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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Pastoral and Political

I promised myself that I wouldn't do this. I said to myself, "Self, General Convention is over. It's done. Celebrate the wonderful victories, lament the disappointments and move on."

In some ways, General Convention is like an itch that, no matter how times you scratch it, it just won't go away. In fact, the more you scratch it, the worst it gets.

I think I need some Benedryl.

I've tried to be a "good sport". Toughen up. Walk it off. Rub some dirt in it. It has helped. Some.

What has helped is that my beloved 6 year old Mac Book Pro is in the shop. I'm limited to using my iPad, for which I'm eternally grateful because at least I'm "connected", but allow me the small privilege of proving that I still have a firm grasp on the obvious by saying that the iPad is not a laptop. I can't easily dash back and forth through the internet, getting links and pictures and cartoons to illustrate my point.  Even the spell-check feature on blogger doesn't work as well.

Oh, the sacrifices we make for the opinions we hold and believe to be important for the rest of Western Christendom!

So, I'm going to try and be as succinct as I know how to be - which isn't very much. Bear with me.

My beloved friend, Mark Harris, has posted a piece over at Preludium (Gosh, I hope that link works. If it doesn't, please find your way over there.) on his involvement with B005 - the resolution that passed General Convention concerning our "yes, absolutely" to the Anglican Communion and our  "not yet" response to the Anglican Covenant.

Despite what he has written, Mark Harris will, I trust, always be my friend. If we allow B005 to tarnish relationships and ruin friendships than it will have done more damage than the Anglican Covenant would have ever done, had it passed the CofE. 

I won't let that happen. Not a snowball's chance in hell. Not with Mark or anyone else with whom I disagree. One of the marks of being a mature adult is the ability to hold in tension the fact that we can disagree with people we love and admire and respect and still love and admire and respect them.

Which is why, oh by the way, that the Anglican Covenant is such a bad idea. It does not do that. It is neither loving nor respectful.

But I digress.

Mark and I agree on many points, but the one that has made my skin crawl is his description of B005 as "pastoral". It is not. It is, however, quintessentially political.

I'm absolutely, positively convinced that Mark and the other members of the committee which crafted  Resolution B005 believe it to be "pastoral". By that, I think they mean that it is reflective of the committee's read on all of the comments made by all of those who testified and all those who spoke with them in corridors or cafes over cups of coffee as well as the language of some of the several resolutions which came before General Convention.

They tried - they really, really, really tried - to be "fair" to everyone's point of view and very carefully crafted the language of the resolution to be reflective of that "diversity" of opinion.

I'm absolutely, positively convinced that the "intent" of B005 was pastoral, but I fear that it missed its mark by a long, winding country mile in its "impact".

Was Jesus being pastoral when he called the Pharisees a "brood of vipers"? How about when he said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan"?  Didn't Jesus admonish us to let our "yes" be "yes" and our "no" be "no"?  

Instead, we kicked the can down the road.

Sometimes, being pastoral is not for sissies. 

Here's what I see: B005 is as political a statement as was B033 - the General Convention resolution which called for a moratorium on the election and consecration of LGBT people to the episcopacy.

At the time, B033 was presented to General Convention in a specially called joint session of both Houses of Bishops and Deputies by a newly elected but not yet consecrated Presiding Bishop, who believed what she was told; that, in order to have a place at the ACC table, she needed this resolution. 

Katharine Jefferts Schori said, "At this time, it's the best we can do."

didn't believe it then. I don't believe it now. 

I don't believe B005 is the best we could do.  It is a political statement which, like B033, sought to secure our place at the ACC table when next it meets. Which, I believe (but can't easily check because I'm on this iPad), will be held after the election of a new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Two bishops: Sentamu (a staunch conservative) and Cocksworth (an equally staunch Evangelical 
with a most unfortunate surname), are widely rumored to be favorites. If either of them is elected the next Archbishop of Canterbury, then it's "Nellie, bar the door". 

You can take this to the bank: If a conservative/evangelical is appointed the next ABC, the Anglican Covenant WILL reappear. That "can" that B005 kicked down the road will come back to kick us in the face. Like B033 before it, B005 will give us none of the leverage that was hoped for by many who supported it. Indeed, I think all it will do is to continue to erode whatever trust might have been there between conservatives and orthodox who just may come to believe that progressives and liberals will do anything to stay within the corridors and councils of power and authority in the Anglican Communion.

I understand. Sometimes you have to lose a battle in order to win the war.  One of the statements swirling 'round the corridors of the Convention Center was that we didn't want a controversy over the Anglican Covenant to interfere with any possible controversy over the authorization, for provisional use, of the Liturgical Rites of Blessing.

It was a sort of "Sophie's Choice" for LGBT people and some of our allies. Accept a "maybe, but not yet" on the Anglican Covenant which was born of homophobia and get Liturgical Blessings in return.

Let's be clear: that was not pastoral. It was political.

Politically expedient? Yes. Politically savvy? Perhaps. Pastoral? No.

Here's where I am today: I feel a bit like the Bishop who said, after reading from the wrong page in the Prayer Book and consecrated Brigid a bishop rather than an abbess, "What I have done, I have done." No matter. Brigid never received the authority of a bishop in the church. Please God, neither will the Anglican Covenant have any authority in the Anglican Communion.


