that his point of view ought to be the only point of view held, or rather acted upon, in the Anglican Communion. He says that TEC acted in a way “formalizing the schism they initiated six years ago” and suggests that we are “rewriting the rules” in an act of “cynical double-think”. Doubtless this is good stuff in a newspaper, and on the political stump, but is true neither to the recent history of the communion, nor to The Episcopal Church.

The Story Thus Far

Six years ago, when General Convention voted to confirm the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire, a divorced and partnered gay man, elected by his diocese on the second ballot, they did so in accordance with the constitution and canons of this church which have been consistently misunderstood by others in the communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury is reported as saying during his visit to this convention that some bishops in the wider communion prefer to hear from other bishops. In the same conversation he lamented the time it can take for The Episcopal Church to arrive at decisions on our common life. We have heard Jenny Te Paa of New Zealand and a member of the Lambeth Commission regret that members of that commission which produced the Windsor Report did not understand the polity of TEC. It was the Windsor Report, a mostly good and substantial piece of work, which sought to change the rules or understanding of communion by seeking ways to rein in the Episcopal Church from continuing in the direction that we were clearly heading in affirming the full humanity of our gay and lesbian members and welcoming their full participation in the full life of the church. This was one more step in a conversation including more than thirty years of listening process, debate and discussion. The Windsor Report slowed things down and allowed for more discussion on a number of subjects that threatened happy relationship between provinces in the communion. It sought to address two main issues: the affirmation of homosexual people and the innovation of bishops ‘crossing borders’ without observing the normal protocols. The effect has been rather like seeking to close the barn door after the horse has left or seeking to put toothpaste back in a tube. The Windsor Report has in many ways served to shape the conversation ever since. It has provided a basis for Archbishop Williams and Bishop Wright along with many others to put their hope for the future of the communion in establishing a covenant. Critical to the effectiveness of that covenant for unity, they believe and argue, is some kind of juridical aspect or mechanism for discernment. This would be intended to ensure that no province could act in ways that are challenging or difficult for a majority of others to conceive as good. Moral authority is generally conceded when one or other party in a contentious relationship starts either resorting to quoting, or in this case changing the rules.

The Interpretation of Scripture

Bishop Wright, along with many others believes that TEC’s affirmation of homosexual people is deeply flawed and contrary to scripture. It is on the basis of that decision that he wants to ensure that Anglicans who reach a different conclusion about scripture be prohibited from acting on their conclusions. It is the belief that any affirmation of homosexual relationships are prohibited by scripture which conservatives on this issue use to justify their decision to separate from their church as a group (is that not schism?) rather than accept that within TEC they are in a minority. It is that same belief that apparently justifies heated rhetoric in that cause of ensuring that there is no place for the affirmation of GLBT people within Anglicanism, rhetoric which the Bishop of Durham is quick to challenge in others (such as he does with the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans newly instituted in England).

The Proper Context for Sex

So let’s look at his concise expression of those beliefs. First Wright argues for the tradition (shared by many Jewish, Christina and Muslim teachers) that "lifelong man-plus-woman marriage is the proper context for sexual intercourse”. This he believes to be “a deep structural reflection on the belief in a creator God who has entered into covenant both with his creation and with his people (who carry forward his purpose for that creation).” If I understand this correctly, he is making the argument that marriage is and must be bound up with procreation and implies that marriage and sex within marriage cannot be otherwise as a ‘deep structural matter’. TEC along with many other Anglican provinces includes procreation as a purpose of matrimony but not in an exclusive or proscriptive way, allowing for fecundity, generativity and procreativity to be expressed in ways other than, and in addition to giving birth to children.


Bishop Wright is clear that this is not a ‘private response to Scripture’ but of “the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.” He does not allow (in this article) for any possibility that the presumptions and preconditions for such a tradition could change, and appears to believe that the context of our conversations about human sexuality are the same as have been down the ages, especially over against paganism. Christian Tradition has, for the most part, navigated changes in biblical cosmology as we have, not without considerable difficulty, acknowledged that the earth revolves around the sun. We have navigated significant shifts in biblical anthropology, moving beyond biblical assumptions that slavery is ‘normative’ or that women are chattel. It is possible that we are now making another change in our anthropological assumptions about GLBT people, and that change is well under way for TEC

Justice and Identity

The bishop wants justice in the sense of “treating people appropriately, which involves making distinctions between different people and situations.” He appears to see the request for justice on the part of some who support the full humanity of GLBT persons as such as a request for a “right to give active expression to any and every sexual desire.” This is neither the intent, nor a conclusion that must be necessarily drawn from discussions of justice in this matter. The underlying problem in the conversation seems to be how we evaluate and understand ‘identity’ which the Bishop goes on to address, essentially dismissing claims that sexual identity as gay or lesbian is comparable to ‘male or female, English or African, rich or poor’ as a modern and recent innovation. He also points out that much postmodern reflection has turned away from identity as a useful category as such, understanding instead that “we ‘construct’ ourselves from day to day”.

