Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Good for Them

The House of Bishops has said no.

The "Pastoral Scheme" pointed to in the Primates' Communiqué jeopardizes the core character of the Episcopal Church's polity, particularly as it brought to bear "foreign prelates" in the choice of a Primatial Vicar. The House of Bishops will not stand for this, patiently but clearly articulating, among other salient reasons, this simple, powerful point of history:
. . .for the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century, it replaces the local governance of the Church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable group of prelates.
But, even more powerfully:
The pastoral scheme encourages one of the worst tendencies of our Western culture, which is to break relationships when we find them difficult instead of doing the hard work necessary to repair them and be instruments of reconciliation. The real cultural phenomenon that threatens the spiritual life of our people, including marriage and family life, is the ease with which we choose to break our relationships and the vows that established them rather than seek the transformative power of the Gospel in them. We cannot accept what would be injurious to this Church and could well lead to its permanent division.
I am almost speechless. The House of Bishops has hit the nail squarely on the head with this statement. For all of the shenanigans with networks and bishops and parishes flying to the solace of Primates overseas, our bishops at last name the problem, and with a self-critical eye. This raises a serious question for many, from the Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria, to the Primate of the Southern Cone, to the Archbishop of Canterbury. . .Do you really want to aid and abet one of the worst aspects of Western culture: the severing of relationship when the going gets tough -- the real threat to our unity in Christ?
At the same time, we understand that the present situation requires intentional care for those within our Church who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the actions of our General Convention. We pledge ourselves to continue to work with them toward a workable arrangement. In truth, the number of those who seek to divide our Church is small, and our Church is marked by encouraging signs of life and hope. The fact that we have among ourselves, and indeed encourage, a diversity of opinion on issues of sexuality should in no way be misunderstood to mean that we are divided, except among a very few, in our love for The Episcopal Church, the integrity of its identity, and the continuance of its life and ministry.
Indeed. The vast majority of our Church stands together, and will endeavor to continue to do so. Disagreement over human sexuality need not divide us.

The crisis mentality of a few has just lost any power it had over our House of Bishops.

And, a clear calling out of the double standard in the Communiqu
é, and indirectly, a call to account for Archbishop Peter Akinola and others:
Other Anglican bishops, indeed including some Primates, have violated our provincial boundaries and caused great suffering and contributed immeasurably to our difficulties in solving our problems and in attempting to communicate for ourselves with our Anglican brothers and sisters. We have been repeatedly assured that boundary violations are inappropriate under the most ancient authorities and should cease. The Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998 did so. The Windsor Report did so. The Dromantine Communiqué did so. None of these assurances has been heeded. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué affirms the principle that boundary violations are impermissible, but then sets conditions for ending those violations, conditions that are simply impossible for us to meet without calling a special meeting of our General Convention.
(emphasis added)
There will be no covenant for moritoria, short of the full agreement of our General Convention. If anything, the House of Deputies would be more against such moratoria than the House of Bishops. Is that the death knell of B033 I hear? A repeal would not come too soon.

And, finally, a firm statement of solidarity:
It is incumbent upon us as disciples to do our best to follow Jesus in the increasing experience of the leading of the Holy Spirit. We fully understand that others in the Communion believe the same, but we do not believe that Jesus leads us to break our relationships. We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision.
(emphasis added)
While not directly mentioning the impending legislation in Nigeria that is supported by Archbishop Akinola (my only disappointment), the House of Bishops points to it very much in spirit, and strongly questions on Gospel principle any church support for violence against the persecuted and oppressed. This was clarified by Bishop Catherine Roskam at the press conference after: "While [the impending legislation in Nigeria] was not dealt with by resolution, great concern was expressed about human rights violations for gay and lesbians, particularly in Nigeria, and the need for us as Anglicans and Christians to advocate against it."

Now here is a great irony: It seems to me quite possible that the Primates' Communiqu
é succeeded in accomplishing only two things so far: 1) pushing our House of Bishops to make a clear statement out of commitment to our internal integrity in Christ; and 2) provoking a long-needed call, in strong terms, for a direct meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates' Standing Committee, that our bishops may speak with them face-to-face about our relationship with the Anglican Communion in light of the sometimes subtle, sometimes brazen attempts on our common life over the past four years or so.

