Monday, February 26, 2007

Shout it from the Rooftops

Much of the Primates' Communique relies heavily on 1998 Lambeth Resolution I.10, and the assumption that it represents the theological mind of the Communion on human sexuality.

It is no overstatement to say that this is a mis-characterization of the resolution's development, as it was forced and reworked in some very questionable ways, apparently, and creates a myth of consensus amongst the episcopate in the Communion that does not exist. As Tobias Haller has pointed out in commentary from his most recent post, 70 bishops of the Communion voted against the resolution and 182 later signed a pastoral statement distancing themselves from any notion that the resolution fully understood or fairly addressed the diversity of human sexuality, let alone theological views of the same.

This is not an insignificant minority, and it severely undermines the force of Resolution I.10 as a consensus document, and, in turn, raises serious questions about the underpinnings of the Primates' Communique. Moreover, it underscores (hopefully, in my view) that there is much greater diversity already present in the Anglican Communion on the question of human sexuality, and that I.10 is not by any means definitive. All things being equal, it would be my hope to see the question re-opened at next year's Lambeth Conference, but all things are not equal. Perhaps this is precisely what some of the Primates seek to forestall in their deadline imposed on The Episcopal Church. A sure-fire way of guaranteeing more unanimity on any one issue in a body is to work towards ensuring that dissenting voices are not invited to a meeting.

I am tempted to assert that the "Emperor has no clothes." Attempts to use Resolution I.10 with or without the Windsor Report as a measuring rod (if not a whipping rod) and the Archbishop of Canterbury's assertion that it is the "teaching" of the Anglican Communion ring both hollow and disingenuous, even setting aside the simple fact (I am tired of repeating this, but it must be said again) that the Primates have no jurisdiction over any one Province of the Communion.

Please share this fact about Resolution I.10 with everyone who will listen.

If the Anglican Communion must collapse in schism, please, for the sake of Christ, let it do so honestly, not based on distortions or assumptions about the mind of the Communion or a "consensus" where one did not exist to begin with!


8 comments:

*Christopher said...

I've been saying this for three years, and yet, we keep plodding along ahistorically with regard to Lambeth 1998, creating a new meta-narrative and founding myth for an Anglicanism that is the worst of Rome and Genever: papal conciliarism and evangelical fundamentalism.

If we acknowledge that the blessing of a house and the couple therein is public (I reject private/public distinctions as being a profounding unChristian dichotomy), I'm willing to accept his proposal. I already wrote to him of concerns that for many LGBT Christians, such serves as the only marker and only ritual marker of our commitments, that many of our family and friends need that marker as much if not more than we do, that it isn't just lgbt persons elsewhere that experience persecution (we've had it here and I nearly lost my mental health), and that some making of vows before others is important, a word if you will of what the body is doing in becoming one. But overall, this is something I could assent to if we truly took up an engagement process rather than using listening process as a platitude to keep us from noticing the shift being made to our polity internally and Communion-wide.

As for bishops, well, I have to ask who would want that position to being with?

John said...

Richard is absolutely right. Lambeth resolutions have NEVER been claimed as authoritative statements of Anglican doctrine. Nor does the Council of Primates have the authority to make any decisions at all about the status of the Episcopal Church within the Communion -- or for that matter, any other Communion matters. Its mandate is to serve as a consultative body, not a legislature or a Curia. For several years now the Archbishop of Canterbury and many other leaders of the Communion have been responding with pastoral and theological statements to what is essentially a series of political manoeuvres which seem to have had both the intention and the effect of highjacking the structures of the Anglican Communion -- indeed, it could almost be described as a coup d'eglise! It is past time to respond to these extreme political moves with political responses.

R said...

*christopher wrote:

If we acknowledge that the blessing of a house and the couple therein is public (I reject private/public distinctions as being a profoundly unChristian dichotomy), I'm willing to accept his proposal.

Actually, this is the part of Tobias' proposal that I have the most questions about. He has not yet posted my comment yet, but, in a nutshell, the Celebration of a Home in the Book of Occasional Services focuses almost entirely on the physical (outward manifestation) of the home, and for couples in committed relationships who have not been blessed by the Church in a more focused way, to believe this rite therefore blesses their union, it seems to me, gets the cart before the horse in terms of public and ecclesiastical witness (in the best sense).

To illustrate, were our apartment to be nothing but ashes in the morning (heaven forbid), my home would still be with my wife. It presumes too much to suppose that through the blessing of this apartment, and even with explicit language regarding our life-long partnership, my wife and I could feel our union was duly blessed by the Church. It is to bless the frame first and give the foundation far less significance. Surely the foundation is more important.