This last point gets us to what I understand to be the heart of the matter. Bishop Wright and many thoughtful conservatives on this issue simply do not want to or cannot allow the possibility that there is such a thing as a gay or lesbian person as such. They choose to believe (based on some combination of visceral instinct, cultural norms and past Christian teaching) that anything other than sexual activity for the purpose of procreation within marriage between one man and one woman is immoral and a perversion of God’s intentions for humanity. They evaluate people who have come to define themselves as gay or lesbian as people who are not ordering their desires in accordance with Scripture and Tradition (my words, not his), and who are asking for the (immoral) ‘right’ to pursue their sexual desires. Arguments from etiology (“God made me this way”) are on shaky ground here however deeply felt. We are a long way from being able to say anything definitive about the origins of homosexuality. The relationship between nature and nurture, genetics, culture and other factors in the development of attraction are not now and may never be clear. What is clear is that sexual orientation is not a matter of choice. For the overwhelming majority of gay and lesbian people no amount of therapy, prayer or sheer force of will makes any positive difference to that reality. Some talk of knowing from a very young age, certainly before any ‘age of reason’. Years of engaging various ‘listening processes’, theological reflection, convention debate and just about every other venue for conversation have led me and many others to accept sexual orientation as largely analogous to other fundamental descriptors of human experience and reality such as race or gender.

A Brief Way to a Different Conclusion

An alternative to this Traditional and juridical approach to Scripture and relationship is to remember how for much of Anglican history we have found our unity in common prayer, some shared history or connection with the Church of England, and some common commitments, (including the historic episcopacy, locally adapted) expressed in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. We can also look at the history of Biblical Interpretation and the variety of principles used by Christians, including allowing the brad sweep of the story of God’s dealings with humanity to help us interpret particular instances or issues. There is, in spite of conservative protestation a measure of choice in how we elect to view homosexual people. If, after years of conversation, we see that gay and lesbian people who are supported, affirmed and loved as such usually live happier, more fulfilled and godly lives that when they are feared, persecuted or told that their desires are a perversion of God’s intentions. If we can see that their lives are more reflective of the abundant life promised in the gospel when they are accepted rather than when told that their only option is to suppress their thoughts and decline en masse to allow any possibility of sexual expression of their affections, then we are getting nearer to following St. Paul who said “test all things and hold fast to that which is good”. ‘That which is good’ manifests the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, compassion, fecundity, generosity and so on. A majority of us in TEC now see that such is the case when gay and lesbian people are encouraged and supported in living lives in accord with the gospel. If Bishop Wright were ever to accept such a possibility, I believe he would find that his entire and wonderful project of Biblical interpretation would stand and be strengthened.

Resolution D025 is not disingenuous as the Bishop implies, but a full expression of the current mind of this church. The listening process of the Anglican Communion can include listening to the pastoral experience of the Church and could include gracious restraint on the part of those who would act in ways that enshrine sinful prejudice as part and parcel of what it means to be Anglican. Generosity toward TEC in this regard would be thoroughly within the Tradition of gracious Anglicanism that allows relationship over time to shape and sometimes transform doctrine. We can, if we choose, continue to gather together around the Table of the Lord knowing that everyone of us is being transformed into the likeness of Christ. For that is the heart of the matter: the freedom of choice we are afforded in God’s gracious love. Our attitude toward gay and lesbian people is, in the end and in spite of all our cultural norms and conditioning, a matter of choice as to how we will follow the biblical imperative to love one another as God loves us and not turn some culturally prevalent norm, past or present, into an idol.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Where do we go from here?

