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Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Problem With Mediocrity

"You've been very quiet."

I can't tell you how many messages I've gotten like that.

Yes, I've been very quiet about the response from the HOB to the Primates DES Statement. I've been angry. Very angry. And, while I completely understand the strategic nature and necessity of the public statements from our LGBT leadership, I have, I confess, fallen into moments of despair.

I've learned, over the years, that it is neither prudent nor wise for me to speak publicly in anger. Indeed, I have also learned (and, re-learned, in this instance) that it is sometimes wise not to speak privately and among friends in anger.

Truth is, I caught a stomach virus from Ms. Conroy and spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday . . . well, incapacitated. Let's just say I've had time to do a great deal of thinking. And, praying.

Frankly, there's not much to say that hasn't already been said by
others. Even then, there's not much to say.

I mean, truth be told, the bishops acted like bishops. They did what they thought they were expected to do. They preserved the unity of the church. They saved the Anglican Communion from schism.


Furthermore, they did exactly what we asked them to do: they did not act unilaterally. They understood that they could not overturn B033. Only General Convention can do that in 2009. Bishops are one of the four orders of the total ministry of the baptized and they behaved, they thought, accordingly.

We should not be surprised, then, to
learn that the bishop of New Hampshire and the bishop of Western Louisiana (who, oh by the way, voted not to consent to the election of the bishop of NH), said progress was made.

When two polar opposites agree on something it can only mean one thing:


I think that's what hurts most. More than the "reconfirming" of that heinous Resolution B033.

More than the "clarity" (as if we didn't know it before) that the "manner of life" of LGBT people is that which "presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." (No further clarification about other classifications of "challenge" were apparently discussed, or, at least, reported.)

Mediocrity hurt more than the "double talk" of telling LGBT people that they, bishops in the Church of God, "call for unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons," after denying us our baptismal rights to full inclusion in the councils of the church.

Yes, mediocrity hurt even more than the duplicity of the statement, "We pledge as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions." Good grief! Either wearing a purple shirt destroys brain cells or wearing purple changes one's perspective and makes the wearer believe that everyone else is stupid.

Although, I would like to point out that Bishop Cate Waynick has been quoted as noting:
"I would like to observe that the blessing of same-sex unions also continues to take place in the Church of England, and that a number of clergy in that church are homosexual and living in partnerships. The House of Bishops (UK) released a statement nearly two years ago acknowledging that clergy in same sex relationships were certainly entitled to register their relationships with the government in order to obtain whatever legal benefits such registration would give them. These clergy do, of course, have to promise that their relationships are not only chaste, but celibate....

When asked what is different between what is happening in some places in the US from what is happening in England, Archbishop Williams said, and I quote, "Those blessings are not public."

Where is the outcry from Nigeria? From CANA? From the Network and the AAC? Just wondering......"

Good on her. However, I haven't read anywhere that the speculation about the identity of the one reported curious, mysterious dissenting vote has included Bishop Waynick.

No, as painful as all off these things are, it's the mediocrity that hurts most. The pervasiveness of mediocrity during the meeting of the House of Bishops in New Orleans simply takes my breath away.

Mediocrity, in and of itself, is not an unknown quality in the Body of Christ Indeed, it has a long, painful history. It is the fossil fuel of the institutional church. So, I am not surprised to find its presence in the junior house of the governance of our church.

The problem with mediocrity, I have come understand, is that it is one of the more insidious, if not pernicious, manifestations of Evil.

Case in point: I got an email the other day from a clergy friend. He happens to be a married man with two grown children, and rector of a church that has been a champion of justice for LGBT people, women, immigrants, the environment, the homeless, the hungry and people with AIDS (among many, many others). His was one of the first churches to bless the holy covenants of LGBT people.

He referenced the HOB Statement and said, "Well, we're going to be okay in this diocese; that's the main thing." He was greatly relieved to note that even he could read the duplicity of the bishops' statement that would not authorize "as a body" the "public" liturgical rites of blessing for LGBT people.

Yes, I said, WE are going to be okay, no doubt. But THAT is decidedly NOT okay.

As Fannie Lou Hammer, one of the Saints of the Civil Rights Movement said, "Justice is not about JUST US." Just as surely as justice delayed is justice denied, so is it true that justice denied for one is justice denied for all.

None of us are free if one of us is not.

None of us are included if one of us is not.


Perhaps the greatest evil to arise from mediocrity is that Gene Robinson, duly elected and consecrated bishop of New Hampshire, isolated as the only honestly gay bishop in the house of bishops, was compelled to participate in this, this . . . "straightforward dialogue" and "discernment."

Can you imagine sitting there, being spoken about as being part of a category of people who supposedly threaten the unity of the church and having to enter into "straightforward dialogue" with at least a modicum of civility? Can you imagine the grace and strength and courage it took to exercise that kind of restraint?

The greatest evil of this is that, in being compelled to vote for the prayerfully discerned and heavily negotiated "compromise" Bishop Gene secured his further isolation from other, future honestly, open, self-affirming LGBT bishops - many of whom have been his colleagues in ministry and who are his sisters and brothers in Christ.

Mediocrity allows one to quote this scripture at the outset of the statement, "I do it all for the sake of the Gospel so that I might share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23" and then convinces you that you have.

