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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Can there be peace without justice?

One of the brothers on HOB/D, a kind, decent, intelligent, progressive man, recently wrote a post wherein he asked us to consider "another way" of doing business when General Convention meets in Anaheim in 2009. Here's my response to him:

I appreciate your position. I do. I hear you asking for a "different" process than a parliamentary or legislative procedure when the time comes for us to deal with the issue of the three moratoria recommended" by the Windsor Continuation Group (but, I will note, not agreed upon by the Primates at Lambeth).

I hear you pleading with us not to appear like bullies of social justice in the WWAC by entertaining your previous suggestion to work, in some as yet unknown fashion, toward consensus in determining whether or not TEC adheres to the "recommendation" of the moratoria on blessing the sacred covenants made between people of the same sex and the holy vocations of LGBT people to the order of the episcopacy.

I might actually agree with you, if I were heterosexual. Since I am not, and I - and many, many people I know and love - are affected directly by two out of the three moratoria, well, your note begins to sound like the letter the good clergy of Birmingham wrote to Martin Luther King, Jr.

As you know, working toward consensus is a time consuming process, and that begins to sound to my ears like an admonishment to "be patient" and "wait."

Because I know you and have deep respect and admiration for you, I have considered the matter very carefully and prayerfully. I understand that you want justice for your LGBT sisters and brothers and yet you want to achieve it peacefully, considerately, non-legislatively and with an eye toward eventual reconciliation with our sisters and brothers.

However, I have concluded that suspending "business as usual" (the legislative process) FOR THIS ONE ISSUE insures a de facto compliance with the moratoria.

If the issue were a ”recommended” moratorium on the ordination of women or people of color, would you even consider proposing working for reconciliation in the WWAC at the expense of the possible suspensions of the vocations of these minority "target populations"?

I suspect not.

Yes, we are in communion - relationship - with each other in Christ. Yes, what happens in Anaheim does have an effect on what happens in Lagos. I pray fervently that this is so - for the sake of persecuted and imprisoned LGBT people in Nigeria and other nations in the Global South - that the injustices we fight here will serve to promote the cause of justice there.

I understand and share your concern for the state of the communion, but I lament that you do not express similar concern for the conditions that brought about the present crisis.

You are an intelligent man who loves the justice of God. Surely you would not want to rest content with the kind of superficial social analysis that deals mainly with the effect and not with the underlying causes.

You are, I have no doubt, well aware of the past two decades of very carefully sewn and tended seeds of international discontent which have brought us to this point in time. (See: Chapman memo)

Placating those who perpetuate injustice with a process similar to the Indaba Process used at Lambeth is not only to sew the seeds of a false sense of peace, it is also, as we saw at Lambeth, to add to the frustration and sense of futility on both sides of the great divide of this issue.

Furthermore, it does so while the injustice to LGBT people is allowed to continue. For more than thirty years, LGBT people have heard the church say, "Be patient." And, "Wait."

It has been more than thirty long years of activism after hundreds of years of often invisible and silent but nonetheless violent oppression, prejudice and yes, brutality and even murder. We have learned, as our African-American sisters and brothers learned in the Civil Rights movement, that "Wait" almost always means "Never."

Let me quote Brother Martin directly, "Justice too long delayed is justice denied."

Let me add my own flourish: Justice too long delayed will always be justice denied.

These words of Dr. King ring even more clearly in my mind as I read your words: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

Yes, I understand your words of caution. The time for caution has come and is now past. One bishop has tried to take his diocese from TEC. He was deposed. There are three more bishops who are actively working to remove themselves and their diocese from TEC to a Province of the Global South, and they intend to take church property with them. Even as I write this, the word 'deposition' is hot on the lips of many
members of the HOB with regard to another brother bishop. It is clear there will continue to be border crossings.

And yes, it is also abundantly clear that the sacred covenants which couples of the same sex make with each other will continue to be blessed. So, too, will otherwise qualified LGBT people with authentic vocations be raised up for ordination to the priesthood and election and consecration to the episcopacy.

B033, that odious and unjust resolution, will be overturned. With all due respect to our Presiding Bishop who was doing her best at the time, it wasn't the best we could do, then. We can do even better now.

