Thursday, May 18, 2006

Blogging As Blood Sport

Interesting piece by AP's Rachel Zoll which highlights some of the questions I want to ask moving ahead to Columbus and looking beyond: Who's talking terrorist bombs and brown shirts and who's talking continuing conversations and coming to the table in spite of our differences? Who's talking "our way or the highway" and who's talking ongoing listening process? Who's insisting that agreeing with them is the criteria for inclusion in the Anglican Communion and who's insisting that living with differences is one of the chief hallmarks of classical Anglicanism?

Finally, where are the "left wing polemicists" hurling insults, threats and ultimatums at their conservative colleagues in Christ? If I'm missing them, someone point them out to me, please, so I can use my standing as Archlesbian of the Episcopal Church (an honorific bestowed at one point by conservative bloggers and one I wear proudly) to tell them to knock it off and get with the program of fully including all the baptized into the Body of Christ -- INCLUDING the baptized who disagree with us -- and get on with the mission and ministry of the Gospel.


Episcopal Gay Feud Rages Online, by Rachel Zoll, Associated Press

(New York City) Kendall Harmon has to monitor his blog these days, so he can delete insults and offensive language from the comments section. His topic: the Episcopal Church, a member of the worldwide Anglican communion.

As a critical church meeting nears over homosexuality, the debate online and in public comments has grown so intense that one publication has dubbed it ``blood sport.''
``I think people are dreading possible outcomes and when you're dealing with the unknown, fear kicks in in a big way,'' said Harmon, a minister and conservative leader in the diocese of South Carolina. ``And I do think things are more polarized now.''

The Episcopal General Convention, which begins June 13 in Columbus, Ohio, must respond to fellow Anglicans worldwide who were outraged by the 2003 consecration of the first openly gay Episcopal bishop -- V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The votes will shape not only the church's future, but also its role as the U.S. representative of the Anglican communion.

The emotion of the moment is visible in the explosion of blogs since the convention three years ago, when delegates voted to confirm Robinson's election. A quick web search yields at least 20 dedicated to the plight of the 2.3 million-member denomination. The Living Church, an independent magazine, compared the tone of the discussion to ``a wrestling cage match'' in an editorial titled Blood Sport.

Some bishops have complained of being flooded with hateful e-mails and of being personally attacked on the web. Harmon, who runs the widely read titusonenine blog, has had to take down comments he said were ``cynical, angry and alas, even petty.'' He now reviews all statements before they are posted. Some liberal-leaning blogs have had to do the same.

``The Internet and blogs do give megaphones to anonymous bigots, but they also allow you to organize more quickly and, in some instances, trade opinions across ideological lines,'' said Jim Naughton, a liberal who runs the blog for the diocese of Washington and has had to warn people about the language they use there. ``It intensifies the conversation for better and for worse.''
But the debate goes beyond the Internet. Episcopalians with traditional beliefs on homosexuality, a minority in the denomination, feel persecuted and silenced by the majority _ and their public statements reflect a deep anger over their circumstances.

A conservative group called Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion is pressing for a church trial of Robinson and the dozens of bishops who consecrated him. A spokesman for the advocates, James Ince, said his group was engaged in ``a fight to the death of our church.'' The debate is becoming more direct and truthful, not harsh, he said.

``You can expect the liberals not to appreciate the clear, straight language from lay organizations because they're used to this goody goody two-shoes pantywaist stuff,'' Ince said.
Rev. Paul Zahl, dean of the conservative Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., said in a May 10 letter posted on the school's website that an ``army of Brown shirts'' was falsely interpreting Scripture to fuel ``the gay-agenda steamroller.''

Some moderates and liberals have responded by accusing traditionalists of being more concerned with power than with faith. In a recent edition of The Washington Window, the newspaper of the diocese of Washington, Naughton wrote a two-part report called Following the Money, linking conservative Episcopal advocates to right-wing donors intent on fighting the political stands of liberal Protestants.

Perhaps the most inflammatory commentary can be found on the website virtueonline, where founder David Virtue offers his own and others' traditionalist views in ways that even some fellow conservatives find offensive. For example, Virtue refers to one of the church's first openly gay priests as the ``First Sodomite.'' Virtue caused an uproar at the 2003 general convention when he published last-minute claims of impropriety against Robinson that bishops quickly deemed baseless.

Delegates will be entering the convention in Columbus under a heavy burden. They will decide whether to fulfill a request from Anglican leaders for a moratorium on electing partnered gay Episcopal bishops and on creating blessing ceremonies for gay couples.

