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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Can we stay together?

Note: I think the way I'm handling my grief, at least at this point, is to stay up in my head. If I get too near my heart, I simply dissolve into a puddle of tears. There will be time soon enough for that. Right now, I still have pastoral work to do. So, when this and the question which follows in the next post came up on HOB/D (House of Bishops and Deputies listserv), I found that I simply had to respond. I hope this is helpful to some of you.)

The Question on HOB/D was: "Can we hold these disparate views and still respect each other and stay together? Or do we need to go separate ways?"

One of the reasons I became an Episcopalian/Anglican is for the very reason you state: that we can hold disparate views and still respect each other and stay together. If we can't, then we should leave Canterbury and go either to Rome or Geneva. Or, perhaps, Constantinople.

The WWAC seems to have caught a "nasty virus" in the last decade or so, which has challenged this very foundational concept of what it means to be in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. Already, those who want us all to "talk alike and walk alike and think alike and speak alike and pray alike" have said that Canterbury is not the center of Anglicanism.

I read that as having such disparate views and not respecting the other that they have gone a separate way. That makes me sad, but I wish them Godspeed and a closer walk with the Jesus they know.

Ah, you are asking, but how is it that we can live together when our disagreements lead us to the point were, for example, what some believe as "insufficient matter" in terms of gender or "sinful" in terms of 'lifestyle' is being blessed, ordained or consecrated to the episcopacy?

My response is one I learned from Ted Mellor who once said, "You have the absolute right to swing your arms as wildly as you wish, but your right ends at the tip of my nose."

You can believe whatever you wish about my sexual orientation and who I call 'family' or who and how I love. However, that right ends when it comes to the pursuit and fulfillment of my vocation, raised up and tested by the community of faith and in accordance with the doctrine, discipline and canons of The Episcopal Church.

On reflection of my experience of Lambeth, I think we got two things wrong:

Inclusion and Unity. I'm in the process of organizing my fuller thoughts on this but I'll say this much in sum.

Inclusion is a crock. You can not include me. I can not include you. We are both already included by reason of our baptism. The household of God does not belong to you or me. It's God's house and either our membership begins with baptism or St. Paul is a liar and we are both apostate and heretical to exclude any of the baptized from any of the sacraments solely on the basis of their God-given attributes of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.

You want orthodoxy? I got your orthodoxy right there.

Likewise, unity is a crock. I used to hear the high priestly pray of Jesus "that you may be one" as a call to institutional unity. From everything I read in scripture, Jesus didn't give two figs about institutional unity. Never had a temple of his own - never even attended services regularly. As one of my Confirmation Class kids once pointed out, where in scripture did Jesus even tithe? (Ya gotta love 'em, right?) What I hear Jesus asking is that we all be one "as God and I are one:. That speaks to me more of an intimacy in relationship than institutional unity.

The Lambeth Conference purported to be about institutional unity but, in fact, its design promoted intimacy in relationships. The bishops and their wives were set into small intimate groups in order to share the details of their lives of faith. Whatever institutional unity we will have been able to achieve because of Lambeth 2008 will be due to the fact that it was built on the foundation of intimate relationships where we know one another in our uniqueness and understand that "I am because you are."

This is the genius of classic Anglicanism which is radically orthodox, in my estimation. It's messy and difficult because it's emphasis is more on 'mutual bonds of affection' as opposed to rules and regulations.

If there is to be the truly modern innovation of something called an Anglican Covenant, it will come about because of our relationships in community which will name our reality - not list rules to follow and proscribe punitive measures carried out by a curia called The Faith and Order Commission if the rules are broken.

"That you all may be one" will only lead to institutional unity if we develop intimacy in our relationships as The Body of Christ.

And yes, there are some (I said some, not all) who want to punish, shame and blame those who disagree with this position. I didn't name them because I didn't think I had to, their positions being so blatant and obvious. They are convicted not by my words but by their own.

And yes,, my position of moral neutrality in terms of sexual orientation and moral behavior may be a "radical departure" from traditional teaching, but so is our current teaching on divorce and remarriage (the early 1970s), reproductive rights (the mid 1960s), the ordination of women (1977), our understanding of the immorality of slavery (for which only apologized in 2006), the shape of the world (for which the RC church apologized only in the last 20 years), a person's left-handedness (some on this list remember being shamed and retrained in elementary school), the origins of disease . . . do I really need to continue?

I said all of that to say this: Can we hold radically different beliefs and still stay together and respect each other? If we are traditional, radically orthodox Anglicans, the answer is a resounding, "Yes."


Unknown said...

What a gift you are to your church and to many of us on the outside looking in! I treasure a Sunday memory of hearing you preach in Baltimore....sister that was a long time ago! You and your family remain in my prayers.

Bill said...

“Can we stay together?”

Well, yes we can. Yes, we are able to. But do we want to? The answer to that is probably no. I say no because you are tolerant and respectful of other folks points of view or you are not. And that’s something you just can’t legislate. You just can’t dictate what makes people like each other and what makes them hate each other.