Yes, I understand your concern for moratoria. The time for concern for moratoria has come and is now past. None of the three will be observed by any of the parties concerned. That was obvious before the Lambeth Indaba group process It was obvious after the Lambeth Indaba group process. It will likewise be so after a non-legislative process in Anaheim.

So, my brother, I ask you: What will be achieved by imposing a new, non-legislative process, other than feeling good and noble and righteous – and genuinely sorry and sad if the vocations and blessings of LGBT people are ‘officially” delayed for another 3 years?

The time of schism has come and now us. This is the truth of our reality. We are in schism, full stop. To deny it any longer is to do so at our further peril.

All that having been said, Gordon, I am not tossing your idea out with the baptismal water. I believe we must do what we must do to work for justice in our own cultural context. And, I believe we must work to help our sisters and brothers around the globe understand why we did what we did, making certain to assure them that we are not imposing our sense of justice and righteousness on them, while asking them not to impose their sense of justice and righteousness on us.

Let us be gentle with each other as we seek to find our place in this historic time on the historic Via Media.

Yes, this will take sacrifice, but not the sacrifice the holy covenants and vocations of LGBT people on the altar of the false hope of reconciliation with people who are simply either not ready or unwilling to hear the truth of our sense of righteousness and justice.

The Psalmists tell us that the sacrifice required by God is not burnt offerings but a "troubled spirit". God will not "despise a broken and contrite heart." (psalm 51:17).We must bring our hearts, broken by our love for one another and contrite by our obedience to Gospel justice, as our sacrifice to God.

To quote Dr. King, again, directly: "If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust."

I don’t know how we can be or act as the church in Anaheim with any authenticity or integrity without this sacrifice. But, I'm willing to be proven wrong. If, after careful consideration, you have an idea for process design, please do share it with us. I would be anxious to know how it is you think we might achieve gospel justice and WWAC reconciliation while in Anaheim.


Bill said...

A modern parable.

The lifeboat rocked gently in contrast to the storm of chaos that marked the sinking of the ship. Six people, although horror stricken and upset over the evening’s tragedy, sat in fairly comfortable circumstance as they waited for rescue. They had warm dry clothing and blankets to ward off the chill. They had water and food for a limited stay. They even had reading material to wile away the hours. The people in the water were not quite so lucky. Some had life-vests while others clung to floating debris. All were wet and miserable. The cold was beginning to drain heat and life out of the unfortunate six people who made their way ever so slowly toward the relative safety and warmth of the lifeboat. When they finally reached the lifeboat they asked for help getting into the boat. The people in the boat were appalled. “How can you ask such a thing”, they quipped. “We are fairly comfortable and to take you in will cause us discomfort”. The people in the water pleaded, “But we are going to drown. The cold is unbearable. It is draining the life from us. “Can’t we please come in”? The people in the boat thought for a second and said, “Give us time to think about it. Decisions like this can not be made lightly.” “But, we are in pain. Can’t you see that? ” “Of course we can see that, we are Christians after all, but you still must wait. “We don’t see the problem, the boat has seating for over twenty. There shouldn’t be an issue at all.” “Of course there are issues. There’s leg room to consider. And, we don’t know if you will get along with us, or us with you for that matter. There are many social issues to think through before making rash decisions.” “But we need help now, can’t you see that?” “Don’t start getting upset, we are not insensitive to your needs. Tell you what; let’s have a moratorium on making any immediate changes. Well think about it all night and let you know in the morning.”

it's margaret said...


Good letter Elizabeth!
Good letter.

God bless you --margaret

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Bill - good parable.

When I get a "Woo Hoo" from Margaret, I know I've done a good job.

JCF said...

If the issue were a ”recommended” moratorium on the ordination of women or people of color, would you even consider proposing working for reconciliation in the WWAC at the expense of the possible suspensions of the vocations of these minority "target populations"?

{Braces for "Being a woman or person of color is God-given, while being actively homosexual is a lifestyle-choice!"}


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

jcf - yes, yes, yes. And, my answer would be I don't have a "lifestyle," I have a life.

Mike in Texas said...

Well said, Elizabeth.

I get frustrated with those who seem to live in fear of backlash. They don't seem to understand that backlash is a given. It will always be there. It is nonsensical to wait for a time when it will not occur.