Monday, February 26, 2007

Amazing Grace

I saw Amazing Grace tonight. It is a good and heartening story about the life of William Wilberforce. What it hooked for me is the ongoingness of the fight for human decency. It took most of Wilberforce's life to get the abolition of slavery through Parliament. In the US we fought a civil war over it in which millions died. Although there were many reasons for the Civil War, slavery is still seen as the primary cause.

Wilberforce had to go through being called disloyal, a revolutionary, a crackpot. But through the years he remained faithful to the call of God to do away with slavery because he thought that the character of his nation was being destroyed by it.

For those who believe that the exclusion of LGBT Christians from various positions of ministry destroys the integrity of the Church, the story of Wilberforce reminds us that non-violence may not be as satisfying in victory but it remains the only way that allows for any healing to take place. While it might feel really good for the House of Deputies to tell the Primates to take a hike, it will not be the victory that is needed if we are about revising opinions in the world. We are not merely trying to make the Episcopal Church a safe place for LGBT Christians. We must remember that changing attitudes for LGBT Christians in African countries is just as important an issue as recognizing the leadership of +Gene Robinson.

It would be the easy way to leave the Anglican Communion. If the rights of LGBT folk are important enough for us to leave, then they are even more important to us to stay within it. They need to be as important to the ACC, the Primates and the whole world. And it is essential that we remain within the Anglican Communion so that we can be about the changes that are necessary for the integrity of the Church.

This does not mean that I would support abstaining from the support for LGBT clergy or the blessing of same-sex relationships. And it is clear that "negotiation" without gay voices being heard is not going to bear results. Therefore it is essential that TEC does not cut itself off at the precise time when the Anglican Communion needs us. It is remaining faithful despite the lack of fidelity of some in the Communion, or even the leadership of the Communion. We are family whether some want to recognize us or not at this time. But the time will come when the actions of General Convention 2003 will speak for human decency for all Anglicans as did the work of Wilberforce did for Great Britain in the 18th century.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sign on, Sign off, Sign in, Sign of

I was under the mistaken impression that "our "Katharine did not sign the communique that was published following the Primates' meeting in Dar es Salaam. It was even more disheartening when I heard that the Archbishop of Canada was willing not to sign the statement in support of her if the PB didn't want to sign.

What does the signing of the communique mean? Does it mean that she consents to return the inclusion of LGBT folk to the realm of study? Does that mean the canons which have articulated not only the practice but the theology of inclusion for the past 30 years are to be ignored for the sake of Primates who are willing to ignore our borders? Or does her signature just mean that this is the only way that TEC can sit at the table? If that is the case I do not believe that there is enough left of the Anglican Communion that I would want to be part of.

Archbishop Andrew's description of the meeting made it clear that the issue was not the blessing of unions because Canada was hardly mentioned in the communique. It was clearly a US bashing that was going on. Now I am not a red/white and blue patriot. But it was clear that it was "Beat up on the woman in the house because the gay bishop isn't here" time and that makes me really angry.

I do not believe that ++KJS signed off on the Primates' communique--that she believes for one moment that LGBT folk are not welcome in the Church. I do believe that she is trying to sign TEC in to keep our foot in the door of the Anglican Communion. But the sign that she has given to the LGBT community is one that we cannot afford.

Friday, February 23, 2007

For a Season

Yesterday the PB called for us to "abstain for a season." Since I have been "abstaining" for about 36 years, I feel as though I need to say something about abstention.

Abstaining from meat, or cigarettes, or alcohol for Lent is a good and meritorious thing. And as we begin Lent it can be part of a discipline that can bring us closer to God. It allows us to stop and give thanks for God's bounty. It allows us to understand the cravings of the hungry or the poor or the addicted and become one with them in spirit. But what is this "abstention" that the Primates foist upon us, giving us a deadline? Do we disassociate with the LGBT community? What is to be the outcome? What discipline is there that tells us LGBT folk are not equal in the Church of God? What does such a season mean for us who are trying to claim a higher calling by opening our hearts and doors to those whose lives are only a bit different from all others out there? And all of whom tred the same spiritual journey?

I can just imagine what kind of jet lag that ++KJS was experiencing. And I know that her acceptance by the Primates was most likely saved by B033. This communique seems to be more of the same without conversation with her bishop colleagues, so I am willing to wait for a season before I am ready to go ballistic.

But since when do we "abstain" from doing justice? Since when is being a "light to the nations" a wrong thing for which we should confess? I have never been prouder of my Church than following GC2003. (except perhaps when I working with Katrina clean-up on the MS coast.) It said that we were willing to accept the finger pointing of the non-denominational mega churches who have slipped many of our members a guilt trip that religion should be exclusive, limited and full of same-think.

Chair of the House of Deputies has said it well. The Communion cannot withstand a defining doctrinal stance. If we go, will Canada go? Will there be change in Britain? Will South Africa go? These are all questions that need to be asked. And what does it mean if we do go? What is the Anglican Communion in the present age, without us? I don't have answers for these questions. But it is time for us to study them "for a season."