July 13, 2009

I have wondered and have been asked what happens to our relationship with the wider Anglican Communion if we move forward with the full affirmation of GLBT people in the Episcopal Church. The answer is unclear. What we know is that the ABC chooses to read B033 as our support for a moratorium on the consecration of GLBT bishops and recognizes that its repeal would ‘drive us further apart’. We also know that the C of E synodical process has more than enough signatures to introduce a motion to discuss recognizing the breakaway province led by Archbishop Duncan. Last we know that the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright has said that the C of E theology committee will be examining the founding documents of the ‘new province’.

If the C of E decided to recognize ACNA (aren’t acronym’s fun?) it would be extremely difficult for them to maintain anything resembling relationship with us and Anglicanism will be defined not by fidelity to the Scriptures (as they claim and choose to believe) but by rank and disgusting prejudice and we will be well out of it. That will be our opening to plant churches in England and elsewhere, and idea that will receive a warm welcome in many quarters.

Even if this is the eventual outcome, it will likely be a long time coming.

What I would prefer is that those who support us around the world get organized and start acting and speaking with courage.

Is the end of Institutional Discrimination in sight?

July 13, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, our General Convention begun to act on the first of two issues to come before it regarding the continuing discussion and debate about the proper place of gay and lesbian people in The Episcopal Church. Three years ago Convention passed resolution B033 which urged dioceses not to consecrate any bishop whose ‘manner of life’ might give offense to others in the communion. Proponents say that nothing was really decided by the resolution which was a ‘ticket to the Lambeth Conference’, while others see the intent as being to assure the communion that TEC would hold at bay the consecration of any more GLBT bishops. (Episcopal CafĂ© has shared a seven minute video from members of the Chicago Consultation giving some context for this discussion here.)

This year, after a number of dioceses including Atlanta asked that B033 be repealed, the committee on World Mission has proposed D025 as a way of dealing with that (Track the state of the text here.) It attempts to be a positive statement of where we are as a church on matters of sexuality and it received overwhelming support from the House of Deputies who passed it on to the Bishops yesterday. There are early signs that the Bishops are much more skittish about anything that might lead to their being excluded from the Lambeth Conference, or encourage other Anglican provinces to ‘recognize’ the schismatic group who are attempting to become the ‘brand name’ in the united States and Canada over against TEC on the back of prejudice against GLBT people. My hope is that our bishops will recognize that placating conservatives on this issue has not worked and that our understanding of the gospel is what is being compromised when we discriminate against GLBT people.

The various conversations about blessing same sex unions and marriages will probably go to the House of Bishops before the House of Deputies. I pray that our leaders will find that they have backbone enough to be clear and honest about why they decide whatever they decide.

I take some little encouragement from reports that our PB has warned the Church of England not to foment further schism over here and that a member of the Lambeth Commission, Dr. Jenny Te Paa has addressed the convention regretting that the commission did not really understand the role and place of the PB in Episcopal Polity and so may have contributed to claims that the US church was acting in typically imperialistic ways with regard to the rest of the Communion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has apparently today expressed ‘regret’ that a large portion of the Episcopal Church wishes to drop what he understands to be a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops (an understanding based on B033) and implies that he is looking to our Bishops to kill this initiative. He is, remember, trying to keep some kind of institutional chaos at bay, or at least put it off, and probably ‘regrets’ that this is on the backs of gay and lesbian people who are not going away.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lambeth Redux

July 6, 2009

On October 5, 2005 I published a long blog piece during a sabbatical leave which had some ‘legs’ at the time. General Convention is about to begin and it seems likely that there will be a substantial discussion about authorizing some kind of liturgy for recognizing same sex relationships. I thought it worth repeating much of what I wrote four years ago as it still more or less represents my position on the matters before us, although I have become much less tolerant of delay and diddling and believe that we should get on with agreeing to pronounce blessing on gay marriages. A lengthy entry follows:

On Monday evening I attended the annual meeting of the Compass Rose Society on behalf of All Saints’. It is a treat to visit Lambeth Palace, and to have time and dinner with the Archbishop of Canterbury in his official home. The gathering included Martyn Minns, an old friend, rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, and one of the leaders in America of the movement to realign the communion (more on that further down the page), and Michael Ingham, the Bishop of New Westminster in Canada, the diocese that is singled out along with ECUSA for particular attention owing to their official approval of the blessing of same-sex unions in a council of the church.