Anglicans worldwide will be watching closely. The communion teaches that gay sex is ``incompatible with Scripture,'' and if overseas archbishops think the General Convention has not moved far enough toward following that teaching, it could split the 77 million-member communion.


Beyond Reconciliation said...

What a great article! The more they sound off the worse they look. The T19 boys are despondent. They know they've lost. (To use their win/lose analogy.) Even Kendall Harmon has gone public discouraging Paul Zahl's use of terms like "terrorists" and "brown shirts" to describe gays. The reasserters are fracturing and burning. Just proves they were all mirrors and smoke to begin with. Not true Anglicans. All we have to do is stand by and watch them self destruct. Not a minute too soon.

obadiahslope said...

Beyond interesting name to choose. Yes evangelicals know they are going to "lose'. That's been clear for a long time. I would disagree with your calling evangelicals like Harmon "not true anglicans'. A reading of church history (without an American bias) would show that there have been evangelicals in the anglican communion from the beginning. And there's millions of us now.
To clarify what you mean by including all the baptised I wonder if you would answer a question i posed over at Fr Jake's blog. If you were a deputy (you might be for all I know) at your upcoming General convention, would you vote in favour of a bishop who was opposed to gay blessings if they were otherwise qualified? Several of Jake's progressive commentators said they would not. What about you? I hope this is not an unfair question - I try not to ask them.

revsusan said...

I am NOT a deputy, and ...

If you are asking would I vote for a candidate for Presiding Bishop who did not consent to +Gene's election the answer would be no.

If you are asking if I would vote to consent to a duly elected bishop-elect who would not have voted to consent to +Gene's election the answer would be yes.

jg6544 said...

Harmon's whining about all the mean people who have posted on his blog reminded me, as though I needed reminding, that the Right Wing has playing the victim for the benefit of the media down to a science.

Verge of Jordan said...

Regardless of who "wins" and "loses" we all lose when we sink to personal insults and lies, regardless of which side is doing it. I'm sure there are "perps" on both sides, but it seems the owners of the more reactionary sites delete any comments they don't agree with, while more reasoned venues (like this one) leave them as testimony to the intellect of their authors.

To the unchurched this kind of infighting is either more entertaining than Jerry Springer or just reinforcement of their impression of us as hypocrites and rationale to continue giving us a wide berth. And the media eats it up like candy.

Although I sure do wish everybody agreed with us on this, we need to make sure it doesn't eclipse everything else we've got on our plate. This is but one thing to be decided at Convention, even if the media would have the world believe differently.

Anonymous said...

How could one now honestly say that Robinson ought to have been consecrated when he obviously denied he had an alchol problem and kept that from the search committee? Granted, he was in self-denial, but my goodness, he did not tell the truth.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Anonymous of 9:18 -

I think that is making a lot of assumptions on your part.

1) Do you know that he had an alcohol 3 years ago before he had all the stress of daily death threats, having to keep bodyguards, etc.? 2) If he did have an alchohol problem 3 years ago, do you think he was aware of it? 3) Why do you question his integrity? What evidence do you have to indicate that he has done anything other than be honest?

Anonymous said...

He admitted that he had a problem "for years" with alcohol. Although I alluded to the problem of self-denial, Question 2 that you pose doesn't make sense or is beside the issue: he did have an alcohol problem and when they ask questions about use and abuse of alcohol or narcotics, which one friend who has been a finalist tells me they do, he did not tell the truth. Do I think his alcoholism came about recently? Honestly, no way. But I admit that this is just and educated guess.

Am I questioning his Integrity? Well, here, just in the sense that I am saying he was not honest. This places a cloud over his part in the process, doesn't it? Put another way, if my bishop went through a contested election, won, and then later said he or she was an acoholic--and this had not been made known to the committee--I would have real doubts about the authenticity of the election.

C. Wingate said...

It's ironic that someone with the essentially anonymous handle of "beyond reconciliation" is posting the same sort of empty triumphalism I've complained about in reverse from the other side.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

C. -

I'm not sure what your point is. I think the point for me is that while the t19 and other places that proclaim God to be a judgemental God get more and more rabid when they have short-term losses, here and other places that proclaim the all-inclusive love of Christ as the truth do not get quite so "frothy." Oh sure, we occassionally vent, but because we do not see the end-times spiralling down into a war-torn doomsday scenario of armageddon, but instead see the reign of God getting closer and closer every day with heaven getting closer to earth, I think that frees us to be less fearful and more trusting in God to be in control.

Have "we" triumphed? Who cares. God is winning. That's what matters.

obadiahslope said...

Thank you Susan. That is a helpful reply.