Saturday, June 24, 2006

Got a Pact with the Devil? A Few Hopeful Thoughts

The bitterness around the now infamous B033 is all over the web and felt here at home as well as abroad.

Grumbling is already brewing amongst some of the Primates of the Anglican Communion. It seems the Anglican Communion is now largely held together under threat of fear rather than mutual affection. Threats are behind the divine status given the Windsor Report. Unity is being used as a smokescreen for abuses of our due process as a Province and to lord a particular worldview and intepretation of Scripture over us.

B033 is a pact with the devil. It harnessed the state of our place in the Anglican Communion to a miserable falsehood, and once again hung the millstone of so-called unity around the necks of the historically oppressed:

It unapologetically saddles gays and lesbians in the Church with limitations, assuming their sinfulness and insulting their hard-won integrity. John Kirkley put it best. There is no addition I can make to his painful but candid statements on this point.

It is indeed a lie, implying a unified, or at least majority mind in favor of a moratorium on the consecration of gay and lesbian bishops in The Episcopal Church. Clearly to anyone who was following the news, quite the opposite may well be true. If we had allowed the House of Deputies' defeat of a moratorium a day earlier to stand, we would have at least been honest about where we are in our common life. The Primates might not have liked it, but the ball would have been in their court and our conscience clear. It's still quite possible that the Primates will not be satisfied with the passage of B033, in which case we face some sort of break-up anyway. . .and we now have the shame of our dishonesty to cope with.

The falsehood behind B033 robs our new Presiding Bishop of precious credibility if she is invited to table with all the other Primates.

It seems now all but certain to me that we will never ultimately satisfy those at the epicenter of the coming unpleasantness -- those who expect full repentance for the actions of General Convention, 2003. They may well not back down from their threats of dissolution of the Communion until every gay and lesbian priest and Gene Robinson are all defrocked and reprimanded. This has been the substance of the hellish joke from the beginning of this agonizing controversy.

For the past several years, we have been repeatedly pressed into making the Faustian choice between unity and justice . . . when one, in God's reign at least, cannot exist without the other. This will not stand for long in God's grace. It may end as simply as this: when some of the Primates, dissatisfied with our response to the hallowed Windsor Report, vote with their feet and force schism.

I am grateful that I am in a Diocese with a deputation that unanimously voted against B033, and with an incoming bishop who did the same. Our deputies and bishop-elect took a stand together out of grace-filled conscience. The major fault lines of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, ironically enough, do not run through the Bay Area. This means we will likely have the strength and leadership to help clean up following the earthquake that is coming. . .

Yes, I believe it is coming. I'm pretty sure now that the Anglican Communion we know is about to experience a shake up, thanks to the most un-Christian and unholy abuses of power by some of our bishops and archbishops. . .and their followers.

So where's the hope?

The present honest expression of hurt and sadness, mingled with hope and faith from our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters might rally to them more support from the "diverse center" that tragically voted for B033. This could further isolate bigotry and fear, at least in The Episcopal Church.

We could end up with an even stronger body of laity and local clergy. As bishops and archbishops begin playing games to see who can leave the sandbox and take the most toys with them, the laity, along with the less autocratic clergy, may organize an even stronger, grass-roots Communion -- one that the power-sick bishops will only be able to wring their hands over.

Even more bishops of conscience would see the Spirit at work in their jurisdictions and more fully demonstrate the true authority of episcopae in collaboratoring, nurturing, and supporting the Church that belongs to Christ . . . rather than playing tyrants battling over fiefdoms and articles of faith.

This could have the graceful side effect of breaking more of the colonial vestiges of power in the Anglican Communion. The top-down paternalism so horrendously exercised on Wednesday will weaken -- and possibly go extinct in some places.

Some of the nastiness would leave. Yes, there are people in this mess devoted to nastiness, hell-bent on destruction of their opponents or even themselves. Sooner or later, as the earthquake proceeds, they would see or be shown the door. People of good conscience could then breathe easier and, whatever form the Communion takes following the shake up, it would be healthier. Those embroiled in nastiness, without living together anymore with their perceived enemies, might themselves begin to heal and show a more Christ-filled human face again. I sincerely hope so.

The resulting new Communion, of which the remaining Episcopal Church could be a part, would be even more devoted to upholding the dignity of every human being in the name of Christ than the current one. It may be smaller. It may not encompass the globe in the same way. But, without the cloud of constant threat hanging over us, we may be able to accomplish healing in the world that our present Communion cannot with so many spiritual and fiscal resources devoted to infighting.

Finally, God's grace is nothing if it isn't unpredictable. There may be startling and joyous developments in the coming weeks and months. Reconciliation is, of course, always available for those who want to partake. And these hopes may pale by comparison with what actually happens. I hope so. . .

But above all else, I continue to pray that God's will be done, and that this slow crucifixion of our common life in Christ will soon give way to resurrection. We are, after all, a people of hope who live for a renewal of all that is good and just and truly holy. And no matter what happens next, we are called to trust that God is leading us into that renewal.

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