Thursday, December 14, 2006

Shameful

The game is up.

Mark Harris reports that the Archbishop of Uganda has resorted to a direct threat to the integrity of the Primates meeting and the integrity of our electing ++Katharine Jefferts Schori as our Presiding Bishop.

Apparently now, the demand is that another bishop, selected by "orthodox" dioceses in The Episcopal Church, be sent in her stead to sit at the February Primates' meeting, as the Archbishop of Uganda refuses to even sit with her at table, let alone speak with her -- a poisonous and arrogant slight. I can only imagine the scriptural passages that might be quoted to support such an outrage. Now we see the theology coming to full flower: the Bible used as a weapon to justify human division, misogyny, and plays for raw power. But however couched in pastoral language the Archbishop of Uganda's letter flows, between the lines I feel the disdain and scorn that is rooted, along with so many other schismatic actions right now, in anger and fear. None of these are Gospel virtues, it seems to me.

No matter what stand we take on human sexuality or women in Holy Orders, this is not the Way of Jesus.

As the request invites a brazen violation of jurisdictional boundaries by attempting to interfere in the polity of this province -- in effect, ecclesiastical violence to our General Convention as the Ugandan Archbishop attempts to usurp its authority -- and even more clearly dishonors primary, God-given human dignity, this is nothing less than a direct attack on the integrity of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church.

No doubt, we in The Episcopal Church will continue to be blamed for this crisis because we consecrated +Gene Robinson, or began ordaining women, or [you fill in the blank]. Or because we dared to commend "what we have seen and heard" in our part of the world: that perhaps long-standing bigotries in Christian tradition could continue to be questioned, and that deeper truth in Scripture and our relationship with God in Christ might be renewed and revealed through the Spirit -- even in our day.

Yes, we will be blamed. Acts of schism and all forms of ecclesiastical and spiritual violence against us will be justified as punishment or "consequences", and we will be blamed.

But there is a parallel to this kind of blaming. . .in abusive family relationships. Sometimes abusive relationships need to end, if healing is to begin.

The game is indeed up. The Anglican Communion as we have known it, a vestige of old empire, commonwealth, and colonial rule, is issuing a last gasp. The rattling of ecclesiastical swords by bishops at home and abroad is the death rattle.

What God will raise up when all is done is remains a mystery, but one I dare hope for.

My prayer is that we as a Christian community in The Episcopal Church, come what may, respond to Uganda and all those who have broken communion with us with the love and compassion in the truth that Christ has given us: that we take up our cross and find new and deeper ways to walk for those truly in need -- to renew our seeking the face of Jesus in all the earth's people. . .even those who most despise us.

10 comments:

Peter said...

as the Archbishop of Uganda refuses to even sit with her at table, let alone speak with her -- a poisonous, arrogant, and unnecessary slight. I can only imagine the scriptural passages that might be quoted to support such an outrage

2 Timothy 3. Serious indeed.

R said...

Yes. Serious. Abuse is, brother Peter.

Anonymous said...

QUOTE: "The game is indeed up. The Anglican Communion as we have known it, a vestige of old empire, commonwealth, and colonial rule, is issuing a last gasp. The rattling of ecclesiastical swords by bishops at home and abroad is the death rattle."

Such infantile blather. Don't you think it ironic that the very progeny of that "old empire, commonwealth, and colonial rule" (i.e., the Anglican Church of the Global South) are making straight that which is crooked, notwithstanding your bleatings about diocesan boundaries and church polity?

The "death rattle" I discern is that of TEC. Unfortunately, the majority of Episcopal laity listens to priests like you: those dog-collared ones waxing poetic and indulging in feel-good sophistry from their pulpits, yet utterly insipid on matters theological.

Indeed, the last gasp you hear is that of TEC, a prodigal of the Anglican Communion, and indeed of all Christendom! The prodigal may some day return to the Father. However, based upon the behavior of the bunch currently running TEC (including your Ph.D. priestess Mrs. Jefferts Schori), I'm not holding my breath. Repentance doesn't appear to be in your spiritual vocabulary (e.g., GC 2006).