If you’ve been taught since you were a little tyke that you should fear and hate that which you either can’t or won’t understand, then there is little hope for you of being respectful and tolerant of others. Not all mind you, some manage to break the chains of prejudice through education and social contact. Many take it as a challenge to their continued existence and take it upon themselves to crush the opposition. It becomes their sole reason for living to make everyone see and feel as they believe. If you don’t believe what they believe you effectively challenge their faith and they can’t have any of that.

Many of us seem to be live and let live people. And, as was stated earlier, I don’t care if you wave your arms but if you try to hit me, well then you’ve got a problem. I’m just not the turn the cheek kind of guy. If you hit me I just might come back at you with a right cross. If you try to legislate my rights away I just might take it personal. The days when black and women and homosexuals waited quietly at the back door for some of the crumbs of social acceptance are long past. The genie is out of the bottle and he’s not going back without one helluva fight.

Do we want to stay together? Not really. If you want to be a bigot, so be it. Go your miserable way in peace. Just stay out of my life. I no longer ask for permission to live. I no longer seek your approval. Go find your utopia where everybody lives and dresses and acts the same way. Be happy in your uniformity and I will be happy in my diversity.

the Reverend boy said...

I for one have become determined not to use the word "sides" any more when it comes to speaking about those who hold different views .... i dunno positions maybe.

Anyway to your point, which really resonates on many levels, we're all included by our baptism. With all the talk about "come to the Lord's table" too many of us act as if the table is actually ours or at the least, we're in charge of the guest list to the banquet

Here's to a heightened sense of intimacy. Hopefully we can start to actually act like the church we proclaim to be.

Unknown said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You have given me the words I couldn't find myself. Even in your time of grief - the divine speaks!

Fran said...

Your words are so powerful and so rich...

"Inclusion is a crock. You can not include me. I can not include you. We are both already included by reason of our baptism. The household of God does not belong to you or me. It's God's house and either our membership begins with baptism or St. Paul is a liar and we are both apostate and heretical to exclude any of the baptized from any of the sacraments solely on the basis of their God-given attributes of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc."

I am saving this - it is brilliant.

Cany said...

Absolutely, perfectly brilliant.

WilliamK said...

Inclusion is a crock.... That paragraph is an absolute gem of real orthodox teaching! Thanks for it! You are also so right about the meaning of Jesus' prayer that we would be one ... relationally, not institutionally.

By the way ... the confirmation kids are right about Jesus never being on record tithing. He did once pay the Temple Tax, but the story says he got the money out of the mouth of a handy fish!!!

Sue J said...

What a wonderful post -- it speaks to me on many levels. FranIAm sent me here, and I'll definitely be returning!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Put me in the "inclusion is a crock" fan club too. We are already "included" by our baptism. It's not our call. Maybe once again, this is an issue of confusion on whether one is one the welcoming committee or the selection committee?????

Nathan Empsall said...

Hmm, an interesting take on inclusion. I might suggest that what you say about unity is true of the Body of Christ, but not of the Episcopal Church or Anglican Communion. Scripture doesn't automatically include anyone in these particular institutions. Perhaps the best word to use in place of inclusion would be reflection - do we want the church and the Communion to reflect the already existing and already inclusive Body of Christ? Or not?

You certainly have me thinking tonight. Thank you.

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, I'm passing on these words from Marilyn, who posts anonymously, but signs her name. They're for you.

Anonymous said...

Mimi, thank you for the links.

Elizabeth, thank you for your insights. I am unable to comment directly as anonymous postings are not allowed.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Mimi, for forwarding the note. I appreciate the comment, Marilyn. Thank you.

Nathan, well, what you've written is music to my ears. If I can make you think about the church and what holy scripture says, then I'm doing my job as a priest. That's how I experience the ministry of Jesus: "You have heard it said, but I say . . ."

One must always remember that Jesus didn't really give two figs about organized religion. He wanted to transform hearts and minds. I think that's really the core message of scripture - Hebrew and Christian. Now, if the church can get that message out, we really can change the world for the better.

Muthah+ said...

What I am hearing from the bishops who have spent all this time talking to other bishops and LISTENING to other bishops, is a guarded YES, to the concept of staying together. Certainly the overwhelming majority of the Church does not want schism.

At the same time I have heard an overwhelming statement from developing nations that they don't want American or Western values to mold their own ideas of what Church or society means.

What has gladdened me is the majority view that while we may develop a Covenant down the road a piece, it is clear that no one wants a magisterium or a Confession and certainly not disciplinary ways of excluding those who do not comply.

I believe that over the past 10 years we have allowed media to dictate what it is we believe rather than our relationships with Christ. Today's PB's webinterivew certainly lets us know that the media doesn't get it straight in our own nation much less the far reaches in other nations. Perhaps more and smaller conferences can help us get that sense of global responsibility that we need to be about the mission of Christ in this post-modern age.

But in our own Church--the moritoria must end. We have to be willing to recognize that just because they cannot talk about sex in Nigeria does not mean that we cannot continue to guard the sensibilities of LGBT folks in our own patch.

Anonymous said...

A well-reasoned and thoughtful posting Thank you