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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Canon Strangelove

Note: The following was posted to the House of Bishops/Deputies (HOB/D) Listserv, which comments on an exchange between a deputy and a ‘kibitzer’ to the list which, for me, is emblematic of the problem in our church.

The exchange between the woman from Hawai'i and the man from Colorado makes a perfect point for this woman from Newark. This is the problem with the "conversations" between those who sit in the left, right and middle pews of the church. It's why I've stopped engaging the discussion (much less 'dialogue') on the HOB/D listserv as well as around the church.

Remember that Peter Sellers movie: "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"?

Well, were I to write a chapter on this part of the history of the church, the title would be: "Canon Strangelove or, How I Learned to Stop Dialogue and Love the Schism."

Oh, I'm still listening, but I'm not hearing anyone - on any side - saying anything new. Indeed, at this point, some of us could write each other's scripts.

Like the deputy from Ft. Worth's most recent complaint about those who have been "ignored or scoffed at" because they claim to have 'recovered' or been 'saved' from the "sin of homosexuality". No one gives them any credibility because they espouse a position which steadfastly refuses to acknowledge either the complexity of human sexuality or the broad continuum of sexual orientation, rendering the claim of 'healing' to be bogus. It also assumes "abstinence until marriage" as the achieved norm, rather than the practiced goal.

The woman from Hawai'i speaks about dialogue - meaningful dialogue - and the man from Colorado speaks about discussion - specifically, that of "theological justification" - and complains that all people do is 'tell their stories.'

One is working out of a construct of classic liberation, process and feminist theology, the other is working out of a construct of classic systematic theology.

One is working out of a more literal perspective of scripture; the other is reading scripture through a more contextual lens: form criticism, historical, scientific and archeological discovery as well as social-cultural curiosity.

One is concerned to hear the voices from the margins which have been silenced or ignored; the other is concerned to listen only to the voice of "the faith once delivered to the saints."

Alas, it has ever been thus.

Mind you, I spent five years of my life engaged in the process of reconciliation known as "The New Commandment Task Force." I still believe reconciliation is the central call of Jesus from the cross at Calvary. I know it to be central to the mission of the church. Indeed, I do not believe we can do any good, effective work of mission (much less be an authentic Body of Christ – the church) without reconciliation.

Which is why, I think, we've got to acknowledge and be reconciled to the full reality of the schism which some have labored long and hard to bring upon us. It has happened. It is happening now, even now, as I type these words into my computer and as your are reading them on yours. They have achieved their goal. All the rest is details.

The 'dirty little secret' is that this is precisely what many have wanted since the ordination of women more than 30 years ago. There are still those who insist that we have not developed a theology which "justifies" that or any future action. Many are members of the AAC, AMiA, ACN, and the rest of the alphabet soup of the conservative, neo-Puritan, orthodox evangelical movement in the church.

As author Suzanne Pharr has taught us, homophobia is a weapon of sexism. To put it bluntly, it's all about who's on top - the superiority of gender in terms of sexual intimacy as well as institutional authority; and, concomitantly, how one views and interprets scripture based on the perspective of one's social and cultural location -from the top of the heap, the bottom of the pile, or on the outer margins.

If you have any doubt about this, spend some time over at some of the conservative web sites. "Titus One Nine" has 'cyberelves' to censor their more virulent members, but you can find them in their full hate-filled . . .'glory' . . . over at "Stand Firm in Faith." I think it's one of the few places (thank you, Jesus) in the Episcopal section of cyberspace where sexism and misogyny reign so transparently.

Please do remember to wear your asbestos pumps when you walk through that area of cyberspace. You know, the same ones you wear to read 'He-who-must-not-be-named'.
Interesting, but I've yet to find a liberal or even moderate or conservative website/blog/chat room which has the same level of venom and toxicity.

I think we ought to gracefully allow those who wish to exchange their membership in The Episcopal Church for a membership anywhere else in the Anglican Communion and we should do so without undue haste.

Let the ABC do what the ABC has always done - determine who is a member of the Anglican Communion and who is not. If +Rowan wishes to create an "upstairs/downstairs maid" arrangement of membership, we ought not fault him. It is the "natural default" setting of the British organizational system. They've been doing this for centuries. I don't think it has anything to do with anything Jesus taught, but, as the British would say, "Well, there it is, then."

As for me and my house - the amazing Episcopal Church of St. Paul - we will love and serve the Lord, loving our neighbor as ourselves as we humbly and fervently seek to live out the promises made in our baptismal covenant.