Peter said...

You did ask for a passage to justify this action.

Indeed, as I pointed out, there are some such passages in the Bible, for extreme cases, which should indeed speak of how exactly much of TEC is perceived by churches such as the one in Uganda.

This is NOT another W.O. thing that will just blow over. Neither is it abuse.

As I think I pointed out elswhere, actions have concequences, even if you beleive that this new thing is a prophetic stand for Gods truth.

I haven't quite understood how your 'side' can a) take a prophetic stand to proclaim the truth of this new thing then b) complain when you get resistance. Surely you should have expected it?

I know too that it's most likely that nothing I can say will change your or others minds, positions have hardened and become entrenched.

However, I know you're one of the more reasonable guys, people that I can actually have a conversation with (and there are plenty on both sides who can no longer talk to the other 'side').

So, my question is this - when you look widely at what is happening, both within the Anglican church and in the outside culture, does it ever make you wonder? We, as a western society appear to be undergoing something of a radical social experiment, the fruit of which, to my eyes, appears to be becoming increasingly rotten.

Have you ever looked, and wondered, whether your 'side' (don't like that word, but it'll have to do for now) could be wrong?

I don't think anybody has a complete monopoly on the truth, but it does seem as if the burden of proof should lie with the proponents of a new thing, and right now, I see the results of this new social experiment (and remember I live in the 'progressive' and 'enlightened' Canada) and it is severely wanting. My 'side' is now regularly persecuted and silenced north of the border, because we don't think 'correctly'.

Anyway, I'm rambling on here. I just appeal to you - please consider the fruit of the movement that you represent.

Ah heck, I know there's not much point me saying anything in these polarised times, but as Christian to Christian, I have to try.

Blessings,

Peter

R said...

Peter,

Thank you for opening a conversation and seeking understanding. I think this is the spirit that that holds hope for us to remain in community.

Indeed, as I pointed out, there are some such passages in the Bible, for extreme cases, which should indeed speak of how exactly much of TEC is perceived by churches such as the one in Uganda.

I understand this perception. And I would fully expect the Archbishop of Uganda to be uncomfortable sitting with someone he disagrees with theologically. I'll set aside my accusation of misogyny, admitting that it is presumptuous on my part.

What disturbs me is that his call seems to end the conversation all together and assumes that there can be no reconciliation. I hear the call for "repentance," but that clearly demands that we say we were wrong. If we do so, we must with a clear conscience. Anything less than that would be dishonest. That we have not comes from an honest place, and it remains on our heads, whether we are right are wrong, not on yours or on the Archbishop of Uganda's.

This is NOT another W.O. thing that will just blow over. Neither is it abuse.

I'm not expecting this to blow over. The "W.O. thing" didn't blow over, but was carefully dealt with by acknowledging differences in community. So I remain unclear why the current disagreement has to become reason for schism. That we have challenged many in the Anglican Communion and Christianity I will admit. But we have not demanded or threatened that everyone agree with us or follow our lead. We have taken a risk for what we believe to be true.

You quoted back to me one of the diatribes attributed to Paul. The spirit of the text is angry, and saddling it with the reverence Scripture receives pushes the threshold of spiritual violence, in my view. I caution against this, and I still see it as abusive. . .not of the Bible (the Bible remains and needs no defense from me). . .but of tender, human hearts.

I won't belabor the point anymore, except to say to you in all humility as your brother in Christ that your use of this text in this discussion was hurtful to me. I apologize for the times I have done likewise.


Have you ever looked, and wondered, whether your 'side' (don't like that word, but it'll have to do for now) could be wrong?


Every day. I have written elsewhere how seriously I take our relationships in the Anglican Communion and within The Episcopal Church. And I see and hear the pain expressed over our decisions in this province.

But I also see the pain and violence that our LGBT sister and brothers have suffered in the name of God. And I have witnessed the fruit of their committed relationships in the context of Christian community and prayerful lives. That is hard for me to dismiss as evil or depraved. It speaks more to me than a handful of biblical verses composed in a very different cultural context and, it seems to me, with very different behavior in mind, as much as I take Scripture seriously.

