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Monday, March 05, 2007

Another response to Kendall Harmon

Well, Kendall resonded to my post over at HOB/D. He was positively flumoxed. He wanted to me to "stop this trash-talk" of calling people on his side of the church "neo-Puritan, conservative, orthodox, evangelicals" which just confused the heck out of me.

Well, you can see my response below:


I've given my response to your reaction very careful, prayerful consideration. In addition to which, it was a very busy pastoral day today, a Vestry meeting from 4 - 6 PM, and my beloved granddaughter, MacKenna Jane, came for a sleep over with Nana.

We got to go to the Pizza Parlor for dinner, after which we did her "homework" (In Kindergarten, God help us! An exercise in discerning pennies from dimes, nickels and quarters). She took a hot bath and then we drank some hot sweet tea, laced with honey and milk while she regaled me with stories about her playmates, her teacher, and why she wants to leave the Roman Catholic Church ("It's pretty meaningless, Nana, and they don't let girls do ANYTHING. Jeepers! What's wrong with them?") and become "A Piscopalian like you and Grammy and Uncle Alan and the rest of the family."

I think you appreciate my passion because you have so much of it yourself. I may even fall into the category your fellow South Carolinian, Sarah Hey (the one and the same "token chick" of Greg Griffiths own naming) identifies as "Worthy Opponent." I know I consider you in that category.

Which may well be the reason I pushed your buttons on this one, Kendall. How in the name of heaven is it "trash talk" to refer to you as "conservative" or "orthodox" or "evangelical" when those are the terms you use to describe yourself?

Okay, neo-Puritan is mine, but it is a reference to the parallels I see in the historical battles for the church. The issue then was human sexuality and sexism and church governance. The issue today is homosexuality and sexism and church governance. The arguments, though centuries apart are, to my ears,startling similar.

While I've read on your blog your explanation as to why you use the term "revisionist" and "reasserter," I'd lay solid money that you never asked anyone who considers her/himself as a Liberal or Progressive person if it was okay to use that term. If you did, I never got your memo.

I find both terms odious and unhelpful, which I've said over and over and over again. And yet, you use them still. I am decidedly not a revisionist. I may look for the fine hand of the Holy Spirit as She guides me to see God's face behind letters and numbers and punctuation marks on the pages of Holy Scripture.

She may startle and challenge me into finding a new image or understanding or revelation of God than I may have previously and steadfastly believed.

I may even allow Her to nudge me out of my comfort zone to see how these passages, written so many centuries ago in a different culture in a different (and now dead) language might find application in the language I speak, in my time and in my culture and my life and the lives of people God has called me to love and serve.

Is that not what Jesus himself did with the ancient Hebrew scripture of his day?

All that being so, still, I don't REVISE scripture any more than what I would call your more narrow perspective and particular interpretation does.

I'm glad to know you have, on occasion and in the past, changed your mind. This is perhaps the key difference between you and me and why I take such deep offense at your rhetorical style.

It's neither my intention, purpose nor responsibility to try and change your mind. And you know what? While it may be your intention and purpose, it's decidedly not your responsibility to try and change my mind - or anyone else's' mind, for that matter.

You are absolutely entitled to your own opinions and perspectives and interpretations. And, I'm entitled to mine. Up until very recently, it has been the norm and the standard in The Episcopal Church that we could hold both "self-evident truths" as having absolutely equal standing. That's the tradition of the gracious spirit of Anglican accommodation, at work and in practical application.

That, apparently from everything I read on your blog and those of other conservatives (okay, 'reasserter') is anathema to you and yours.

I remember John Guernsey at the first gathering in Seattle (actually Edmunds), Washington of what was to become The New Commandment Task Force. I had expressed my dismay about some resolution or another but my firm resolve to stay in the church.

John asked, "What will it take for you to leave The Episcopal Church?"

And I said, "Absolutely nothing."

"Nothing?" he asked, incredulously.

"Nope," I said, confidently.

"Not even if it means schism?"

"I'd be sorry to see you go, John," said I, adding, "It would be a terrible loss for the church."

I'll never forget what he said next. John sneered at me and said, "Oh, if there is a schism, it won't be me who leaves. I can promise you that."

It actually broke my heart to see John's name on the list of priests deposed in the diocese of VA. I took absolutely no joy in the way that situation turned out. It's a terrible, terrible loss of talent and passion and intelligence for The Episcopal Church. And, that's just the one I know about.

There are those of you who have worked very, very hard on making certain that schism would take place and you all are trying very, very hard to make certain that LGBT people and our allies will be the ones to leave.

But, we won't. I can promise you that.

What you all didn't factor into your plans is the fact that LGBT people are now simply the wedge issue in what can only be described as an attempted hostile take over of The Episcopal Church and the World Wide Anglican Communion..

I don't think you really understand what you will be giving up in order to have a church without the likes of me in it. Or, perhaps you do and the sacrifice of your theological freedom, liturgical expression and ecclesiastical order is worth a church without LGBT people.

While for the life of me I can't understand why, apparently priests like John Guernsey have willingly and gladly made that sacrifice.

God bless you and yours, Kendall. While I believe it is misguided, I have to admire the integrity of a decision for such a sacrifice as that. But, here me clearly: I'm not leaving.

You know what? In contrast to all of the threats and dire predictions being made in the comments sections of Blogs like yours, the threat to stay is the ONLY threat LGBT people have ever made and it's apparently been very effective. It has served to mobilize the right for schism as well as scapegoating.

