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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why do we stay? Why do we pay?

It's a good question. Why do we - queer people and women and people of color and our allies and progressives - stay in The Anglican Communion?

And, the second is like unto it: Why don't we take our money with us when we leave? Or, at least, divert it to those places in the Anglican Communion which have nothing to do with supporting the very structure that oppresses queer people and women while turning a blind eye to the genocide in their own provinces?

All over the Internet, both these questions - actually, they sound more like angry statements of retaliation - are being asked by Episcopalians and Anglicans. It's especially painful to hear this coming from some elected leaders in our church.

It's understandable. When people are in pain - especially when this fresh pain touches the old pain of insult and exclusion - there is a tendency to lash out.

"You can't exclude me! I'm leaving!"

"You can't hurt me! I'll take my money and hurt you!"

It's understandable. Not very emotionally or spiritually mature, but very understandably human.

Pain can be pretty debilitating. I know when I'm in pain, I get scared. When I'm scared, I feel cornered and small. I don't want anyone to come near me for fear they may take advantage of being vulnerable.  So, I push them away. I take the offensive as a reflexive, defensive position.

I growl. I hiss. I clench my fist. I bare my teeth.

I do that rather than whine. I can't stand whining. I dislike it most when I hear myself do it, but I don't like it one bit when others do it, either.

While asking these questions is understandable, it has to be noted that nothing better feeds the homophobic, anti-progressive/liberal narrative that queer people are self-centered and narcissistic and immature and their allies are misguided idiots than these two questions. 

No, I'm not suggesting that we "suck it up and deal with it". Or,  "get over it".

Or - you knew this was coming - "Let it go. Let it go-oh. Let it go!"

So, why do we stay? Why do we pay?

There are lots of reasons Here are a few:

1. It's not yet clear what the GAFCON Primates did, exactly.  Even to themselves.

The best explanation I've read is "No, the Episcopal Church Has Not Been Suspended From The Anglican Communion."   Their action is as complex and nuanced as the Anglican Communion itself, and the vote of an "overwhelming majority" of Primates represents a wide diversity of thought and purpose among themselves.

The truth is that the Primates do not have the authority to either provide "consequences" or "sanctions" to anyone outside their own provinces. They are but one of four "Instruments of Communion" and only represent one of the four orders of ministry.

It is not yet known how the other three "instruments" will respond to this action - well, two, actually, since the ABC is one of them - especially the Anglican Consultative Council. We are represented on the ACC by none other than Gay Jennings, the President of the House of Deputies, and she has absolutely no intention of not showing up and not using her voice and vote in representing the position of The Episcopal Church.

All will be revealed, eventually, but at this point, there's probably a whole lot more drama than any real sanction or suspension or damage to our standing in The Anglican Communion - except what we allow to be imposed upon us.

2. Leaving is exactly what the GAFCON Primates want us to do.

They want to humiliate and intimidate and bully us into submission to their understanding of the Gospel. "Submission" is one of their favorite words. They talk about "submitting" themselves to "Jesus as Lord" all the time. They also like the words "obey" and "obedience".

The thinking goes along the lines of humankind being possessed of "total depravity" (See: Calvinist theology which animates their understanding of religion and spirituality) who have to "control their impulses" (Translation: only being with one woman) and "submit" to the "authority of God" (as they understand God - male, of coures) and "obey Scripture" (as they understand its revelation to them).

We leave, they win. Not only the "argument" but the Anglican Communion, as they get to define (or redefine or reclaim as recompense for colonialism) and dominate.

It's also sets the stage for a very dangerous precedent, centralizing power and authority and turning the Primate princes of the church into popes.  That's far worse than long-considered-dead Anglican Covenant could ever achieve.

3. Staying is what the GAFCON Primates fear the most. 

Perhaps the most disingenuous part of the Primates statement is that they desire to "walk together". That is the very last thing they want. Unless, of course, we walk their way and on their terms. They know that's not going to happen.

When queer people and women and our allies and progressives stay in the Anglican Communion, the GAFCON Primates have to walk with us. They don't want to do that. It's so much easier if they can insult and intimidate us into leaving. That's what bullies do. That's why there are "consequences" and not "sanctions". They know they have no authority to "impose discipline" upon us.