Remember the last scene of the movie, Dr. Strangelove? Anyone want to do the graphic for this chapter of our history?

14 comments:

MadPriest said...

"Interesting, but I've yet to find a liberal or even moderate or conservative website/blog/chat room which has the same level of venom and toxicity."

Oh NO!!!

Back to the drawing board, then.

Seriously, though, may I once again remind you Americans that it is not just your battle, and although you will be fine if you divide some of us will not. We will be living in a church to which we cannot hold a confessional obedience and with no friends across the water to turn to for help. If you do go all isolationist on us then you will read some venom on a liberal blog.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hello, Lovey,

No one is going "isolationist" on anybody.

I'm willing to bet solid money that if those dioceses who keep threatening to leave TEC actually had the ovaries to do it and become "constituent" members of the Anglican Church of Rwanda or Nigeria, or wherever, it would take oh, two, maybe three years for them to come back wimpering about how dreadful it all is.

We had the same situation with Clarence Pope, previous bishop of the diocese of Ft. Worth, who crossed the Tiber and went to Rome. I think it was less than a year later when PB Ed Browning graciously welcomed him home and took him back.

I just think we ought to call them on their bluff and bluster and let them experience the "natural consequences" of their actions.

That's not isolationist behavior. That's just being a good, healthy, self-differentiated, spiritually mature child of God.

Besides, how could I ever be in isolation from you? I'm mad about you, darling.

Barnabas2003 said...

You are right on that TEC should gracefully allow those that want to leave to do so, and not perpetuate this fight with legalism over property, etc. By the same token, Network Dioceses should allow loyal TEC parishes to associate with a new or replacement Diocese solidly within TEC. The sooner this happens, the soon real ministry will get done. Those that oppose such a solution, on both sides, have become addicted to the fight. I deeply appreciate that you are not.

MadPriest said...

Elizabeth, I think I haven't explained by big fear very well.

I can see, because of the strength of character of the American Church, that they will accept an expulsion of the reactionary part of their church and their own relegation to a second division Anglicanism. Really, what would that matter to them?

Then the rest of us are forced to sign up to some sort of literalist confession or get out. But we will not, at this point, have the weight of the American Church behind us anymore.

Sometimes, I think you Americans underestimate the importance of the battles you are fighting to bring the Gospel of Christ into the world today (something you can do in your country) to the rest of us who live in more conformist environments.

I am merely reminding you that you have responsibility for more than just yourselves and isn't that just what your lovely Mr bush keeps insisting, anyway?

Oh, and I love you too of course.

Jack said...

Dearest Elizabeth,

I have been yearning for someone to put my thoughts to words. I truly believe we have reached a point that "dialogue" is beyond us.

I am one of those "reappraisers" as Kendall would call us that posts on TitusOneNine. You are so correct you better have your asbestos heels on when you walk into that joint. I tend to smack people with my asbestos purse as well from time to time.

As an Episcopalian living in Europe I can tell you that this current crisis in TEC is far reaching. I worship in a Church of England Congregation in Central Europe.

This parish usually brings together Anglicans from all over the world. Tea Time is always full of lively discussion often times about us "yanks". Most are supportive while others I believe are politely quiet.

I believe we need to put this crisis behind us so that others may see that TEC is not always about the business of sex and that we are true servants of Christ looking to further His kingdom.

Thanks for your comments you spoke them eloquently. Now let me go and take those asbestos pantyhose off! ;)

Peter said...

Seeing as this blog is comment moderated, I somehow doubt this'll see the light of day. Nevertheless, you commented:

Interesting, but I've yet to find a liberal or even moderate or conservative website/blog/chat room which has the same level of venom and toxicity

Allow me to point you in the direction of this: http://my-manner-of-life.blogspot.com/2006/09/battling-powers-principalities.html ,
particular the use of 'evil', 'slimy', 'liars', 'thieves', 'pitiful', 'despicable', 'little people', 'little pea-brains'.

Perhaps that does not seem like venom and toxicity to you, but it certainly does to me.

As you say, the potential for dialogue is probably exhausted at this point in time.

Peter said...

I'm impressed, I didn't get moderated. I take back my doubts. :-)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Madpriest and Peter,

First, Madpriest,

I guess I’m a hopeless optimist, or perhaps deep in my 5 decade old bones I am just a silly girl, but I do not believe that +Rowan’s “upstairs/downstairs maid” scheme will go any further than the mildest of any of the most evil fantasies of Ruth Gledhill’s poison pen.