Not to many days ago I described myself in a blog entry as a ‘happy universalist’. I want to retract that as it is not technically true. If we are really free, then there must be the possibility of eternal damnation. I understand this to be some part of Jesus’ mysterious term ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’. Karl Rahner, a member of my personal pantheon of saints, wrote a difficult book called Foundations of the Christian Faith in which he writes of the possibility of an absolute and existential ‘no’ in and to life. I believe in such a thing and that such a rejection of all that makes for life is not the same as the outward rejection of Christian (or any other) Faith. In some instances what seems to be a rejection of faith can be a rejection of a manipulative use of power for example, and therefore an affirmation of life. So while I believe in the possibility of choosing eternal damnation, I do not worry too much about people actually choosing such an option, and happily leave the question of ultimate salvation and the question of eternal life in God’s hands. “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of God.”

This is somewhat related to the answer that Rowan Williams gave to a question I asked him. I asked whether ‘repentance’ for a province of the church could mean anything other than an official proclamation saying ‘we were wrong, we are sorry and we won’t do it again.’ He answered that repentance is what we offer each other as Christians and that one branch of the church can offer another. Repentance or metanoia means the turning of life toward life in Christ and so means a willingness to say ‘I need to think again’ and that I will repent as I am drawn more fully into Christ. (Obviously this is not a direct quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury, but it is how I remember his answer.) I’ve had one conversation at the pastor theologian group and another this week with Martyn in which friends who disagree with me deeply and radically have been willing to engage a real conversation and try to avoid the kind of talk where we lob grenades and talk past each other. In that spirit I want to try and lay out (briefly) current thinking one more time. Those as tired of this as I am need read no further, but homosexuality is the issue already leading to the breakup or radical realignment of the Anglican Communion and I have to pay attention to the existential reality if writing about the church’s role in salvation is to have any meaning or value.

Yet More Thoughts on the Church and Homosexual People

I asked Martyn why the consecration of Gene Robinson was enough for him to want to split the church and realign the communion. Why is this issue of such fundamental importance to him? His response was to ask me how I could be so sure that I was right about homosexuality to go against the majority of world Christendom and cause a split in the church and in the communion. So as I mentioned in an earlier blog there is a certain amount of chicken and egg in this. Who started the war? Etc. He also said that my side (i.e. those who take a progressive position with regard to homosexual people) had all the power and the money. He spoke a lot of the anger and sense of betrayal of his friends in the global south in general and Peter Akinola in particular. He believes (as I do) that there really is no turning back, that there is a civil rights issue for the American church and that he, and people who believe as he does can no more be tolerated than racists or people who continue to think that women should not be ordained. He cannot see a way for us to stay together on that basis and he believes deeply that I am wrong about homosexuality, and that I am basing my belief on a new and thoroughly wobbly category when I say that I believe there is such a thing as a homosexual person. He argues that the complementary nature of men and women is found in the creation story and echoed throughout scripture, notably in the writing on marriage in Ephesians – a view with which I have great sympathy. His pastoral experience leads him to say that there are many people desperate to change their lives and that they find being told that they do not need to change does them a disservice and withholds from them the saving power of the gospel. He has many in his church he tells me who have successfully left behind their homosexual desires. He is truly sorry (and I believe him) about those who believe they have been damaged by some of the tactics of those who preach and profess that they can change homosexual desires into ‘natural’ ones. He is truly offended that he is now supposed to say that a same sex relationship can be holy and blessed in the same way that a marriage is holy and blessed. What do I need to hear in all this and to what do I need to respond?

First, I am not prepared to break up the church over a wobbly category, an ‘idea’ of homosexuality. I do not know exactly how homosexual people are formed as such, whether it is somehow predetermined in the womb or whether (as I suspect) it results from a complex series of decisions and experiences that form and shape our sexual responses to one another. I am however prepared to break up the church over people who God loves. I see before me a parade of faces of people whose lives are infinitely better and more free when they are affirmed in the community of faith and allowed to make those life giving and self giving commitments of love that are open to the rest of us in marriage. Psychiatry long ago gave up on the idea that it was pathological to be gay or lesbian. St. Paul counsels that we test all things and hold fast to that which is good, and that the good is seen in an increase of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I see those things in the lives of many we know and love at All Saints’. I assume this to be true in the life and ministry of Gene Robinson – certainly that is the testimony of his friends. I am prepared to stake everything on their being welcome at the Lord’s Table as they are, just as everyone else, with much to be transformed, but also with many an offering made acceptable in the grace of God. So I repent of being willing to break up the church over an anthropological category (‘homosexual person’), while holding fast to those people who God has raised up for service in the community of faith and who I believe does not hold as second-class citizens of the Kingdom.

