So the House of Bishops has released a concise, clear statement, to the broader Church.
Yet it only clarifies that we remain very much with one foot in the closet, and the other out of it.
I concede, at least from a political angle, it is probably all our bishops could do at this point without over-stepping the bounds of their limited authority. The moratoria the Primates called for in their February Communiqué demanded almost draconian action of our episcopacy, a virtual running over of the laity and clergy in a number of dioceses without reference to their view or input. In short, the bishops were being asked to stop any legislation or decisions moving through General Convention and other authoritative bodies that would open the door of the episcopacy or authorized rites to our LGBT brothers and sisters. . . and for an indefinite period, as there is no timeline for the Anglican Communion reaching "consensus" on these matters.
Could they have done it? In theory, yes. Some would say they should have. Unless you are a stranger to this blog, you will know I'm very glad they didn't. Beyond the dreadful face it would have turned to some of our sisters and brothers in Christ, I think it would have spelt pastoral suicide for some bishops in their home dioceses and made heroes out of others. And finally it would have ultimately undermined the spirit of governance in this Church -- and I mean the Spirit being able to work freely across and through all four orders without bishops dictating terms and arrogating to themselves a great deal of power.
But the other side of this statement is sorry in its own right, for the simple reason that the House of Bishops has staked our continued participation in the Anglican Communion on Resolution B033 from General Convention 2006, a piece of legislation that was pushed through in a tired moment and left many deputies (and some bishops) in frustrated, conflicted tears: hardly a reflection of prayerful contemplation and discernment. As friend, colleague, and General Convention deputy John Kirkley describes, it was the outcome of an "exercise in spiritual violence."
But then, B033 perhaps reflects the general state of the Communion at the present time -- where compromises over the manifesting issues come with gritted teeth and grumbling.
Because, at the end of the day, we are wrestling with a series of fundamental yes or no questions, which Anglicans, historically, don't always handle that well.
Do lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and trans-gendered persons deserve to be treated with full dignity in Christian community?Are their committed relationships with others of the same gender blessed by God?
To these questions, our House of Bishops answered, in effect, a reserved "no," though I know many of them scarcely agree. They conceded to limit themselves to the boundaries of B033, hemming in their actions within the sorry and somewhat strange place our last General Convention left matters. . .all in the name of unity.
So, for that reason, I am saddened by what our bishops wrought. Especially for our LGBT sisters and brothers, including my colleagues in ministry who must continue wading through the gray of uncertainty as to whether or not they are fully welcomed as baptized members of this Church.
Despite the clear call "for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons," we refuse to embody this as a Church.
This is how systemic "-isms" work, including racism, sexism, and heterosexism. Promise all that is good and deliver. . .well. . .porridge.
It is my heartfelt prayer that our bishops will take up the "pastoral duty" they cite in this statement with enormous care. Pastoral duty and careful, sometimes painful conversation, will be the fare of the coming days in many places -- probably both in "conservative" dioceses where full accession to the Primates' Communiqué was desired, and in more "liberal" ones, not least of which is Chicago, where one nominee for bishop now has good reason to question whether it's worth the terrible media scrutiny she's already endured.
Betrayal is, in the best of circumstances, a terribly bitter pill to swallow.
God have mercy on all of us, and may we find tender places in our hearts for one another in the coming days.
Finally, the question remains whether B033, a flimsy and suspect piece of legislation, will be enough for our bishops to shield the integrity of the Body against our harshest detractors and help maintain the unity of the Communion.
In my view, probably not.
And just as well.
After all, God is "our strength and our shield," and a "very present help in trouble."
Christ is the ultimate source of our unity when it is threatened.
With all respect to our bishops, and my best prayers, B033 is most certainly not.
See more commentary over at The Lead.
Jared Cramer offers a more optimistic appraisal at Scribere Orare Est.
Tobias Haller offers up his usually profound insight.