I'm sure Tobias proposes it only as an interim solution, but I much prefer the current arrangement of pastoral provision at the local level to his proposal. The public blessing of your union (so beautifully captured in your gravitar above), I would argue, is the basis for any blessing of your household. The Church should celebrate that first, or, given the commonality of co-habitation before solemn blessing -- the Church should celebrate couples with at least as much, if not more joy and celebration, than they would a particular household. Your household may change over time, but your home, in the sense I use it above, will not change, all things being equal, in essentials. It will always reside between you and your husband/partner.

I would only find Tobias' suggestion favorable if the celebration and blessing of the couple were the primary focal point of the blessing in the home. Like you, I find the distinction between public/private artificial and ultimately disingenuous.

I pray I make my argument clearly enough in this case.

God's peace.

Tobias said...

Richard, and Christopher:
Yes, there is plenty of room to add to the "Celebration of a Home" --- and I point out it is "Home" not "House." In the first part of that section I was alluding to the fact that the vows are the business of the couple -- they "make" the vows, and keep them, so they have the blessed responsibility for them. As a practical matter, I think of the "Celebraion of a Home" -- in all that it means -- as a public proclamation of being casado (as the Latinos helpfully and wisely observe!), in some ways much more powerful a statement than our rather clumsy and kludged-together marriage rite.

I commend my thesis on the subject, Lawfully Joined to your attention. (Christopher already knows it, I know.) It's a decade old now, but I think the sections on the comparisons of the various liturgies holds up. Few liturgies have changed as much as the marriage rite of the Anglican tradition. The 1789 BCP version is particularly interesting for its movement away from language of procreation.

Jim Strader said...

Richard - I would add that the 2003 Episcopal Church's General Convention passed resolution 2003-C051. That resolution says in part:That we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions. This resolution is the current existing teaching standard for same-sex unions in The Episcopal Church, and is The Episcopal Church's current canonical response to Lambeth Resolution 1-10. I have written my own critique of The Archbishop of Canterbury's recent comments regarding the Anglican Communion's "standard" regarding human sexuality here if anyone is interested in reviewing another point of view in this matter.

I recognize and appreciate Tobias'+ advice regarding the creation of a more theologically constructive articulation of our church's scriptural and pastoral rational for the blessing of same-sex unions. My needs, as a college chaplain, are less academic & profound in nature. My most urgent need is to let students realize in the clearest of terms that The Episcopal Church welcomes them, regardless of age, family of origin, class, sexual orientation, and gender into its local and international communities. Our church must cogently and pragmatically express such hospitality in both its polity and practice. I do not believe that I can articulate this sense of hospitality with the fullest of integrity as we live into communion with one another this evening. I can and do certainly welcome students, faculty, staff, and friends to participate and be blessed in the Eucharistic life of the Episcopal Campus Ministry while wondering how to rationalize the Anglican Communion’s confusion on matters relative to human sexuality and other doctrinal debates.

R said...

Jim,

And thank you so much for your ministry. Campus ministry was a saving grace for me at a critical time in my life. I would not be a priest in the Episcopal Church had it not been for my remarkable experiences there with people who truly welcomed me as I was and where I was in my journey without judgment or prejudice.

I very much identify with what you say here. Tobias (and to some degree, I suppose Christopher and I) are taking a longer view. But those in our care struggle with what they read in the newspapers, online, and hear and see elsewhere -- the statements that are belligerent, mean-spirited, or simply narrow without regard to their impact on real, incarnational lives.

So I can only express my hope and solidarity, and say that I share what I sense is your impatience -- not only with the debate itself, but the way it is often being framed in sound bytes and misconceptions that collapse real lives into demonic abstractions -- rendering the dignity of many less than God-given, and surely making Jesus weep.

Many prayers.

R said...

Jim,

And only to add to the above that C051 forms the basis of our present diocesan policy on same-sex blessings. It has legs in many places, and perhaps needs to be lifted up again to the Communion as a very important part of our response.

Jim Strader said...

Richard - thank you for your kind comments and for your witness to the efficacy of college ministry upon your vocation.

I would add, as an openly gay priest, that I'm thankful for your telling of your story and for your thanksgiving for the blessed presence of LGBT persons in your life.

It is, as ++Katharine is saying to The Episcopal Church, this morning, in our abilities and experiences to live with and listen to one another. My Lenten discipline, yet once again, is acceptance - in good faith - of the Christ-like virtues of patience and charity for everyone. I enjoy listening to you and those who contribute to your blog.

in Christ,
Jim+