I believe that all of our theological decisions and forms of church are provisional in some important way, and repent of those times when I have claimed or implied certainty.

I believe that the business of pronouncing sacramental and prophetic blessing is the business of some unit of the church. The question is what unit: the local parish? A diocese? An autocephalous or independent province? Some larger body or bodies? On the whole I believe the larger the body the better and as a matter of our current reality, that probably needs to be the province, or in our case ECUSA. In the meantime I believe that we can ask, importune or beg God’s blessing on anything. Our prayer must always start with the genuine desires of our heart even as we acknowledge that our hearts might well be changed in the praying. The service I have used with All Saints’ parishioners does not even use the word ‘blessing’. We have talked through what we assume the results of being blessed by God would be and have asked God to grant those things to couples who make deep commitments. If it would keep the church together, I would agree to being much more tentative and much less cavalier about pronouncing God’s blessing until there is much greater agreement about whether such is something we can do happily.

As a matter of good order I believe we are in a terrible position having a bishop of the church (the whole church or at least the whole Anglican Communion) who is not in a ‘sanctioned’ relationship. At the very least we must as ECUSA quickly find a way to acknowledge some such option for homosexual people. Only then can we ask our brothers and sisters around the world for some forbearance and grace in the face of this novelty.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

July 6, 2009

Today marks the launch in England of the Fellowship of Confessing
Anglicans, championed by the bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali. Some of the usual crowd of ‘internationals’ reportedly will be at Westminster Hall including the Archbishop of Uganda. Nazir-Ali who has announced his resignation as of September has published a newspaper article this weekend and preached a sermon making it clear that the main ‘issue’ that shows tha the church has gone off the rails as far as he is concerned is homosexuality and he calls on gay and lesbian people to repent and be changed.

All in all this is tiresomely out of the American playbook and will no doubt lead to some sort of split within or from the Church of England. There are some crucial differences in England however. First the Church is established. The FCA has received ‘supportive’ letters acknowledging the launch from both the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury (both of whom are declining to comment to the press on ‘private correspondence’.)

Second there is a long and healthy tradition of Evangelicalism within the C of E that has no real counterpart in the US. While it has sometimes found itself on the conservative end of the social and political spectrum, at other times it has most decidedly championed ‘liberal’ causes. Samuel Wilberforce who fought against slavery is the best of this tradition. Many, such as the Bishop of Durham, are hold deeply felt beliefs that homosexuality is morally wrong but were also in the vanguard of opposition to the war in Iraq. Some of these ‘moderates’ are part of an organization called Fulcrum, whose founder, Dr. Graham Kings has been appointed Bishop of Sherborne. (

Third, along with a state church there is still a vigorous national newspaper industry and both The Independent and a conservative columnist in The Daily Telegraph have articles critical of the Bishop of Rochester and suggesting that fighting against homosexual rights is a lost cause in England.

Fourth, the traditions of philanthropy are somewhat different in ways hard to define, but in general would not include pouring huge sums of money into this negative political movement of questionable relevance to the country. This last one may be balanced by the general tendency of evangelicals to be more faithful than other Christians about tithing their incomes.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Panel Unmasked

July 2, 2009

Some may recall my huffing about a ‘secret panel’ appointed by the House of Bishops to ‘study’ same sex relationships in some way. (June 2 entry). It seems an Episcopalian called Lisa Fox has unmasked this panel and her blog entry can be read here: It is worth following some of the links to learn more about a fairly distinguished and pertinent group. It seems that there are four people who might identify themselves as against moving forward and four who would be more inclined to be in favor. Their charge is still not crystal clear but it seems to be that they will produce at lest two papers, one from each point of view. They meet to challenge each others arguments and, presumably, try and get themselves to answer rather than dismiss the concerns of those who disagree with them.

It is not clear to me why Bishop Parsley chose to keep the names secret or what might have been served by such a decision. The most recent issue of The Living Church has an editorial urging convention not to move forward in the mater of same sex blessings and I fear the existence of this panel will be used to delay moving forward by bishops who are buying an ‘either/or’ approach to the wider communion. (Either we can be in communion with Anglicans throughout the world or we can move forward with same sex blessings.) There are plenty of alternatives to this route within our own tradition of common prayer.