I'm not going to go there. Not today. Not tomorrow, either. We'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. 

Here's where Mark and I agree: Time to move on.  I've made my point. He's made his. There will, no doubt, be countless other points and counterpoints made until we all collapse into a dead heap of good intentions and opinions, all in the name of Jesus. 

We are, after all, Anglicans. This is what we do. Well, that seems to be the case, often enough. 

Meanwhile, there are hungry people to feed and homeless people to shelter and wars and rumors of wars which continue unabated and break the heart of Jesus.

There is nothing to forgive. I believe Mark did the best he knew how to do, given the task before him. I can't possibly know all the details of the backstory that went into his taking this position. I do know him well enough and trust his intelligence and integrity to believe that he did the best he could.  

Because I disagree with the final outcome doesn't change any of that. I simply disagree with where he ended up. And, as a friend, I needed to call him on a place where I felt, in the awkward dance of explaining what happened, he stepped on a toe. I said "ouch". Done.  

There is much to be said about the giggling of grandchildren (who arrive this Saturday for a week's visit), and the bliss of watching Blue Herons that were, just last month, babies in the marsh, and the sublime pleasures of sipping coffee in small cafes by the Big Water with a dear friend who is made even more dear because friendship endures despite disagreements.

Some might call that position "political". Making friends or maintaining friendships in order to build a network of support for various positions. That is neither my goal nor my intent.  While we are both passionate about the work of justice, I'm not running for office and neither is he. 

We're just two Christians who are friends, is all. Two pastors who love Jesus and each other and, God help us, The Episcopal Church. We will agree to disagree and move on with our lives. 

I don't know anything more pastoral than that.


Mark Harris said...

Good blog...friends soon...real soon.
Of course we sometimes disagree, otherwise it would be hard to tell where you left off and I began, or the otherway around.

Small correction, B005, not B055.

Moving on to other things.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

B005. Damn, I knew that. I just couldn't check it easily with my iPad. And, you know, it's not like I've ever done anything that someone else disagreed with. HA!

As an old colleague used to say, "Take a ticket and stand in line."

Coffee. Soon. Promise.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Jesus direction to his followers-let your no be no and your yes be yes? Can someone support b005 and blessings for same sex relationships ?
Pondering these thoughts.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Anonymous - good question. If you want further observations and questions to be published, please leave your name

June Butler said...

Brava, Elizabeth! I've been wanting to get over here for days to say that I could have written your post, although not half so well. You touched on everything I wanted to say about the covenant resolution and more. Thank you.

I'm still searching for the pastoral in the resolution, too, and I feel that what we've done will come back to bite us.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Mimi. I'm disappointed but well, when have we all not been a disappointment to someone. I just couldn't let the "pastoral" bit pass. It kept getting stuck in my craw.

Matthew said...

Can the political ever be pastoral, and if so, under what circumstances? By what indicia Will we see both going on? I feel the same way about the whole struggle for gay rights in the church going back decades including the latest "step" which authorizes same sex blessings back to 1999 when they said our relationships were part of the body of Christ back to 1976 and on and on. I feel this latest step is political. - we cannot just call it marriage - that is another step for another time but maybe it's pastoral also. I am deeply suspicious of resolutions that seem political or based in realpolitik compromises yet every gay rights resolution has seemed that way for two decades. Maybe this one is different because there is nothing pastoral in it. No inch towards something better. Not sure is all.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Excellent point, Matthew. I fall on the side of SSB as political. I think we will see that in the years to come. My beloved and I will not do anything in church until we can marry - just like everybody else. No "special" liturgy. Until then, I rejoice for those for whom this is good enough. I'll pass, thank you.

Matthew said...

I agree totally Elizabeth but my added point is that our gay rights and Integrity leaders have promoted this political and incremental rhetoric and that is very disheartening and alienating to other lgbt episcopalians. I admire Susan Russell intensely but some of her statements make me very sad and hurt. For example when she says, "is this the whole enchilada? No but there is enough guacamole for me." it is bothersome to those of who who hate guacamole and for whom anything less the whole enchilada leaves a taste of bitterness and alienation. Ditto when she says that the only threat we've ever made is to stay. Actually I have threatened to leave to more lgbt friendly places if I don't get the whole enchilada soon enough. Sorry, dying and famished on guacamole. When I said that at an Integrity meeting I was immediately side lined and silenced. We mustn't raise up leaders who will deviate from the Integrity talking points and talk of departure or GC 2012 outcome is not worthy of celebration. This lgbt episcopalian has oftentimes felt very alienated from the Integrity crowd. Your thoughts? I will post something on susan's blog to let her know i mentioned her name in case she wishes to respond.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Matthew - My grandchildren arrived shortly after I posted your comment and I haven't had a minute to scratch my nose! I hear what you're saying, Matthew and I don't disagree. I think Susan made the 'guacamole' remark in Denver in 20000. Not only did she own it "....enough for me...." and not put it on the whole LGBT community, but it was in response to D039 which, for the first time, defined the spiritual elements of a "holy relationship". That was HUGE.

Context, Matthew. Context is everything.