Their hope is that, if we are "humbled" over these next three years of what they hope will be "ecclesiastical time out", then we will come to our senses and change our canons at General Convention in 2018.

We won't of course, but they live in "sure and certain hope" that we will. Their greatest fear is that we won't and we'll stay and then they'll have to eat their own words about wanting to "walk together".

I will never forget the words of John Guernsey, then priest in TEC and deputy to General Convention and now ordained bishop in Uganda and first bishop of the ACNA's Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. He simply could not believe that Gene Robinson's election as Bishop of NH would be approved by General Convention. I remember him, actually pale and blinking in disbelief, saying, "I never thought you all would stay."

We have. And, they hate that the most. If they didn't, they wouldn't keep trying to get us to leave. 

4.  Our generosity is an embarrassment to the GAFCON Primates. 

Yes, we should continue our pledge to the Anglican Communion. I know. I know. It's counter intuitive. I confess that I have spent years scratching my head over "words of wisdom" in Scripture which encourage extending generosity to one's enemies.

Proverbs 25:21-22 says: "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you."

And then there's that passage in Matthew, chapter 5, after the Beatitudes, in verses 38-48, where we are admonished not to "resist an evil person" (say, whaaat?) and, when slapped, to offer the other cheek and to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." 

This is amplified in Luke 6:27-36, and Paul echos the teaching in Proverbs when he writes in his letter to the church in Rome (12:20): "On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

It takes a great deal of emotional and spiritual maturity to understand that kindness and generosity in the face of cruelty and oppression is its own reward. It takes years of practicing that spiritual discipline to know that generosity in the face of a heart made small and shriveled by a strict adherence to the 'letter' and not the 'spirit' of the law provides its own form of punishment to the oppressor. 

Their faces burn with the hot coals of embarrassment because we are living the faith we profess.

5. We are either the "one, holy catholic and apostolic church" we profess in our Creed or we are not.  

If we withhold our pledge to the Anglican Communion, we are no different than the dioceses we criticize for withholding their pledges to The Episcopal Church, or parishes that withhold their pledges from the diocese, or individuals who withhold their pledges from the congregation - all because of theological differences. Or, more trivial disagreements about personality or pastoral style.

A pledge is more a reflection of our relationship with God than it is to the institution. "God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45). If we rejoice to say that, and to proclaim God's unconditional love for us as an expectation others demonstrate for us, then we have to be willing to do the same. 

It's either "unconditional" love for unconditionally everyone - or it is not. 

We can not demand for ourselves what we are not willing to give to others.

We've been here before. We may end up coming here again. Perhaps in three years time. Perhaps sooner. That ought not set limits on our generosity. We ought not allow it to compromise the fullness of the cost of our membership in the Anglican Communion. 

Generosity in the face of oppression is one of the costs of discipleship. 

It is also one of its greatest rewards. 

6.  There is great power in martyrdom.

There is a part of me, in my more generous moments, when I want to thank the GAFCON Primates for what they have done.  

They have made us martyrs. In making us martyrs, they have aroused both sympathy and empathy for us around the world - even among those who are neither Anglican nor Christian. 

Just the other day, the Episcopal Bookstore got a call from across the Pond for all 175 lapel pins with shield of The Episcopal Church. Seems that a group of Church of England clergy want to wear them and hand them out to others at their next gathering, to show solidarity with us. 

The leadership of the United Church of Christ just issued a statement, standing in support of and solidarity with The Episcopal Church. I have no doubt other denominations will follow suit. 

Indeed, I have no doubt more provinces around the Anglican Communion will issue statements of solidarity - along with their intention to change the canons of their churches to allow full sacramental ministry to all of God's children - including marriage equality.

Ruth Gledhill, former religion correspondent for The Times who now writes for Christian Today, was deeply moved by the grace and generosity of spirit of our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. She's a lovely but tough woman who has had a front row seat to the Anglican culture wars since the early days. She wrote, in part: 
The saint emerging from this sad hour is not the Archbishop of Canterbury, nor any leader of the Global South churches.

It is the Primate of The Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

The holiness in him and in his words is tangible. It is a genuine turning of the other cheek. He is not threatening to walk away, he is pledging his Church to walk together with all the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

It is his grace in the face of terrible rejection that shines out from this whole sorry episode.
I mean, seriously, people.  There's no denying the power of that.

