Saturday, March 03, 2007
Kendall Harmon: More Divine Sandpaper
This is Kendall Harmon, Episcopal priest (well, at least for now) and Canon theologian from the Episcopal (well, at least for now) Diocese of South Carolina.
Kendall rarely posts anything of his own writing or thoughts on the House of Bishops and Deputies Listserv. His signature "posted but not written by Kendall Harmon" has become something of 'inhouse humor.'
I think I understand why: His own opinions are so outrageous that, when he expresses them, they always engender passionate responses - about as passionate as he appears in the above picture. I'm sure he'd rather post something written by someone else and say, "What he said," than to have to defend himself and his theology.
So, when he actually wrote two thoughts of his very own, I had to respond.
Kendall wrote that he found it interesting, though, that we seek public assurances about polity, but when, he said, the Anglican primates "unanimously" ask for assurances about faith and morals, numerous TEC leaders squirm.
I responded: "Who, exactly, is squirming, Kendall? When "reports" from Windsor are written with "recommendations" which then become things to which the entire church must "submit" and "comply," are you really surprised that the conversation then turns to our polity?
Think about it for a few seconds and get back to me. You're allowed to change your mind. This is still The Episcopal Church and not the Church of Nigeria. We are still allowed to use all three of the legs on the Great Stool of Anglicanism, including reason.
Kendall then wrote that he thought it revealed an astonishing "double standard" that seemed to indicate to him that "canons matter more than faith and morals whereas the former exists to serve the church's proclamation and teaching of the latter."
I responded: "This is so deeply ironic it hurts, actually. I have three responses.
First, the double standard comes from the neo-Puritan, conservative, orthodox evangelicals who have never gotten over the fact that The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have taken the Thirty-nine Articles and placed them where they belong in our lives of faith: In the "historical document" section of the Book of Common Prayer.
The call for the codification of belief comes from the right side of the aisle. Always has. Probably always will. This is the one side of the church which has never done well with nuance or paradox much less mystery.
So, talk to me about why, when the folks on the left side of the church aisle point to our constitution and canons in response to your call for "compliance," it is a double standard.
How perfectly ironic!
The second 'double standard' is that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 is that - a resolution. It is the "teaching standard" of the Anglican Communion - not an international church law with which we must comply. Indeed, even as a'teaching standard' it does not reflect the reality of a significant portion of the Anglican Communion.
The 'Great Divide' is along the experience of so-called Western and Northern people and that of the so-called Global South and East.
The ironic truth is that Lambeth 1.10 has never been the "accepted teaching standard" for most of the faithful members of the church of Christ. It isn't now and never will be, no matter how shrill or often the voices from the right call us into "compliance."
It's the fatal flaw of the Anglican Church. We've just been too polite to tell you what is obvious, not wanting to embarrass you in any way. We've just been letting you embarrass yourself and trying to look the other way, hoping you'll come along, eventually.
It's sort of like having badly behaved or rude members of the family who are, whether or not we like it, members incorporate of the family of God. It's as my grandmother always said, "Oh, that's just Uncle or Aunt So-and-so. That's just the way s/he is. We're family. What are you going to do?"
That approach has always been core to the gracious spirit of Anglican Accommodation. We are now being attacked at the very core of our common lives of faith. I fear the loss of this more than I fear the loss of my place or that of my allies in this schismatic insult to our church.
The third "double standard" is the Gold Standard of Evangelical Double Standards: First, you condemn LGBT Christians who seek to have the holiness of their relationship - and, where it is now possible, their marriage, civil union or domestic partnership - blessed by the church.
And then, out of that same mouth that proclaims such a high moral standard,comes the trash-talk of the reported "promiscuity" and "unreliability" of LGBT Christians who are in relationship because they are "having sex out of marriage."
You are an intelligent man, Kendall. Surely you can "hear" what I hear:
"You LGBT people have sex outside of marriage. You are immoral and disgusting."
"You want to get married and have the church bless your covenant? How disgusting and immoral. Don't you know what scripture says?"
What's even more richly ironic is that a great deal of this ironic trash talk comes from bishops and clerics and laity who have been divorced.
And/or have, themselves, had sex outside of marriage.
And/or have, themselves, heterosexual sons and daughters who are not married who are sexually active.
I know. I know. At least they are "normal." How often have I heard THAT argument? Here's the real challenge, Kendall: Define 'normal'
Oh, and that's the other richly ironic thing: You neo-Puritan, conservative, orthodox Evangelicals LOVE to draw lines in the sand between "the world" and "the church." There is a strong impulse to reject "the world" as inherently bad and evil and embrace "the church" which is holy and good.
Except that "the world" - at least the one I live in - does not really accept LGBT people. In some places, we are tolerated. In other places, well, not so much.
Laws are designed to change behavior, they have never changed hearts. MLK Jr., us this lesson a long time ago, adding that we ought not delay a change in the laws because of that. Human hearts have always opened slowly. Laws are critically important while we wait for that process to find its completion. That, in fact, is the role of the church - to change hearts.
You don't need to walk a mile - much less a few steps - in a pair of gold lame pumps to know that the world is far from kind to or the laws just for LGBT people. One only need look at the number of 'hate crimes' committed in 2006 and so far in 2007 to understand that this is true.
According to the FBI, 15.5% of all hate crimes in this country are committed against LGBT people, the third highest target group statistically. Only race-based and religion-based prejudice crimes were more prevalent than hate crimes based on sexual orientation. And, don't even get me started on what's happening in Nigeria while Mr. Akinola wags his finger and stamps his foot at The Episcopal Church.
The clear cultural standard of 'normality' remains the heterosexual couple. The church actively embraces this standard with our participation in the civil right and ecclesiastical rite of marriage - which it offers only for heterosexual couples, even in those places where marriage is allowed for LGBT people. How ironic is that?
Double standard, Kendall? No wonder you speak so often of them. If the Evangelicals didn't invented it, they certainly should get the official patent or exclusive copyright. "