My 'side' is now regularly persecuted and silenced north of the border, because we don't think 'correctly'.

For this, please accept my sincere expression of regret for however and whenever I have participated in supporting such persecutions. Dissension is a natural part of being in community, and I hope that a way can be found for us to remain in Christian love together.

I just appeal to you - please consider the fruit of the movement that you represent.

I would only respond by saying that I see that both our "movements" have born the fruit of anger and fear in these contentious times. Repentance will require a conscious decision on all sides to return to the table, and to seek paths of mutual understanding. We may not agree in the end, but that does not suggest to me the need to part with our common life in Christ. I believe Christ to be greater than our disagreements in the end.

Please accept my prayers for God's blessings in return.

Peter said...

Hi Richard,

You're welcome. I believe in trying to keep the lines of communication open, especially as most of the time people are talking across each other. Sometimes it's just not worth saying anything.

So, to try and reply to some of what you have to say:

What disturbs me is that his call seems to end the conversation all together and assumes that there can be no reconciliation

To be honest, I have some sympathy with him. When we are just saying the same thing again and again and positions have become hardened and intractable, then there is really no more conversation happening.

Often, too, it appears that conversation has a one-way meaning. I'm sometimes on Fr Jakes, and I have understood there often what conversation means.

Also, from Orombi's point of view, as the head of the church, he has to make his position clear. Step in his shoes, and mine, for a moment. We believe that TEC is apostate, sometimes barely recognisable as Christian. He has a duty to protect his flock from heresy and strange doctrine - hence this kind of pronouncement.

You may fundamentally disagree with the analysis, but this is why IMHO it is happening.

So I remain unclear why the current disagreement has to become reason for schism.

Well, hmm, where to start. Again, a moment in our shoes if you please. I keep getting told that the problem is that my 'side' hates GBLT etc. I keep saying that is not the problem, but nobody is prepared to listen to that. The problem is not GBLT Christians - the problem is deeper than that. The problem for us is one of twisting the Bible to means whatever we would like it to mean.

This started with allowing divorce, now it seems to be proceeding to whatever our society decides it wants to promote.

It's not about hatred (though, I'll admit, there's plenty of that to go around), it's much more of a core issue for us. Hence, the reaction you see.

your use of this text in this discussion was hurtful to me

Sorry for the offense, too many blogs, too little time. Twas more about giving you a scripture reference that I thought might be what they were thinking of.

But I also see the pain and violence that our LGBT sister and brothers have suffered in the name of God. And I have witnessed the fruit of their committed relationships in the context of Christian community and prayerful lives

And I for one deplore such violence. Nevertheless, I cannot condone a behaviour I believe is spoken against in scripture.

Let me give you a different example. I have spoken and listened to the Zaccheus fellowship
http://www.zacchaeus.ca/. They also have experience of GBLT issues. When I tried to talk about this on Fr Jakes, I was shut down. That is to say, my comments were deleted. That lead me to a certain understanding of what 'listening' actually meant for many folk.

All this said, experience, yours or mine, is not something I would use as the major input into what to believe.

My 'side' is now regularly persecuted and silenced north of the border, because we don't think 'correctly'.

For this, please accept my sincere expression of regret for however and whenever I have participated in supporting such persecutions.


Certainly nothing to do with you personally! Canada is further down the road than you in the US, and we should be something of an example of how it all goes wrong. Tolerance...acceptance.....blessing....celebrating of certain lifestyles are not enough, it ends up with any disagreement being squashed.

We have 'human rights' tribunerals up here - let us just say, the human rights that are enforced are selective to say the least. Example - fines and prison sentences for saying what you believe. One guy got suspended from his teaching job. I hope you never get to see the same thing south of the border.

I would only respond by saying that I see that both our "movements" have born the fruit of anger and fear in these contentious times.

Absolutely, though I would differentiate between the current unpleasantness, which has all the hallmarks of a divorcing couple squabbling over the legalities, and the fundamental isses involved.

Blessings,

Peter

R said...

