Thursday, May 11, 2006

In the "All Schism All The Time" Department

It's "all schism, all the time" for George Conger in this article from the Church of England Newspaper. It seems to me that no matter WHAT we do at this point we're "one step closer to schism" unless we capitulate to the increasingly shrill demands of the radical religious rightists. It is way past time for the leadership of this church to say "enough is enough" and get on with the mission and ministry of the Gospel. (See also: There are only thirty-two days until General Convention!)

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THE ANGLICAN Communion came one step closer to schism on May 6 following an election of a new bishop in California. The crisis came not in the much touted election in San Francisco, where the three partnered gay and lesbian priests lost to the suffragan Bishop of Alabama in the election for Bishop of California, but in the diocese of Northern California which elected a twice divorced and thrice married priest to be its next bishop.

The Rt Rev Marc Andrus, Suffragan Bishop of Alabama was elected on the third ballot to succeed the Rt Rev William Swing as Bishop of California. The three partnered gay and lesbian priests on the ballot ran far back in the polling, taking the last three spots in the voting. The election of Bishop Andrus does not mark a swing to the right but a preservation of the status quo in the progressive diocese of California. The Rev John Kirkley, president of Oasis/California, a gay and lesbian church advocacy group, stated Bishop Andrus was elected “because he won our hearts and minds during the walkabouts. His authenticity and vulnerability indicated a man willing to stand in solidarity with a suffering world, rooted in profound contemplative practise.”
Bishop Andrus was also “elected with very strong support from gay and lesbian clergy and laity,” Fr Kirkley noted. In an acceptance speech at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Bishop Andrus, speaking with his wife Sheila at his side, stated: “Your vote today remains a vote for inclusion and communion — of gay and lesbian people in their full lives as single or partnered people, of women, of all ethnic minorities, and all people. “My commitment to Jesus Christ’s own mission of inclusion is resolute,” Bishop Andrus said.

Across the state that same day, the Rev Barry Beisner was elected on the fourth ballot in succession to the Rt Rev Jerry Lamb as Bishop of Northern California. Appointed Canon to the Ordinary [bishop’s assistant] to the Bishop of Northern California in 2002, Canon Beisner has been divorced twice and married three times. The election of Canon Beisner has caught American conservatives off guard. While primed to contest the possible election of a ‘gay’ bishop in California, conservatives contacted by The Church of England Newspaper were divided over a response to Beisner’s election.

Several conservative delegates to General Convention told The Church of England Newspaper they were troubled by Beisner’s election. To have opposed Gene Robinson’s election on moral and Scriptural grounds and not to oppose Beisner’s election would “reek of hypocrisy” one delegate said. While there have been over a dozen American bishops who have been divorced and remarried, Canon Beisner will be the first priest to have been divorced twice and married three times before being consecrated as bishop. In 1946 the Episcopal Church permitted divorcees to remarry in the Church upon special licence of their bishop. Clergy were generally not permitted to remarry after divorce and retain their orders until the 1960s.

The current rules for clergy remarriage after divorce varies by diocese across the Episcopal Church as no national church canon governs. The Beisner election has the potential for upsetting the political calculus worked out among the Episcopal Church’s fractious factions by the bishops to hold the Church together through Lambeth 2008. Conservatives and moderates pushing for acceptance of the recommendations of the Windsor Report may well fall out over the Beisner election.


Anonymous said...

"Canon Beisner has been divorced twice and married three times. "

This from the organ of a Church whose Supreme Head to be married the mistress with whom he cheated on his late wife.

People who live in glass houses . . .

Jeff Martinhauk said...

I find divorce a hard thing to quantify in terms of black and white rules.

Clearly somebody who has been married seven or eight times isn't taking the sacrament seriously (or has really, really, bad luck :).

But we all make mistakes, too. And sometimes the tragic ending of a relationship isn't always the result of our own doing, but the doing of another. Maybe that's why we can't put divorce "rules" into canon. It is that same reason that "traditional moral values" shouldn't be codified. They have to be tempered with the "real" Christian moral values of love, compassion, charity, peace, and the like.

Anonymous said...

Conger, btw and fyi, is a bit of a mouthpiece for some conservative Episcopalians.

A few points I noted in the Conger article:

#1. The article mentions "several conservative delegates." (See above.) What these delgates do not broach is the details of the Canon's divorces and remarriages. They simply assume....something, but do not provide any substantiation for their "concerns." Nor do they note any canons providing guidance (which they do) nor any theology (which they may not know).

#2. How long was the Canon a candidate for bishop? Quite some time. In fact, he was nominated by petition. What has suddenly prompted this "concern"?
Possible answer: "all schism all the time."

#3. The article fails to mention that the CoE owes its existence to the divorce of Henry VIII and that he was the head of the CoE. In the interest of not appearing "hypocritical," I urge the "concerned delegates" to read up a bit.

#4. Do the "concerned delegates" realize, no doubt Conger does, that the Archbisohp of Canterbury himself blessed the marriage of Charles and Camilla?

#5. May deacons divorce and remain deacons? May lay ministers? May priests? May lay eucharistic ministers be divorced? What about lay ministers running a Bible study group at Christ the King Episcopal? What about Convention delegates? Can they be divorced?

What about the head of the CoE? May he be divorced?

Bruno said...

God does work in mysterious ways!

Frair John said...

I think Brad Drell "broke" this story on his blog. Infact, the quotes in the story reflect what is said in the comments section of hisa blog.

Anonymous said...

I have raised this issue of the rightists' inability to square their stances on glbt, and divorces, many times. Why?

When it comes to glbt and blessings etc, they point to scripture where Leviticus and Paul proscribe sex, and then draw lines around this to insulate this from any other lines and from any other context whatsoever. They take these lines in isolation, reject reason and experience,elevate tradition to propriety, and proceed from there to base all their objections.

In divorce, which the Lord mentioned by name, many of these very same objectors, look to the ancient wordings and contexts and also to the fuller context of Scripture, reason, and tradition.

They interpret precisely as they refuse to do so in the matter of glbt, and in the same way that they accuse others of doing out of some sinister "agenda" to destroy Scripture, and the like.


It shines a clear light on their homophobia.

Anonymous said...

a small clarification:
Charles and Camilla were unable to be married in the CoE. They were married in a registry office.
A private service of blessing was held after the wedding.

Anonymous said...

Where you all hot about the plural divorces of Bp. Righter (sp?) when he was working his magic in the Diocese of Newark?