The American Anglican Council and the Anglican Communion Network have overplayed their hand. So have the Primates. Time to call their bluff.

Our House of Bishops has politely, but firmly, asked for full accountability -- to the people they serve, to one another, to true unity in Communion, and, above all, to the Gospel --
and they are clearly ready to accept the consequences, as painful as some might try to make them.

Sometimes being a Christian requires this. The Bishops have answered the call for us to take up our cross.

Good for them. Good for us as a Church.






12 comments:

Padre Mickey said...

This is a great statement. I'm going to see Bishop Murray tomorrow; I look forward to his reaction to this statement.

Blessings to you and the family, Richard!

R said...

And to yours, Padre! :)

This is the most satisfying document from our Church I've seen in a long time, quite frankly. The very efforts that have been made to divide have actually brought our bishops closer together!

I believe the Spirit is at work.

Jared said...

I also was quite pleased with this statement. It warmed my heart and made me once again so proud of my adopted church and humbled to be a new postulant to Holy Orders in it.

R said...

Jared,

Congratulations, and many prayers!

Debbie of Boise said...

I'm so proud of our bishops, our church, everyone who has worked so hard for this day, for Integrity and Louie Crew who began the dialogue 30 some years ago. I'm greatful for all supporters of LBGT people. I'm grateful for Jesus who gave us this gospel and the Holy Spirit who patiently and persistantly works in our hearts. Lent or not Lent, Allelujah!

Peter said...

Do you think it is a bluff, really? It's sad, but I don't think anybody is playing games here.

Peter

R said...

Peter,

In mulling more over your comment, I have what I believe is a more full response:

I do think this is a game. A game of a very serious kind. The oldest in the world, actually. It is a game of power.

It is the game of, "I have the Truth and I will impress it upon you."

It is the game of "You do not meet my expectations, and so I will marginalize you."

It is a game where the pieces are people's basic dignity and sense of value in God's eyes.

The game in our corner is about, to some extent, lives that will be lost needlessly and dispassionately if Communion is broken as links to resources are severed. It is a game that will witness to the world that the Church is no better than the world, 'cause we play the same game: the game of threats, counter-threats, and bluffs. The game of power. The game of control.

Our bishops, for better or for worse, threw down the cards today and said, "We're done with the game." We're no longer playing by the rules of the Primates' Communique.

We want authentic, mutual relationship, not oppressive relationship through threats and bullying.

But authentic, mutual relationship is not enough for some, it seems. So I imagine there will be a great deal of crying and accusations made over the coming days. And the ancient game of power in the Church will continue, as unity gets confused again with conformity.

We will take up our cross, as I hope you will take up yours, and see where Christ leads us.

Would that we could walk together. I hope we still might, and my door is open to you, my brother.

Many prayers.

Peter said...

Would that we could walk together. I hope we still might, and my door is open to you, my brother.

And also with you! But, it seems that the decisions have been made now? Perhaps it is for the best :-(

I wouldn't characterise this as being a 'game' of power - but a 'game' of principle. For sure, on both sides there are likely people for whom this is a game of power - but that is not it's heart IMHO.

Blessings,

Peter

R said...

Peter,

I don't know if THE decision has been made. But our bishops decided (I believe correctly) not to play by the rules laid down by the Primates' Communique.

The decision to break Communion with the Episcopal Church then rests back in the hands of the Primates, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the other Provinces, and the Instruments of Unity.

Our bishops seem clear that they are prepared to accept whatever decision is made.

So am I, quite frankly.

Whether we are right or wrong as a Church, we are prepared to accept the consequences. That is what I mean when I say we have, with our bishops' leadership, taken up our cross.

Jared said...

Richard, I agree with your interpretation that this is a game of power, one in which we have thrown down the proverbial cards. I think the Primates were assuming they could take advantage of our previous deferential actions and bully us once more to keep the hedgemony of the Communion.

And, as the HoB response notes, after years of playing their game, we have decided to get up from the table and turn towards the mission set out before us.

Grandmère Mimi said...

To have a document so unambiguous and straightforward come forth from a group of bishops is thoroughly refreshing. Let's hope the backbones stay strong.

May the wisdom of the Breath of God abide with our bishops.

KJ said...

Could it be? Good news? Is it still Lent?

I very much appreciate the sentiment that we may get kicked out, but we're not walking away.