Peter raises the example of one ex-gay organization in Canada. For a fairly thorough overview of the ex-gay movement and the controversy surrounding it, I commend the well-written and heavily annotated article on the subject at Wikipedia.

Peter said...

I see from the discussion page that this wiki article is 'under dispute' to put it mildly.

You would commend it as well written, I would characterise it as entirely biased and one-sided.

It's the trouble with having an open wiki page on such an issue.

Anonymous said...

Well, Richard, I am new here and I see your thoughtful commentary has garnered some snarky anonymous remark. And 'er it shall be. Keep posting and I shall keep reading.

another one of those evil 'Ph.D. priestesses (!!!!),' Lee

R said...

Peter,

My main point in posting about the wikipedia article is that it draws together a wide body of primary scientific and ex-gay source material. People are invited to view that evidence for themselves.

I won't belabor this any further, as I gather from your post that you are well-acquainted with the ex-gay movement.

I am honestly trying to work out how best to proceed in this conversation, based on your response, so here is a heartfelt attempt.

We believe that TEC is apostate, sometimes barely recognisable as Christian.

Yes, you and others have made this abundantly clear. It is hard, with this assumption being made on your side, to believe further conversation towards mutual understanding (I am not suggesting changed minds) would be at all helpful. Based on your words, I cannot help but assume that anything coming from an Episcopal Church authority -- even as lowly as I -- would be automatically cast into great suspicion. In the worst case, perhaps the language of the devil himself?

But I will try to move us towards some of the "fundamental" issues you point to. Please correct me if I misunderstand them.

All this said, experience, yours or mine, is not something I would use as the major input into what to believe.

Indeed. Here you seem to dismiss experience to a greater or lesser degree. I believe experience has a critical part to play in reason (which is part of classical Anglican tradition). Regardless of its place in Christianity, we rely, even unwittingly, on experience a great deal, as it informs and greatly shapes our perception of reality from the moment we are born. That we examine our cultural, sociological, family, and religious experience and acknowledge its authority in our lives and even our belief system is a given, in my view. If we do not, we remain entirely at its mercy.

But perhaps more critical to our discussion at hand is how we understand scriptural authority.

The problem for us is one of twisting the Bible to means whatever we would like it to mean.

The assumption that I understand here is that this is happening at least more on my "side" than yours. I will happily bear correction on that point, if I have misunderstood.

At any rate, this assertion leaves me puzzled. The phrase "plain reading" of Scripture has been bandied about recently -- by the Archbishop of Nigeria, if I'm not mistaken. It harkens back to the sola scriptura movements of the Protestant Reformation, especially centered on Calvin's Geneva and much that has followed since. And variations of it have played heavily in the current controversy.

I don't believe there is such a thing as "plain reading", even if we wanted there to be, but, for the sake of argument, assuming there were:

150 years ago in the United States, slavery was easily defended by scripture. Both Paul (the Letter to Philemon) and Jesus (Luke 7) are silent, if not complicit in the face of slavery.

That we changed our minds about slavery is a good thing. I hope you would agree. But I do not believe we did so based on strictly biblical "plain sense" understandings. We had to reinterpret the texts in a new light.

There are numerous other examples of ethical injunctions and prescriptions we have come to reject from all over the biblical texts (I list some here in no particular order): women in worship and their appropriate dress, stoning sinners, the way we handle our food, marriage across racial/religious/tribal lines, mixed crops in fields, tests for virginity, lending money at interest, having concubines, the primacy of celibacy, and the place of ancient Jewish purity codes in the faith of Christians. In some cases, the biblical writers contradict each other. In others, the prohibitions or prescriptions stand alone.

We can only solve these dilemmas through interpretation, which, the historical record shows (slavery is one striking example, but far from the only one), has sometimes shifted radically in parts or all of the Church as one "orthodoxy" supersedes another. Probably it would be more accurate to say "orthodoxies" but that is an oxymoron. My principle thought still remains.

My question for you Peter, then, is how should we decide which interpretation is closer to God's will for us at any given time, and, more importantly in today's world, in any given location?