He is a friend of long-standing, having previously served for many summers at St. George's Chapel in Haberson, DE, a chapel of All Saints Church in Rehoboth Beach, and the church closest to Llangollen, our wee cottage on Rehoboth Bay.
Pierre is a thoughtful progressive man, who speaks with care and clarity about theological issues. He is not a political or social activist but his credentials as a friend of women and LGBT people have never been in question.
He recently wrote an essay in which he writes:
"It is my conviction that wherever one is on the spectrum of opinion, to have no theology for full inclusion, while more or less practicing it, is worse than having bad theology."He goes on to say:
"This political, non-theological way of going forward is great ammunition not only for the schismatics within our church, and their foreign partners busily violating in deafening silence the third Windsor moratorium on cross-border interventions, but also for those supporters of punitive measures against gays in Africa. It seems lawless. In other words, it gives the appearance that shadowy avatars of some putative "gay agenda" really do rule our church behind the scenes, instead of Scripture and communal Reason, informed by Tradition."He's right. Of course, he's right. Bishop Whalon is calling for an "official apolgia or defense, based on Scripture, communal Reason, informed by Scripture".
But, here's my question:
Can anyone point me to one such official apologia or defense, based on Scripture, communal Reason, informed by Tradition" we've done in the recent past?
Where is the "officially accepted" apologia or defense of the Sacrament of Marriage? Indeed, where's the one on divorce? Or, how about one on Reproductive Rights?
Hasn't our understanding of "accepted apologia or defense" of any position or sacrament, "argued on grounds of the Tradition" always come sideways and inferred through a combination of (1) BCP liturgies and rubrics (2) canons (3) resolutions of General Convention, (4) Theological "mind of the House" statements from the Bishops (5) Lambeth Resolutions.
I'm remembering that great line in the HBO Series when Elizabeth I (played by the magnificent Helen Mirren) is deliberating about what to do with her cousin Mary. Many are calling for her to be charged with treason so that she might be properly executed. Elizabeth is deeply conflicted and rightly hesitant, even in the face of mounting evidence, to order the execution of "anointed royalty".
One of the members of her court (- and her lover, played brilliantly by Jeremy Irons) looks over her latest decree and mutters, in that wonderful British way of being, all at once, amused and concerned, "Sideways, sideways, sideways, Bess. That's how you always do it. Always, sideways."
I suppose it's in our religious and spiritual and political DNA.
Indeed, we partake of this sideways theology every Sunday at Eucharist. One of the great examples of Elizabeth's inclusive theology can be found in the invitation to Holy Communion.
In order to settle the great Protestant-Catholic debate over consubstantiation vs. transubstantiation, the Book of Common Prayer authorized by Elizabeth I created a brilliant place to stand on the Via Media, which I think, in fact, defines it.
The presider says the following invitation: "The gifts of God for the people of God."
The rubric adds, "And may add: Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and FEED ON HIM IN YOUR HEARTS BY FAITH, with thanksgiving."
Brilliant, isn't it? Whether or not you believe it is consubstantiation or transubstantiation, there's enough wiggle room in the language that both theological beliefs are held in exquisite, invitational tension.
Even so, if you are uncomfortable with that, a simple acknowledgment of the fact that these are, indeed, "the gifts of God for the people of God" will suffice.
But, even when we "do the theology" there's always a political agenda to it.
Henry Parsley, bishop of Alabama, is the current chair of the House of Bishop's Theology Committee. As Lisa Fox points out in her blog post at My Manner of Life,
"Bishop Henry Parsley appointed a group which he intended to be secret, to consider the issues related to same-sex blessings and ordination of people in same-sex relationships. . . .Sideways, sideways, sideways. Always, sideways.
. . . .We know that Bishop Parsley appointed eight people – four of whom would argue for LGBTs' place in the Christian community, and four who would argue against it. He didn’t seek impartiality or contemplation. He sought advocates. Further, he wanted them to write two competing papers, which would be delivered to the House of Bishops in 2011. All that happened in the middle of 2009. . . .
. . . .The secret panel was told to prepare their papers for consideration by the bishops in 2011. What LeMarquand (a member of the HOB Theology Committee) reveals is that the papers are going to the House of Bishops meeting in March 2010 – a full year before the schedule we had been given.
I can't help but wonder if this is so the bishops can make their deliberations before the May deadline for consents on Mary Glasspool's election.
What else would account for the bishops and/or secret panel moving the schedule up by a full year?"
Here's the thing: If we're going to have any officially accepted apologia or defense, argued on grounds of Scripture, Reason and Tradition about human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular, then I think we've first got some back-filling to do in the great yawning void of "officially" accepted apologia or defenses about lots of other matters in our common life in faith.
Even before that, however, we'd probably need to pass a resolution conferring the ability and authority to confer "imprimatur" so we'll know, without any possibility of doubt, who, exactly, confers that "official" status onto the apologia or defense.
And then, we'll have to decide if that comes from an "official" statement written on the appropriate form of parchment paper and sealed with the appropriate kind of sealing wax with the impression of the seal of the Episcopal Church.
Oh, but would even that suffice? Might we also need the seal of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Might we also need the Archbishop of York? Or, would it be, finally, "official" if the Pope himself put his seal on it?
If we started the process tomorrow, I suspect, given the nature and character of the church I dearly love, that it will be at least another 200 years before we get 'round to the issue of human sexuality and homosexuality.
Meanwhile, we'll just keep doing what we have been doing as a Body of Christ - being obedient to the call of the Spirit of God, who, in matters of vocation, tends to act in direct lines of communication.
Hardly - rarely - sideways.