We marvel at the stories of Gandhi's non-violent resistance against the cruel and oppressive forces in India. Our hearts are stirred by the images of young black students being taunted as they attempt to desegregate a lunch counter or, with arms linked, march on Washington or Selma in Martin Luther King's applications of Gandhi's non violent protests. 

This is how it works, folks. This is the power of civil disobedience to the oppressive structures and forces in the Anglican Communion.

7. This is part of our vocation as Christians who are Episcopalians in the Anglican Communion. 

Just listen to what Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop who, himself, is a product of the Civil Rights Movement, had to say. You can catch the video and full statement here, but it's these words that stir my heart: 
We are the Episcopal Church, and we are part of the Jesus Movement, and that Movement goes on, and our work goes on. And the truth is, it may be part of our vocation to help the Communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a Church and a Communion where all of God’s children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people. And maybe it’s a part of our vocation to help that to happen. And so we must claim that high calling; claim the high calling of love and faith; love even for those with whom we disagree, and then continue, and that we will do, and we will do it together.
I'm going to be so bold as to claim that, I believe that if we've been paying any attention at all to the last 40 years of the work of the Spirit in our midst, it IS in fact, part of our vocation to make the Anglican Communion a place where all of God's children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people.

We are blessed to be a blessing.

We are baptized into the priesthood of all believers. 

We are very members incorporate in the body of Christ.

We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. 

No one can take any of that from us.

This is why we stay. This is why we pay.

Because all has not yet been revealed.

Because if we leave, they win.

Because generosity is its own reward which is pleasing in God's sight.

Because we must live with our lives the faith we profess with our lips.

Because Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth".

And, as our own Blessed Louie Crew Clay has of't reminded us, "The meek are getting ready."

We are Christians who are Episcopalians who are Anglican. 

We can do no other.


Catherine Evans-Routley said...

Thank you for this. As member of the C of E I have spent the weekend mulling what I should do. Thank you for encouragement to stay ( for the time being) within the liturgy and spirituality which has made me who I am. TEC once again seems to be streets ahead, real prophets.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

CofE? Oh, Lord. I can't even imagine. Please stay if you can. It's women like you who will change things from the inside. Write your vicar. Write you bishop. Write the ABC. Let them know who's sitting in the pew. And, who's thinking of leaving because of the action of the Primates.

Matthew said...

I guess my issue with this -- and I apologize because I feel that this comment is perhaps off topic to the blog post, but, nonetheless, I guess my issues with paying and staying have long pre-dated this stupid little gathering that just happened and its petty consequences. I have long disliked the whole way the Anglican Communion is even organized (and changes seem to be around the edges, not radical, like a Lambeth gathering that including laypeople and 50% female representation, etc). I'm not sure if this is a case of straw tipping the camels back. I'm having a hard time articulating what I feel and then it occurred to me that you wrote a blog post a couple years ago that said better then that what I am trying to write now. So, thanks for keeping all this archived (because its easier to find than old facebook posts) and I enjoyed looking through all your wisdom to re-read this. This reflects part of how I have felt for a while now, before this meeting and now. But I agree there is no point in changing just because of this little charade of a meeting. If there is to be some change there needs to be a better reason than the recent gathering.
(p.s. this is Matthew Wright from facebook but this was a long comment so decided to post it here rather than there).

rescue4love said...

Thank you for putting into words the thoughts and feelings I've been struggling with since I read the shocking news. Bishop Curry's response brought me to the verge of tears because of the humility and unconditional love expressed. I feel humbled to be Episcopalian and try to follow your leads.

KJ said...

I am in complete agreement on each point!

One thing I've not heard addressed is regardless of who's "in" and who's "out", how do we assist LGBTQ folk in provinces where they have no church presence, at least Anglican Church presence, to stand in harm's way?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hi, Matthew - I think you'll find lots of Episcopalians who would agree with you - including me. But, we've got to stay in the game to play. I think, after this purple tempest in a Anglican teapot plays itself out, we'll be in a better position to raise the very points you have and begin to effect some real change.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dear rescue - thanks for your note. I really felt called to write this. I really believe that this story is not over. We'll see what the AAC does in April.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

KJ - I'm not sure how to answer your question. There are people "on the ground" in Uganda and Kenya and Nigeria who are ministering to and with LGBT people there. It's not enough, obviously, but there is some pastoral care being provided by various groups. I think this ought to be a priority for IntegrityUSA for the next 10 years.

