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Monday, March 21, 2011

Spank The Yanks

The Anglican Covenant is making the rounds in England, seeking approval from the various deaneries and diocese around The Church of England.

Meanwhile, one hundred ninety-five clergy and lay deputies from 98 dioceses in The Episcopal Church registered for a gathering that began mid-afternoon on March 18 and concluded at noon March 19.

It was an historic gathering in Atlanta with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to discuss General Convention 2009 Resolution C056 concerning the gathering of resources to develop liturgical rites of blessing of the covenants made by people of the same gender in The Episcopal Church, as well as the pastoral care and teaching resources for these couples and the church.

Here's a video of the live web conference, presented by Ruth Meyers, chair of the SCLM and including reports from the co-chairs of the Pastoral Concerns Committee, Susan Russell and Thad Bennett. Please do take a moment to watch it.

Among the deputies registered to participate, 51 will attend their first convention as deputies in 2012; for another 18, Indianapolis will be at least their fifth convention, according to statistics presented during the opening session.

Another nearly 50 people participated as presenters and small-group facilitators. In addition, representatives of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Moravian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America observed the process.

You can find lots more information, videos, etc. at The Episcopal Cafe, here.

The Church of England is - and indeed, the entire Anglican Communion will be - discussing the approval of the Anglican Covenant as an 'instrument' of the Anglican Communion which would determine "relational consequences" for some of the very issues discussed in Atlanta.

The Anglican Covenant is being presented to the church as a "final draft". We must vote up or down on the whole megillah. We may not, we are told, vote 'yes' or 'no' on any one section or change any part of the document.

"Take it or leave it" is the "deal or no deal", and, while it isn't exactly clear what "relational consequences" might befall you if you "leave it," you just might be "left behind" in your member status in The Anglican Communion.

It sounds to my ears the development of a sort of "upstairs/downstairs maid" class status which the British rather infamously created.

The score card, thus far is:
Diocese of Lichfield - voted to approve the covenant.

Diocese of Wakefield - voted not to approve the covenant.

Diocese of Hereford - the debate was adjourned without out vote.

Diocese of Oxford - referred to deanery synods.
That's far less than the ringing endorsement expected from the folks at Lambeth Palace, I'm sure. It's an initial response that brings me much hope.

The Rev'd Dr. Caro Hall, a member of Integrity and rector of St. Benedict's Episcopal Church in Los Osos, California, reported on the first day of the gathering in Atlanta group, especially on the theological principles reflected by Jay Johnson.
Reflecting theologically on same-gender unions should be grounded in baptism and how we live out our baptismal covenant which suggests three key theological touchstones:

1) The loving faithfulness of faithful relationships exhibits the character of a sacrament;

2) Christian life generally, but in particular committed relationships, shares in God’s Trinitarian life characterized by inclusive, dynamic and mutual giving

3) Committed relationships can renew our hope – the gospel promise of union with God

Reflecting further on covenants:

1) Everyone is called to live out the baptismal covenant, but not everyone is called to do so in the same way… it is helpful to think of entering a couple commitment as a vocation;

2) Entering into covenant with another person can enrich our experience of covenant with Christ;

3) Covenantal relationships create households which require intention and discipline enriched by divine grace – thriving households don’t just happen on their own but come from intentional spiritual practice;

4) Faithfulness and love enable us to give to the wider community – to nurture our baptismal calling in the world. Within a covenanted relationship we can discover and nurture gifts for baptismal ministry. Covenantal relationships are blessed and can become a blessing to the faith community.
It would appear, once again, that The Episcopal Church and the Church of England are two member churches of the same Anglican Communion, separated by a common language.

The Church of England is discussing the approval of The Anglican Covenant - deal or no deal - which contains, in Section IV, punitive measures for those members of the communion whose theology is an "affront" to another member of the communion.

The Episcopal Church is discussing the approval of rites of blessing for Covenants made between two people of the same gender based on our Baptismal Covenant - which, they say, everyone is called to live into, but not everyone is called to live out in the same way.

Ummm . . . Covenant is the topic on the table, but we seem to have Very Different understandings about what 'covenant' means and Very Different processes to deal with them.

Anyone else see the disconnect here?

One process shuts down conversation and disregards intellect and reason unless it comes from on high. The other process opens it up the conversation and encourages all the baptized, in the words of St. Paul, to "live into the full stature of Christ".

Indeed, one deputy who was in Atlanta reported this:
"In the conversations in the small group I was in . . . I and others, straight and GLBT, began to think about marriage in general and our own (mostly straight)marriages in new ways because of those conversations.

Particularly helpful to me was what a married gay man in our group shared of his experience and his theological work in this area. It seemed to most if not all in our group that the conversation around blessing of same-gender relationships that we are engaged in has the possibility for jump-starting the much needed marriage theology conversations that are long overdue in TEC. Maybe in 50 years we'll be able to articulate a re-newed theology of marriage for all."
I understand that another of the conversations making its way around small groups was to challenge the church's role as agents of the state in marriage. Imagine that!

