The conversations at Father Jake’s blog bring to mind such an important piece of what it means to be an Anglican in the US or an Episcopalian for me. Ever since my swimming the Thames, I have noticed the high level of intellectual engagement in the Church. It has been a point of pride that educational prowess has always characterized seminary-trained clergy. It is not surprising then that I find myself bumfuzzled by the current level of anti-intellectualism that is characterizing some in the Episcopal Church.
During my seminary and then doctoral studies I strained to understand JDE and P for OT classes and embraced higher criticism as I understood what redaction meant. Now, I am expected to take seriously clergy who reject basic scientific data and scholarship of Scripture. To find that clergy are being ordained who belittle such complexities in the Bible and then thump arcane 5th century theologians makes me suspicious not only of their training and testing, but upon their honesty in the process towards ordination.
As one of the commentators on Fr. Jake’s blog reminded me that underlying the discrimination in denying Bishop Gene Robinson by the Archbishop of Canterbury is a denial of science. Now that is remarkable as the ABC is seen as a superb academic. But the kind of anti-intellectualism that ++Williams is succumbing to is considerable.
For the past 50 years or so both the medical and the social science disciplines have shown that homosexuality is neither an aberration of human mental health nor a threat to the social fabric. Same sex love has been a part of the human social contract of societies as long as there has been human relationship.
For the past 50 years or so, Scripture scholarship has shown that the homophobic passages found in the Bible are ones that do not apply to present day any more than the prohibition of wearing garments of more than one kind of thread. And yet… and yet…
Still we hear the same things trotted out whenever we have to deal with inclusion of GLBT persons.
The uber-right has spent a great deal of money and effort to reinforce for all Christians that science is not to be trusted. It reminds me of the parents of students in the school where I was teaching not wanting their children to learn more than what they knew. They wanted to control what their children learned as well as control their children. I am sure that they had the best intentions for their children. But knowledge and learning are not controllable. Once a child has learned to research an issue, if they are curious, they will learn on their own. What is incumbent on a parent to do is teach the child the values that will help them order what they learn. Protecting children from life is an anti-intellectualism that is rooted in fear and power.
The failure of the ABC to invite +Gene Robinson means that ++Cantur has caved into the anti-intellectuals that have invaded the Church and who have decried biblical scholarship as undermining the faith. He as succumbed to the pressure of those who have not had educations allowing them to embrace the ever-widening experience without giving the structures, values or spiritual center to discern what is right or wrong.
The real fear from the uber-right in the Communion is that they fear that if they meet +Gene they might find out that his spiritual depths far out strip many of their own and that would not do. I do hope that +Gene will attend as a guest and continue to tear down the walls of prejudice and fear that he has been doing since his consecration.
We as Church have asked much of +Gene by confirming his election. We have opened the minds of many people to an understanding of Christ’s love through him. God reveals Gods-self in the flesh of humanity, in the truths of science, in the love of people for one another, not through covenants, creeds or law. We may not throw out our minds or our hearts to accommodate present culture.