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Friday, February 16, 2007

Healing the Communion On An Inch of Thread

Day IV in Tanzania and all is well - depending on how you read the signs.

Sharon LaFraniere and Laurie Goodstein of the NY Times are reporting that the Primates are "moving to heal the rift."

Stephen Bates of the Guardian (UK) is reporting that "Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, the leader of a breakaway faction which had wanted the communion to recognise his supporters as the genuine representatives of the US church, left for the airport without speaking to journalists."

Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitudes, UK, was effusive in his Friday morning report, feeling ever-so-grateful and thanking everyone, including CANA Bishop Martyn Minns for "being willing to take an initiative in helping his own church conform to the commitment made in resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference."

He also profusely thanked Angela Minns "who offered to get any shopping we needed because she was going to central Dar this morning. I appreciate her kind and generous offer."

Coward ended his report by saying, "As Angela Minns has faithfully reminded us each day, we are loved by Jesus too."

How very nice of her, don't you think?

How very British of Coward, don't you think?

Oh, okay. Someone is raising an eyebrow at my sarcasim. Yes, I do know that sarcasim is thinly veiled anger.

You will forgive me, but I've been here before, as some would say, "waiting for the other shoe to drop." Me? I've got my eye on the left hand, the one that isn't extended in "Christian love." The one behind the back there, holding the club.

It happened most recently in Columbus at General Convention. We elected the first woman Primate on Sunday, and by Tuesday, we passed B033. It's the way of "institutional progress" - especially in the church: one great lurch forward, three battered steps back.

Already some conservatives are consoling themselves that the Sub-group Report is not all that bad - that we are now "locked in" to The Windsor Report.

Well, look. Here's a quote: "By generously construing B033 as a de facto moratorium on partnered gay bishops, the report effectively “locks in” that understanding as the expectation of the rest of the Communion. There is no wiggle room; the Communion has taken us at our word and believes we have stood down on this. And they will hold us accountable."

But, the ubiquitous Kendall Harmon is inconsolable. The New York Times reported that "The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, a conservative American strategist, wrote in his blog that the report would lead many to lose faith in the Anglican Communion. “That is what breaks my heart,” he wrote. “I would say there is an inch of thread left.”"

Colin's Friday afternoon update came in right on cue, filled with ominous notes first sounded by Stephen Bates' report that Moderater Bob Duncan had left for the airport without talking to reporters.

"Big Pete" Akinola, who had previously greeted Colin and Davis, his fellow Nigerian who is gay and director of Changing Attitudes Nigeria, now ran from them - several times - covering his face with paper and refusing to speak. He did this, apparently, three times.

Colin writes: " I observe that every other Primate who has visited us in the exclusion zone have come to sit and chat, share a drink, smoke a cigar, and relax. Archbishop Akinola alone has come and refused to speak with people. He created a bad impression for me, especially after the openness of his greeting to Davis and myself on Wednesday. These signs mean a lot to me. Why does the Archbishop need to act in secrecy and run away from cameras and questions?"

He concludes: "It reinforces my impression that in contrast to our open presence here, where we have been willing to talk with everyone, liberal and conservative, something underhand is going on upstairs amongst people who have something to hide."

Gee, ya think?

I know. There goes the sarcasim again. Forgive me. More than 20 years of working for justice and reconciliation in the church can do that to a person.

I find myself most troubled by this ENS report: "Last night the primates were discussing what further steps they want the US church to take, particularly over same sex blessings. Bob Williams, the US Episcopal church's director of communications, said: "Anglicans around the world are ready for a way forward, so that we can focus on more important things such as poverty, hunger and preventable disease and being Christ's hands in the world."

On the surface, I would agree with Mr. Williams. I am soooo ready to be over this and on with the corporal work of the Gospel. But there's a trace of a recognizable pattern here. While the Primates are discussing "what further steps to take" (Ahem! I know what that means.), the official line is, let's move on to "more important things."

As if justice for ALL God's children is not also important. I find this kind of rhetoric deeply disturbing. It's a form of old fashioned colonolist bartering - designed for those who have to keep what they've got while the rest of us fight over the crumbs left under the table with the rest of the dogs.

You'll excuse me if I haven't yet popped the bottle of champagne. Yes, I know that Our Katharine has said that she will not waiver in her commitment for the full inclusion of all God's children. Yes, we are doing the hard work of "healing the communion" and that is a long, slow process. But, as Billy Joel would sing, "We didn't start the fire."

Make no mistake, folks, this is a fire stared way before the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire. This is about the rise of the feminine. Homosexuality is simply of weapon of sexism and misogyny.

It's also about power and authority, which is a struggle in the DNA of Anglicanism.

It's a fire that's "always been burnin' since the world was turnin'." You will excuse me if I, like my ancient sisters and brothers in Salem, MA refuse to be the "faggot" for this flame.

Kendall is also right: We've got about an inch of thread of the fabric of The Anglican Communion left - unfortunately, it's the patch on which he and his neo-Puritan, conservative evangelical Christians are standing.

In all of this, I am consoled this morning by this thought: Jesus was able to take a few loaves and fish and turn it into a banquet for thousands. My prayer is that His Sacred Body, the church, will take an inch of thread and transform it into a Tent of Welcome and Hospitality and Spiritual Nourishment for all God's children who are marginalized by the institutional church to the status of second class citizenship in the Realm of God.


Bill said...

I’ll repeat much of what I said on the MP blog. My personal view is that the genie is out of the bottle (closet) and will not go back inside. Once you taste freedom and acceptance, you do not want to give it up. It doesn’t really matter what the World Wide Anglican Communion approves or disapproves of. This new found tolerance is not going to go away. Any restrictive or prohibitive rules handed down by the Anglican Communion will largely be ignored in ECUSA. And what if anything will they do about it? Will they refuse to take our monetary contributions? I think not. Will they throw us out? I don’t think so. That would leave the Archbishop of Canterbury as the titular head of the third world and cut a very large piece out of his budget. Money keeps the lights on and heats the churches. Money allows them to run all of their programs in third world countries. The bishops have titles but the people have the real power.

Eileen said...

I agree with Bill.

This is about fear on some level. Fear of change. I think that other Anglican provinces are accustomed to holding/having more authority over their members and clergy - to enforce biblical bigotry. If the American and Canadian provinces can have churches that are fully inclusive, which don't burst into flame or get hit by lightening during services that include everybody - then what's stopping their own flocks from demanding similar treatment of all people.

(((Elizabeth+))) My prayers are with you and along the same lines.

I think the TEC is doing the foremost of Christ's work in our world at this time. TEC is bravely stepping forward to say, "This may not be "tradition" but it is right, it is just and it is what we are called to do.

Much can be done with little.

Magdalene6127 said...

I remember an RC priest telling me, a dozen or so years ago, when I raised concerns about the position of women in that church, "In the grand scheme of things, there are much more important issues..." That was the day they lost me.

More important than Jesus' call to radical inclusion and justice? I think not.


Jim said...

I guess it is hard to be trusting isn't it? Like you I am waiting for the knife in the left hand. After B003 slithered its way into our space, I am afraid my level of trust got real low.

Yes I do believe that PBp Katherine wants to be for full inclusion. I also believe that those around her at Dar Es Salaam and at 815 are capable of making those words mean something despicable. After all, American Blacks got "seperate, but equal didn't they? Yeah, right!

When this sudden purple shirt love fest ends, and the dust settles, I fear we will find that betrayal was in the air. I wish that was not a legitimate concern, but then B033.