Mediocrity is the fertile ground in which the seeds of duplicity and deception grow and flourish(don't even get me started on the duplicity practiced by some LGBT clergy who are "known" by their colleagues but not "out" to their congregation).

Mediocrity begets mediocrity. Jesus demands nothing less than excellence. I grieve this loss most, I think. The loss of excellence. The gain of the predictable.

It should come as no surprise that, for our efforts, we have been richly rewarded with the illusion of safety and security.

As our bishops gathered in New Orleans, I prayed for our bishops to be leaders. My prayer, it would seem, went largely unanswered. This time. We live in "sure and certain hope" as Christians, and I find that there are a few sparks of hope left in the smoldering ashes of my anger and despair.

My hope is that our bishops will now engage in "straightforward" if not painfully honest dialogue with the rest of the baptized in Christ about what they have said and what they have done.

My prayer is that, by their next meeting in March of 2008, before they gather at Lambeth in June, they will come to see and know this profound truth:

Mediocrity is a far, far worse consequence than schism.


Muthah+ said...

No, Elizabeth, that was NOT the flu you had. It was the body's response to what the HOB did. I have had a belly ache all week

Christopher Evans said...

It's not the mediocrity, but the mendacity that ultimately stands behind the mediocrity that I find so frustrating.

PseudoPiskie said...

Mediocrity breeds schism by allowing only the most radical voices to be heard.

Rowan The Dog said...

Amen... and thank you for putting all this into words.

Bill said...

The thing that bothers me is being made to feel like I’m the one causing the problems. How dare I and like minded individuals rock the theological boat and demand equal rights within the church. Now if I would just be quiet for a few years or better yet just go away entirely that would be great. They see us as the cause of all the ills in the church rather than the pre-enlightened bigotry and fundamentalist intransigence that marks the true cause. They are so happy in their narrow minded little canoes and here are we mucking about making all these waves. I think I may be sick.


Yep, yep, yep.

My fervent prayer is that the cost of mediocrity has become greater than the promise of honesty.

Love you.

Feel better!

kevin jones said...

i read again the letter from the birmingham jail last night. it's not the outright bigots that Dr. king called the greatest force of oppression. it's moderates who say wait, who get the oppressed to cooperate in their oppression who are the real problem. it seems to me that the house of bishops are the true force of oppression here. they could grant lgbt people their civil rights, their full inclusion. and they are not doing it. it's never time to for the powerful to change to and let the oppressed off the mat. they don't do it without being challenged. somebody needs to challenge these oppressive bishops, it seems to me. the american bishops are the principle force of oppression. they are the ones denying people their rights.

but im just some straight guy, not in the line of fire, looking on and remembering things in the south that sure looked like this.

Bill said...

We don’t seem to learn from history, appeasement doesn’t work. Putting off the hard and messy work just prolongs the suffering and in the end, you still have a problem.
Look at the words from the “Peace in our Time
Speech given in Defense of the Munich Agreement, 1938 Neville Chamberlain”

“. . . .What we had to consider was the method, the conditions and the time of the transfer of the territory. The second point to remember is that time was one of the essential factors. All the elements were present on the spot for the outbreak of a conflict which might have precipitated the catastrophe. We had populations inflamed to a high degree; we had extremists on both sides ready to work up and provoke incidents; we had considerable quantities of arms which were by no means confined to regularly organised forces. Therefore, it was essential that we should quickly reach a conclusion, so that this painful and difficult operation of transfer might be carried out at the earliest possible moment and concluded as soon as was consistent, with orderly procedure, in order that we might avoid the possibility of something that might have rendered all our attempts at peaceful solution useless. .”

So exactly what did Chamberlain’s appeasement do?
Did it help Czechoslovakia ? Apparently not.
Did it stop the march of Nazi Germany? Apparently not.
Did waiting help the Jews or Gays or Gypsies? Definitely not.

So what is different in September 2007 that will change in 2009. Not a whole lot.
We will still have Gay men and women being denied full membership in the Anglican Communion
We will still have same sex partnerships that will be denied marriage and blessings.
We will still have conservative and liberal factions who will disagree.

The only thing that will change is that the earth will be warmer and the governments will deny it. But that’s another issue.

So we are telling our GLBT brothers and sisters to wait because we can’t seem to find the courage to do what is right. I think that if “Profiles In Courage” were updated, we would not find reference to the Anglican Bishops.

George said...

I am inclined to think that the Church should allow gay people membership in the Church. In my conscience, I believe Jesus would have done the same. His ministry is for those in need. I hold faith in transformation.

If we do not help, who will? Why are God's people denying these people? I cannot identify with this purpose.

Though I might not be of age or wisdom, I hold steadfast the word of God. I hold faith in the truth of design and the virtue of love.

Love, George

aliceatredeemer said...

My colleague Bruce sent this link to me. Thank you.

I’ve been struggling with the bishops’ statement as well. I completely understand the need for consensus and the desire for unity as a partial reflection of the Kingdom. I get it. And I’m unhappy. You put your finger on it well, I think. Mediocrity. This is not what Jesus called us to—and by us I mean Christians. We are to be the leaven in the lump. That doesn’t mean flamboyant and in-your-face but it does mean to be different, separate, savor. How do we create a community where that leaven is desired?