Matthew said...

Thanks. There was a line in a poem - I cannot recall which, either written by Marge Piercy or Adrienne Rich where one of them said "we must create a space where we can weep and still be counted as warriors. " when presiding Bishop Curry spoke of "pain" that really spoke to me, if we are in pain, we can allow ourselves to feel it, to express it. So while I am generally not a fan of whining and whiners either, there must be space and time for weeping, I think, perhaps even spiritual immaturity for a brief spell, while we recover. Of course my pain is probably just a minor thing compared to those glbt persons living in Africa and so I am in awe of their strength. But, I feel what I feel, and hope as days and months wear on, this is yet another thing g to laugh at like Windsor Report and Dar Es Salaam but I'm not able yet to look at it as clear headed as you are right now. Too many tears to think logically and theologically about it all now. But when I am in pain , I often don't have a clear head.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Matthew - I've been at this most of my adult life and all of my ordained life. I have lived with the pain of exclusion all that time. Of course there needs to be a place to weep and cry - even whine. God knows I've done it. I may be wrong but I honestly don't think this ... event ... reaches the level of warranting that level of energy. The Primates have spoken but we are yet to see what the ACC does with that - especially since it sets a very dangerous precedent and lays the foundation to create a curia. The primates only have as much power over us as we allow them to have. I'm not inclined to give them any - not one tear. I'm choosing to put that energy into the fight. As Mother Jones used to say, "Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living." But, that's just me. You do what you need to do. God bless.

Catherne Evans-Routley said...

Thank you for your reply. The CofE has a lot of waking up to do. I have been part of a church in Rugby where you preached some years ago and felt very affirmed and loved and encouraged. Now I am based in Hertfordshire and most are receptive. The local CofE priest gave my wife who is a Methodist minster a very difficult time and ostricised her and her congregation. He has move don and things are being repaired.
The CofE will lose her most faitful members, and the ABC and ABY although being apologetic about the hurt and prejudice stand on the sidelines. At my wedding last year we had lots of clergy (and ex-clergy. The grassroots need to be listened to.

Andy said...

Thank you. From another C of E colleague, keep being prophetic ... we need you. Doctrine we have, but grace, love and prophetic witness are rather thin on the ground.

Paul Bagshaw said...

I'm white, male, straight, married, educated, ordained, employed (feel free to change the order of attributes).

But I wish to be a beatitude person (people with beatitude?)

Not because of being victimised or hurt (though neither are unknown to me) but because I'm put to shame by people who are beatitudiful. Perhaps also because (notwithstanding my advantages, and despite objectively being inside) I've always been an outsider.

Also because, it seems to me, Jesus' teaching and his life are encapsulated in the beatitudes, and I wish to be a disciple.

Is it possible to enact the beatitudes carrying a legacy of advantage and with contractual and conventional organizational responsibilities, duties and demands?

I would wish to belong to a church community which might nourish and nurture such a discipleship, but I'm also Anglican.

choral evensong said...

Many thanks for this very thoughtful and thought provoking viewpoint from across the pond.
I am a lay member of the CofE, but employed by both of Liverpool's Cathedrals (Anglican & RC) to run their community outreach. As a result i work with people of all faiths and non, and as we have a special outreach to asylum seekers and refugees, I have met a fair number of rainbow people who have fled Uganda, Nigeria,and Kenya purely becasue of the persecution they face for their sexuality. I am in a straight marriage, no kids, and am passionate about marrriage equality.
What I have noted in most of what I have read from TEC sources is how full of grace and humility they are; also how very thoughtful and measured. No more so than the statement from Bishop Michael Curry, which I quoted from in my first ever sermon yesterday.
I am quite cross that one of our collegues has bought up the entire stock of lapel pins! I know this is true, as a Priest from Liverpool is visiting head quarters in New York (he was there when the news broke), and our partner diocese of Virgina. I asked him to buy what he could for me to distribute here, and he reported that there were none to be had because "Some Priest from England ordered our entire stock". If necessary we will make our own.
My church is both a member of Inclusive Church and Changing Attitudes, and so we are able to offer and practice true inclusivness; except that much as we would like to, we can't offer a service of marriage to our rainbow members. We can, and do, however, offer that service for those of our congregation who are previously divorced, notwithstanding Christ's explicit teaching against this.
The hypocrasy of this is what I find is dragging me down. That and the strain of trying to maintain a graceful response, trying to mirror the wisdom of our transatlantic cousins.
Blessings from here and please keep up the wonderful, Gos shaped work that you are doing.
Yours in Christ
Nädine Daniel