I can’t believe he would cook up or contrive a system that would not leave the British in power. I firmly believe he’s treading some fairly hot Baptismal water – trying to keep everyone calm. Meanwhile, he is either seriously underestimating Akinola’s pathology around power or he’s giving him enough rope to hang himself.

If it’s any comfort to you, most of the LGBT leadership I know are unrepentant Anglo-Catholics who treasure our membership in the Anglican Communion and would never do anything to jeopardize our standing in it – save a serious compromise to our integrity.

So, please do not fret, darling.

Peter – okay, I’ll give you some – SOME – of the posts on ‘My Manner of Life’.

But, be honest Peter: how can you compare one woman’s blog to the venom on blogs like Stand Firm in Faith – where posters complain regularly that even the elves on Titus One Nine have refused to publish their trash?

Or Drell’s Descants?

Or, the so-called “news” of “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”?

Indeed, I suspect that it won't take 10 minutes after I post this that some "Bottom Feeder" from SFiF will quote me out of context and what will follow is a minimum of a 24 comment feeding fenzy on my personal level of evil.

Obviously – the time for any meaningful dialogue has come and gone. On this, at least, we can thank Jesus that we both agree.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, Peter,

Even while you were writing me, the folks over on SFiF were already spewing their evil about me.

See "Sticks, Stones, Rubber, Glue."

But, put on your asbestos pumps when you take a walk throught the flaming filth which passes for conversation in Christian community.

On second thought, just take my word for it. You really don't want to put your soul in that kind of jeopardy.

I take back everything I said about Lisa's Blog, "My manner of life." It is absolutely NOTHING in comparison to this kind of garbage.

Peter said...

Regarding SF, I'd have to point out you did start this one in your original post.

Now, regarding the general level of evil - who is saying the evilist things if you like - I'm not convinced that either 'side' will come out covered in glory. It's a conflict - a conflict about what is deepest to us, and it will bring out the worst.

So, when you are seeing motes in others eyes, be careful about the plank in yours. I've posted a number of times on 'liberal' blogs - and there's plenty of scorn and malice to go round there.

I happen to believe you are wrong, dead wrong. You would undoubtedly feel the same. And this MATTERS. That said, t'would be good if we could avoid mud-slinging.

Course, this is always a tricky thing. Civility should never get in the way of truth, and God left us in no doubt as to the state of play in his judgements. There is a place for righteous anger, judgment, and the telling of truth.

If you see a bunch of people running off the nearest cliff, you don't calmly reason with them - you shout STOP!

The trouble with us is that the righteous bit goes AWOL pretty easily.

MadPriest said...

As a wise, old curate once said: "It is better to take the piss that clings than to fling the mud that slips off."

I wonder if that will translate into American.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, Peter, you disappoint me.

All you can muster is "You started it first!"????

I beg to differ. The folks over at SFiF have been at this since June.

The worst thing I've ever said about them has been to use "Bottom Feeder" - the psychological term from Edwin Freidman.

Poor lambs, they've been thoroughly confused about that ever since. Have even contrived an emblem with a catfish on it.

I guess they don't get around much, eh? Too busy flame-throwing at their own site or trolling others for little bits upon which to have a feeding frenzy of self righteousness and malice.

Tell you what: google my name (or any dreadful slur you can think of) over at SFiF and then stand back and see the flames rise up from the garbage heap.

Do that at my site and see what happens.

To your point about the person running headlong over a cliff:

Well, my dear, perhaps what you don't know and I do is that God is always at the bottom, ready to catch me.

It has happened every time I've ever taken a risk for the sake of the gospel.

I trust God will be there again, whenever I am called to proclaim the Gospel truth.

Besides, I don't need anyone to fret over my salvation. I already have a Savior.

But, thanks anyway.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mad Priest,

Well, you British can certainly turn a phrase. Oh, my. Was the the King's English you were using?

About the closest translation I can make to American is to repeat what one of the sex workers in Newark once said to me:

"Piss on me once and tell me it's raining."

Peter said...

'Disappoint' you with what I can 'muster'? I wasn't trying to play a verbal game, but oh well, whatever.

The point I was trying to make was that if you don't want a war with SF then it is best not to mention them. As far as 'history' goes, I'll leave that to you and them.

In regard to the other stuff - late night incoherence and trying to fit too many things in one post may have made it a little unclear.

Let it just be said that no one side has a monopoly on malice or slander. Or condescension for that matter.