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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?

Really, Kendall?

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Anglican Communion have taken the Thirty-nine Articles and placed them where they belong in our lives of faith: In the "historical document" section of the Book of Common Prayer.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. "

10 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Elizabeth, you go, girl! That's telling him. That's a rant, but a rant for good. You blistered his ears, or I should say his eyes. I'd love to have heard you speak that to him.

Bill said...

After reading everything Elizabeth had written, I had to go and look up this outstanding fellow and see what he was about.

I found the following article by him on Beliefnet:

“What Do Conservative Episcopalians Want?
Though we've been caricatured and marginalized, we seek Christian reconciliation within the Anglican Communion.
By the Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon”

“What do conservative Episcopalians want? If we are to achieve reconciliation and love, which the Lambeth Commission’s Windsor Report asks us to strive for on “issues of sexuality,” we need to do specifically what we were asked to do by the commission.”

Well, I did some research and guess what I found out when I looked up “reconciliation”.

Cambridge - reconciliation
noun
1 [C or U] when two people or groups of people become friendly again after they have argued:

2 [U] the process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree

Merriam-Webster - reconciliation
1 : the action of reconciling : the state of being reconciled 2 : the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance

Encarta - reconciliation
- reconciling of people: the ending of conflict or renewing of a friendly relationship between disputing people or groups
- achievement of consistency or compatibility: the making of two or more apparently conflicting things consistent or compatible
- sacrament of penance: the sacrament in the Roman Catholic Religion..

So I ask you, where does he come off telling us to throw in the towel and giving up as a meaning for reconciliation. Most every definition talks about coming to an agreement. What he talks about is the GLBT folks giving up all hope of being full members in the Episcopal Church. We have to stop having same gender sex out of wedlock. We should never be granted wedlock. In effect, we should all go back to hiding in the closet and stop bothering the true Christians.

If he interprets the bible in the same manner, no wonder he’s so confused.

Jim said...

Rev. Elizabeth,

Congrats for telling it like it is. If I were not afraid of what happens to intelligent priests when they become bishops, I could wish you were PB. But then, you know Sue-z and I both love you.

Spiro said...

Elizabeth,

I think Canon 5 of the Church of England covers the inclusion of the 39 Articles. I do not believe they are historical documents in C of E. I guess that there are at least 60 million members in Churches that subscribe to the 39 articles. TEC needs to put the Articles back IN.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I guess I'll just have to believe you about Canon 5 and the CoFE, Spiro.

What IS it with you neo-Puritan, conservative, orthodox Evangelicals and numbers?

How do you ever get any praying done. It seems you only concern yourself with counting, counting, counting.

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep," and "Love my sheep," not "Count count my sheep."

Thanks for your advice about the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Spiro said...

Elizabeth,

You are right that I need to devote more time to prayer - But my little neo-Puritan, conservative, orthodox Evangelical church is gathered for prayer right now, 5pm - 6pm every Monday at someone's home ( will not estimate how many people are at the prayer meeting today because I dont want it to seem like I am counting!)

I commented about the 39 articles cause you were using them to slap around good ole Rev. Kendall Harmon

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Slap Kendall?

No way.

Even if I wanted to, he'd never let me get that close to him.

Lesbian cooties, I gather.

Now what in the heck are you doing in front of your computer?

Go on now! Go pray with your sisters and brothers - no matter how many or few there are of them.

Timotheos Prologizes said...

I agree that the 39 Articles belong in the "Historical Documents" section of the Prayer Book. If I understand you correctly, this would mark them as less critical in some sense than if they were not presented as one of the historical documents.

However, it seems to me that placing them in this section may put them on a higher pedestal considering what else is in the Histocial Documents section: the Definition of the Union of the Divine and Human Natures in the Person of Christ (I would call that essential); the Athanasian Creed ("If you want to be saved, believe this"); the Preface to the first Prayer Book (i.e., why we have a Book of Common Prayer in the first place); and the statement of Catholic essentials in the Chicago and Lambeth Quadrilaterals. I'd say that's pretty strong company for the 39 Articles. Am I wrong here?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think they are right where they belong. Historically important. Currently irrelevant.

Craig Goodrich said...

I realize that this is a long-dead thread, Elizabeth, but did I actually understand you to write:

'Lambeth 1.10 has never been the "accepted teaching standard" for most of the faithful members of the church of Christ.' ?

So out of perhaps two billion Christians, over a billion believe Lambeth I.10 to be nonsense?

Or if by "faithful members of the church of Christ" you mean only Anglicans, do you really mean that around thirty-five million disagree strongly with the assertions of Lambeth I.10?

Or if you mean only Episcopalians, do you mean that the resolution does not express the belief of a majority of US Episcopalians at, say, the time of the Korean War?

Or have I misunderstood your assertion?