Tuesday, November 02, 2010
It was 20 years ago today . . .
It was seven years ago today that V. Gene Robinson was consecrated Bishop Diocesan of New Hampshire.
It only feels like twenty years.
On one level, it feels as if +Gene has always been bishop - that there has never been a time when he was not bishop. He has fit into the role with seemingly effortless grace and style. He is so clearly called to the position it often makes me weep with joy when I listen to him or read something he has written. What a gift - what a treasure - he is of and to the church catholic and militant here on earth!
On another level, and while we've been through many turbulent waters over the last seven years, the wise know that we have only just begun. We have a long, long way yet to go, and many more turbulent waters to cross before we begin to catches other glimpses of the Realm of God manifested in the church in its fullest glory.
Indeed, the Church of England will be meeting in General Synod 22-24 November. Besides revisiting - again! - the role of women in the episcopacy, the matter of the approval/acceptance/endorsement of the "final draft" of the Anglican Covenant will come up for a vote.
It is no coincidence - indeed, it of great significance - that these three issues - homosexuality, gender and the Anglican Covenant - come before "Mother Church". The three are intricately and intimately bound together in an inextricable web of ignorance and prejudice and anger.
The Anglican Covenant came into being as a direct result of the election and consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop in the church - the first honestly, openly gay man to be able to do so.
The painfully public conflicts and threats of schism that have beset the church since the ordination of women in 1974 in The Episcopal Church reached a peak in October, 2003 when the Primates called an emergency meeting to discuss the "problem" of the approval and endorsement of +Gene's election by The Episcopal Church.
That meeting led to the the articulation of a need for an Anglican Covenant in The Windsor Report, written in 2004, the goal of which was to have a more unified church. The path to that goal, the Windsor Group determined, was to develop a more centralized authority, moving us toward a more 'catholic' - that is 'universal' church in which the "correct teaching" of the Anglican communion could be maintained and taught.
Make no mistake: The Anglican Covenant also moves us to a more 'catholic' - that is to say, centralized, authoritarian - institutional embrace and expression of authority.
While it is a proposed solution to the conflicts among the various evangelical, Anglo-Catholic, so-called 'orthodox', liberal and progressive theological aspects of the richly faceted gem of the Spirit of Anglicanism, the Anglican Covenant is, in fact, punitive and retributive in nature, an embarrassment and insult to Christianity in general and Anglicanism in particular.
Why do I say this? Provinces and dioceses and churches that adopt the Covenant will commit themselves to accepting the authority of an international Standing Committee (formerly the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and Primates Meeting), which will make recommendations regarding the resolution of further controversies within the Communion.
The Anglican Consultative Council and, particularly, the Primates meeting may then institute "relational consequences" to punish a church deemed to have violated their Communion obligations under the Covenant. Churches that reject the Covenant will seemingly be relegated to a secondary status within the Communion.
Make no mistake: We are being asked to sacrifice the gift of classical Anglicanism on the altar of 'unification' at the impulse of punitive anger over women and LGBT people being allowed full access to the corridors and councils of institutional power and authority..
Being united by a negative impulse rarely produces a positive result.
So much for the Spirit of Anglicanism that has always rested on the three-legged stool of Scripture, tradition and reason.
Yes, it was Richard Hooker, that classical Anglican theologian who gave us that image with Scripture as the primary leg, and tradition being an important and essential second leg; but he argued that we have our God-given reason to guide us in balancing the stool.
With these three sources of authority, change becomes possible and proper as conditions and understandings change. Allowing a diversity of opinion allows us to explore new possibilities.
And if the church isn't about exploring new possibilities which can lead us to change and transformation, we are not being true to Christ, the rock on which we are founded, who transformed himself from death to eternal life in the gift of The Resurrection.
Pragmatically, this means we will quickly become irrelevant to the very people Jesus called us to love and serve.
Indeed, I believe the Anglican Covenant would, in fact, promote schism, because it would treat those who dissent from any such judgment as un-Anglican. This flies in the face of both scripture and our Anglican tradition, and is an insult to reason.
How very odd to find myself in the conservative position of advocating to maintain this classic Spirit of Anglicanism wherein diversity of opinion is a sign of a healthy community committed to seeking - but not necessarily always having - truth.
The celebration of the anniversary of Bishop Gene's consecration today brings that all into sharp, clear focus for me.
Happy anniversary, Bishop Gene! Happy Anniversary to The Episcopal Church!
In another twenty years, I am convinced that we will all look back on this time, scratch our heads and ask, "What the heck was THAT all about?"
And then, we'll ring up St. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - I understand they've been going in and out of style, but they're guaranteed to raise a smile - and ask the one and only Billy Shears to play us another celebratory tune.
Perhaps, at that time, twenty years hence, we'll all raise our glass and sing, "God save the Quean!"