Unknown said...

Way to go, Liz! Thanks for all you have done and continue to do. Am passing this on to some others.

Bruce "Bear" Whitehouse

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Catherine - We all have a lot of waking up to do, but you know, it really is true: There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. That seems to be the case with the ABC and the ABY. I hate to sound cynical but methinks there are some very conservative people holding the purse strings. I do wish Her Majesty would say something to Justin over their tea.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well said, Andy. Thank you

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dear Choral - there seems to be no shortage of hypocrisy among the men in purple shirts. The quote from the ABC "They're not sanctions because we did not use the word sanction" set the bar at a new low for hypocrisy. When I heard him say that, I laughed and then I cried. How awful! What a spectacle! No wonder the world doesn't take us seriously.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hi, Bruce. It's Elizabeth. Thanks. And, thanks for your kind words. I hope lots of people who have been advocating walking away and/or keeping our money read this. I hope it changes hearts and minds.

8thday said...

I am only an observer of religion and have no knowledge of the inner workings of your religious institution. But what I am finding difficult to understand is why often the same progressive people who won’t shop at Walmart because of unfair labor practices, or who rally around the boycott of Indiana when they tried to impose anti-gay “religious freedom” laws - these same people oppose those strategies when it comes to advocating for change in their own religious institutions.

I know a powerful woman in the corporate world who would not tolerate gender discrimination in her company. She bitterly complains about the gender politics of the Catholic Church yet remains a faithful member. I don’t understand it and have often wondered what would happen to the Catholic Church if all women simply walked out until they were treated equally.

I had a church kick me to the curb because I was gay. I’m not sure what turning the other cheek would have accomplished. Or staying only to “embarrass” them. Thru my job I have had the power to hurt them, but I have always offered help. Perhaps that embarrasses them (although I doubt it). But I sure wouldn’t want to give them any more financial support which could be turned into hurting other gay folks. Does that make me emotionally or spiritually immature? I don’t think so. In fact, I think my spirituality soared once I was out from under the thumb of organized religion.

What does it say if you continue to support an organization that works to oppress you? I’m not sure. And again, I know nothing of the relation between the Anglican Church and the Episcopalians. But it does seem people are more apt to tolerate oppression in their religion than in any other institution and that is what I am trying to understand.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think there's a difference between how a person responds to individual treatment by the institutional church and this action by the Primates. If the Primates actually had the authority and power to "sanction" TEC then I think we might consider leaving. There is still a lot left to be fought - not only for ourselves but for queer people who live in the very provinces where these cruel Primates live and rule like princes. The impulse for individuals to leave out of pain is understandable. I hope that we can work through our initial impulses and reactions and, together, as a group, formulate a response that will continue to challenge injustice and oppression - not just that against us as individuals but as a people around the world.

Hope that's helpful

Brother Tom Hudson said...

The link to seems to go to a non-existent page. Is there a correct link?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you. I don't know how that happened I think it's fixed. Here's the link, just in case it happens again:

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this. Others from the CoE have already commented but I would like to reaffirm the disgust felt by the vast majority of the people in the pews on this side of the pond at what happened last week.
I know that at least two members of the PCC have requested a debate and a letter to be sent to the ABC.
We, too, are awaiting our order of lapel pins!)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you for your solidarity. I know that canon lawyers are jumping up and down all over the communion about this. I have no doubt that the ACC meeting in April is going to be every bit as hot as the one in 2005. I have a feeling this is going to backfire. BIG. Stay tuned. Or, as you folks across the pond say, "Remain calm and carry on."