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.