I know one sure thing about my beloved Episcopal Church; it will not back down from ecclesiastical bulling and one of the most unseemly and vulgar (not to mention decidedly unchristian) grabs for power in modern religious history.

No way. No how. It's absolutely antithetical to the American spirit, much less the Spirit of our Risen Lord.

As the events continue to unfold and you continue to remain the Chief Theological Spinmeister for the group you describe as "reasserters," I hope you can come to see how you trap yourself in your own rhetorical web of words.

Then, I won't have to point it out to you, and you can deal with your anger appropriately.


Muerk said...

Maybe you should tell your granddaughter about St Teresa of Avila and all the other wonderful women who did amazing things in the Catholic Church.

Mary didn't need to be a priest to be full of God's grace.

Allen said...


What a wonderful response.
In some thoughts on the current situation, I referred to Chris Hedges' book American Fascism and the fact that some people in TEC seem to be influenced by dominion theology. Hedges discusses the hijacking of language in the service of a particular agenda. The result of the hijacking is to change the meanings of words. Of course we all do it to some extent, but I see a particularly glaring example in this word "reasserter." For, while Kendall Harmon and that crowd are indeed reasserting some ancient things, they are also newly asserting things that never were. The things they are truly REasserting are matters on which there is generally no dispute. In order to make it appear that there is dispute, these faux reasserters raise the specter of folks like Bishop Jack Spong who is actively reexamining things which the great majority of us are not ready to reexamine. (And I think the Anglican comprehensiveness can include the truly innovative like Spong, whether they ultimately turn out to have been chasing chimeras or are seen as prophets.)

On the other hand, I would claim the label "revisonist" proudly -- in the sense re-vision, to look at again and find something new. That, to me, is what John Keble was saying in "New every morning is the love our waking and uprising prove."

Allen Mellen

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Near as I can figure, Muerk - considering that scripture was written by men - neither Sr. Teresa of Avila nor Mary had a call to a vocation of ordained ministry in the institutional church.

Apples and spaghetti, Muerk.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, and neither did Mary wait for the entire institutional church - much less one branchh or another - to completely agree before she said "Yes" to the doctrine of the incarnation.

Everybody say, "Thank you, Mary."

Wormwood's Doxy said...

At the risk of blog whoring (can I say that here?), here is my "thank you" to Mary.

Elizabeth---was there any explicit discussion of denouncing the Nigerian legislation at Executive Council? I see the recommendation for asylum, but no explanation for one of the reasons it is needed, and no condemnation of the legislation itself.

Finally, let me thank you and your colleagues on Executive Council. The work you do is so very important, and I am grateful that you are willing to give so much time and energy to doing it.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...


I haven't spoken with my friends on Executive Council so I don't know the specifics of the conversaton.

The entire letter, it seems to me, is very restrained - calculatingly so. It seems to be saying to SOME of the Global South Primates and their North American toadies, "Back. We will not be intimidated. We will not be rushed. We will do this in our own good time and in our own good way."

That much I like.

Frair John said...

Actually muerk,

Teresa of Avila and Thereze of Liseux BOTH claimed to feel the vocation of the Priest, as did Elizabeth of the Trinity, Teresa of the Andes and Catherien of Siena. (Sorry for the spellings, I'm in a hurry.)
Thereze is quiet open in her book about how frutrated she was by "being a woman" sence she couldn't live out her full vocation.
With us, young women like her are recognized and ordained, allowing them to live into their full vocations.

John Robison n/OB OCD

Jon M. Richardson said...

Thank you for your comments on the "reasserter"/"revisionist" language.

It seems to me that Jesus calls us to be "revisionists". I am preparing to preach this week and the Gospel text is from Luke: the parable of the fruitless fig tree. The gardener had attempted to "reassert" for three years, and yet the tree bore no fruit. It was not until he vowed to adopt a "revision" - digging and fertilizing - a.k.a. doing a new thing - that he earned for the condemned tree the grace of a second chance. Indeed, the very idea of resurrection is a "new thing". It is a "revision" of "the way we've always done it".

Thank you again for your thoughts. They are the digging and fertilizing that my sermon needed to begin to bear fruit.


Bill said...

Why do I find myself wanting to discuss homework and the amazing incite of young MacKenna Jane. Possibly because I find the rhetoric of people like Kendall Harmon, just so much hot air. It’s like having some annoying insect buzzing round your ears. It makes absolutely no sense and it refuses to go away. I’d much rather discuss the “meaningless” Roman Catholic Church. Having left the RC Church just very recently, I’d love to find out how a six year old can be so discerning while it took me sixty plus years to figure it out.

W said...

I would caution everyone to remember that the people posting on Titus 1:9 are NOT Kendall Harmon. A significant number of the posters are, in my opinion, idiots. However, judging from the breadth of his posts, I think Harmon is a lot more broad-minded than the posters we don't like very much. I'm not saying I agree with him on everything (or anything), I'm saying that he's no fool.

muerk, you are correct that neither Mary nor anyone else needs to be a priest to be full of God's grace. that isn't the issue, though. if we unjustly deny a class of people the right to be priests, we as an institution aren't living out God's will.

also, if you're referring to Mary Magdalene, it's likely that she had a far more significant role in the early church than the Scriptures tell us.

W said...

I posted prematurely, so I'd just like to add this. Mary M is known as the apostle to the apostles: sounds a little like the office of a bishop to me :)

Jim Trigg said...

In response to the exchange you had with John Guernsey, I can only say that my immediate reaction to "Not even if it means schism?" was "If the GLBT-friendly leave the Episcopal Church, it IS schism."