Friday, April 06, 2007
Just a few questions on Good Friday
NB: I can not tell you how deeply honored I am to have something I wrote included as part of Jack Spong's weekly email newsletter (April 4th). Jack has been a mentor, a colleague, a pastor, a friend, and a father in God.
I have disagreed with 80% of what has come out of his mouth, but he never fails to challenge me and invite me into a larger clarity about what it is I do believe, which has led to a deeper understanding and experience of my own faith.
When we were at Lambeth together in 1998, there were times when I was being introduced to some hostile one or another and Jack instinctively placed his body in front of mine. That did not stop some of the verbal gutter-snipes from trying to take a shot or two, but mostly, he took all the hits.
For that love and faith and witness, I am even more deeply a debtor.
You can order his weekly newsletter here. EK+
In place of the Question & Answer feature in my column this week, I want to run comments made by an Episcopal priest named the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton. It is an insightful analysis of the current conflict in the Anglican Communion. If you would like to react to this piece, I will consider running a sample of your letters in a future column. Needless to say, I have great admiration for this priest.
– John Shelby Spong
Primates who met at Windsor, Dromantine and Dar es Salaam continue to uphold the Lambeth resolution on human sexuality to be the "standard" of the church, which conservatives want "enforced" so that all are in "compliance."
They have apparently forgotten, these princes of the church and teachers and guardians of the faith, that words like "enforce" and "compliance" are absolutely antithetical to the long tradition of the gracious Anglican Spirit of Accommodation.
In her conversation with the staff at the National Church Center, our new Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schiori points out the incremental progress of some Global South primates who can no longer claim not to have met lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people (LGBT).. She muses that it's simply a "matter of time" before the rest of the communion allows "reason" to take its place along side classical Anglicanism of scripture and tradition.
So here are my questions. There are three:
1. How long, exactly, does it take, for the church to correct its "standard" when the church's standard is at least significantly different from the experience of others in other parts of the world, not to mention that the scientific evidence in the West is significantly different from that of the church?
Stop me if you've heard this one before:
For centuries, the church's teaching about the shape of the world was that it was flat, in accordance with what was written in scripture, despite scientific evidence that it was not. People were excommunicated - not to mention tortured and tried and sent to jail and murdered for disagreeing with the official church "standard" of teaching.
For centuries, the church's teaching about seizure disorder was that it was demon possession, in accordance with what was written in scripture, despite scientific evidence that it was not. People were excommunicated – not to mention tortured and locked in asylums because the outward manifestation of their lives were contrary to the official church "standard" of teaching.
For centuries, the church's teaching about left handedness was that it was a sign of evil, in accordance with what was written in scripture, despite scientific evidence that it was not. People were excommunicated – not to mention tortured and shunned and exiled because the outward manifestation of their lives were contrary to the official church "standard" of teaching. (My beloved can tell you stories that will raise the hair on the back of your necks about the abuse she and others suffered in Roman Catholic elementary schools because of their left handedness).
2. If we agree that the colonialism and cultural imperialism perpetrated by the North and West on the global South were evils of which we repent, why are we now allowing the attempted ecclesiastical colonialism and imperialism of the Global South primates to be visited upon the churches of the North and the West? I never remember Jesus teaching that "two wrongs make a right." Then again, I don't have a King James Version of the Bible so I may be missing something.
3. Who will take responsibility for the emotional, psychological and spiritual damage done to the church and her people for perpetuating the evils of this deficient standard of teaching? And, let's be clear: it's not simply LGBT people who will suffer. As we have learned from the evils of slavery, racism, sexism and the ignorance which once taught that the world is flat, people who have seizure disorders are possessed of demons and left handed people are the scribes of Satan: when the dignity of any human being is compromised or insulted, a mortal wound is created in the Body of Christ.
I think our Baptismal Covenant has something to say about "the dignity of every human being," as does the Outline of Faith (commonly called the Catechism).
Who will take responsibility for the damage that is done while a deficient standard is upheld and promulgated in the church? Knowing what we know about the irrationality of prejudice, who could claim innocence? Knowing what we know about LGBT people and social sciences and lived experience, why isn't the church's "standard of teaching" being challenged – if not absolutely rejected? And, what price are we willing to pay for the damage done to the Sacred Body of Christ while we wait?
If nothing else, these questions underscore what I see as the need for a Season of Discernment, Study and Prayer so that we are very, very clear what it is we are being asked to do.