Meanwhile, the strategy which seems to be employed by those in the CofE who wish to see the Anglican Covenant approved, was summed up by a British colleague of mine as "Spank the Yank". The strategic argument appears to be:
“We need the Covenant because the yanks have been very naughty and consecrated a Gay bishop and that split the communion and then when poor old Rowan was just trying to pick up the pieces the yanks went and consecrated a Lesbian bishop and completely wrecked the whole thing... and Rowan had expressly put a moratoria out on that. Now TEC figures show that it is in free fall and all the poor old faithful to the Bible Episcopalians have no where to go.”
Well, there it is, then.

And, look, the Yanks won't stop. Now, even now, they are meeting in Atlanta, talking about blessing what boys do together with their 'dangly bits' and the horrors of what women do together with their 'naughty parts'.

It's disgusting, really. Let's 'spank the Yanks' and if they won't stop it - stop it right now. . . cease and desist immediately . . . then. . . why. . . there will just have to be ...."relational consequences".

It reminds me of that wonderful Eddie Izzard piece about The Church of England. "Cake or Death." Here, you can watch the whol one minute, fifty seconds of it while my blood pressure goes down and I can write without cursing.

Here in "Red Sox Nation," the term "Spank the Yank" has more to do with baseball than church.

But, that's another conversation for another time - preferably at Fenway Stadium near the Green Monster while we eat a good old fashioned American hot dog.

The thing of it is that the folks for whom the Covenant was written -  to keep "the orthodox" at the table -  have already left the building.

They have created their own parallel universe in the Anglican Communion and have declared their own "Jerusalem Declaration" as being far superior to The Anglican Covenant.

They have a point.

I'm no fan of the "orthodox" declaration, but it does lead me to ask: Is the Anglican Covenant really the best we can do to "stop the schism" in the Anglican Communion? Really?

What a complete and utter failure of religious imagination!

So, what's the point of the Anglican Covenant, if not simply to 'spank the Yanks'?

I think it's time for someone from 815 to ring up someone at Lambeth Palace and let them know that the jig is up. We know their strategy. "We" being not the "Royal We" but the common folks in the pew who share a common baptism and a common prayer for the church.

And not just "the bums in the pew" in The Episcopal Church, but all around the Anglican Communion - including the Church of England.

It's time someone told Father-Who-Thinks-He-Knows-Best that this little charade of ecclesiastical patriarchy has been exposed for what it is - the pathetic death grip of a Church that will soon die of the suffocation of the Spirit.

The Spirit of God seems intent, it is clear to me, on dragging us all - kicking and screaming, if necessary - into the postmodern era to deal with reforming the Body of Christ into an incarnational presence for the world.

We already have a Covenant which we made at our baptism. We don't need an Anglican Covenant to tell us - any of us - who Lambeth Palace thinks we are or to impose 'relational consequences' on those who still hold fast to traditional Anglicanism which is the spirit of accommodation and tolerance and a deep respect for the primacy of scripture, understood by the divine gift of human reason within the context of the tradition of the church.

The old joke told by Bette Middler is that, whenever the ball drops on Times Square on New Year's, it's always 1950 in London.

I would beg to differ with The Divine Ms. M. I think London is doing just fine, thank you very much.

It always seems to be 1950 at Lambeth Palace.

Meanwhile, The Episcopal Church looks forward to gathering at General Convention in Indianapolis in 2012. There, we will finally - FINALLY - approve the authorization of liturgical rites of blessing the covenants made by people of the same gender. Of this, I have no doubt.

I'm not patting ourselves on the back.

I've been at this since 1984 - many have been at this longer than I - and clearly remember the 1994 pastoral study document produced by The Episcopal Church and approved by the House of Bishops entitled, 'Continuing the Dialogue".

Mind you, this was after more than a DECADE of dialogue!

Bishop Jack Spong did not feel the report was strong enough in its support for gay and lesbian people, so he put forward A Statement in Koinonia, which stated, in part:
"We believe that celibacy is an honorable vocation for some of God's people and that those who have chosen to live in celibacy for whatever reason have gifts to give that will enrich both the church and the social order.

But we also believe that those who know themselves to be gay or lesbian persons, and who do not choose to live alone, but forge relationships with partners of their choice that are faithful, monogamous, committed, life giving and holy are to be honored. We will continue to relate to these couples with our support, our pastoral care, our prayers and our recognitions, in whatever form is deemed appropriate, that God is indeed present in their life together."
".... in whatever form is deemed appropriate . . ."

There have been many covenants blessed by many bishops and priests before and since that statement. The time has come and now is that the "appropriate" form of prayers and recognitions of those covenants are authorized in rites of liturgical blessing of the church.

The time has come and now is for the church to do what it is She says she does - blessing the people of God so that they might be a blessing to others.

It is an affront to me and many LGBT people and our allies that this has not yet happened in the church. No one has threatened 'relational consequences' for this shameful neglect. Instead, we wait patiently for "Mother Church" to catch up to where we are even as we continue to work for justice.

It just seems to be the mature, adult thing to do.


Jeffri Harre said...

At this point, I don't really care if the anti-lbgt faction in the Anglican Communion manages to ram through the Covenant with the help of the appeasers. I've said it before: There was an Episcopal Church before the Anglican Communion, and there will be an Episcopal Church after the Anglican Communion.

As for "someone from 815 to ring up someone at Lambeth Palace and let them know that the jig is up," from my observations, they appear more concderned with trying to maintain "our place at the table" rather than being the one to shout "But the Emperor has no clothes!"

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Jeffri. Your words put things into a different perspective.