Saturday, June 10, 2006

Speaking of Minority Theological Stances

Some great "food for thought" from clergy colleague Alma Beck:

I know what it is to hold a minority theological stance in ECUSA. I am a strong pacifist in a church that officially subscribes to the Just War Theory. My church blesses battleships and allows its clergy to be military chaplains. While this theology is not my theology, it does not prevent me from being faithful to my own conscience. As a priest, I am not forced to bless implements of war, nor serve in positions that would require me to violate my own beliefs. I know that my sisters and brothers understand scripture differently than I do on these matters, and I'm glad we are in a faith community that makes room for our differences while allowing each of us the space to walk the path we understand God to be calling us to walk.

It seems to me that the actions of GC2003 put opponents of same- gender relationships in the same position. They hold a theological stance separate from that of the actions of Convention, but they aren't forced to act contrary to their consciences. No one has to bless any union they feel is immoral, nor enter into such a union.

Interesting, the proposed moratorium on the blessing of unions does place my conscience in a bind. I am forced to deny one of the sacraments to a group of God's children simply because they are gay. I find that goes counter to my vow to respect the dignity of all persons. I hope that bishops and deputies will keep in mind that permissive resolutions simply open doors for those who hear God's call to walk through them. They do not force anyone to go where they feel they are forbidden to walk.

--Alma Beck

21 comments:

Jeff Martinhauk said...

I really enjoyed this. It makes me remember a point that I have often tried to make-- that we do have a lot in common on both sides of this debate.

We both know what it is like to feel excluded (while we disagree on the legitimacy of the exclusion). The left believes we are excluded because we, as GLBT people believe we are entitled to full privilege at the table as anyone else is, and have not been privileged to it. The right believes that the church is "pushing them out" or leaving them behind because the doctrine and theology of the church is changing to something they do not agree with.

Whether we agree with the legitimacy of the exclusion or not, it seems to me like we should be better able to relate one to another to understand how it feels to be excluded and build bridges rather than burn them.

j

hg said...

For the past 40 years I have listened to homosexuals in the Church (Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Congregational, and Episcopal congregations) talk about their feelings. Well, feelings do not establish truth, they are just feelings - real, but dangerously blinding. Historic doctrine in Christianity about marriage (and, as well, in Judaism and Islam) is not interested in people's feelings, but in explaining and advocating the truth as it has become known through revelation. In particular, Christianity only decided to bless the marriage of a man and a woman because - in light of revelation - the union of a man and a woman reflects the whole image of God (see the first chapter of Genesis) as well as the relationship between God and creation, Christ and the Church, etc. Blessing of heterosexual marriage by the Church is not therefore a privilege, nor a matter of inclusion, and if you feel that such blessing is about privilege or inclusion, your feeling is due to insufficient instruction about the relationship of historic Christian doctrine to Christianity's mission. Co-habiting homosexuals and co-habiting heterosexuals have not been excluded from the Church or deprived of any standing in the Church simply because their relationships have not been blessed.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Hg-

I think you've missed the point entirely.

What makes your "truth" more accurate than my "truth"? The beauty of the God which passes all understanding is that neither of us know for sure. We have only faith to guide us. You claim scripture, I claim scripture. We both claim Christ. We both claim tradition. We both claim love.

The resentment in your post, the anger at having not been heard for the last 40 years as you put it, is exactly what I think we need to focus on. On the commonality of that. I don't think the left feels heard for the last 40 years either, maybe more. There is common ground there. Acknowledging that is the first step to living together in Christ. Not necessarily agreeing on doctrine in Christ, but living together in Christ. Who ever said that a family that loves each other has to like each other? :)

j

hg said...

"What makes your "truth" more accurate than my "truth"? The beauty of the God which passes all understanding is that neither of us know for sure."
...Jeff, do you really think martyrs died for faith like this?

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Hg, my friend, of course they did. Martyrship is a dedication to faith-to the martyr's "truth"- that surpasses external influences. However, I can't think offhand of a martyr that died because he couldn't make others do what he wanted. Ususally it has been because the other is imposing his will-his "truth"- on the martyr.

revsusan said...

I feel a quote coming on ...

"Faith is what you're willing to die for. Dogma is what you're willing to kill for." -- Rt Bishop Robert Shahan, Arizona

DF in Massachusetts said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't like the Just War doctrine. I particularly disliked it when I heard it being by liberals as a reason for why we shouldn't have gone to war against Iraq. I can't help but think that if Augustine were alive today he'd be quite displeased with how we're interpreting and using the Just War doctrine. After 1,500 years shouldn't we have reached the point where we understand that there simply are no good reasons for us to go to war?

Anyway... what a wonderful day we had today in Boston! Despite torrential downpours all day, and temperatures in the low 50's, we celebrated Pride Day with a breakfast with Bishop Shaw, a Pride Interfaith Service where Bishop Shaw gave a moving address to the congregation, a parade with a record number of Episcopal parishes participating (our contingent was 2 blocks long and Bishop Charleston joined us! Alas, a long delay in the start of the parade prevented Bishop Shaw from having time to march with us as he did last year), and finally a concluding Lessons & Carols for the Struggle service at The Cathedral. Despite being drenched and chilled to the core by the worst weather in history for Pride Day in Boston our GLBT Episcopalians are abuzz about what a wonderful time they had and how fortunate we are to have such support from our Bishops... especially at this time when General Convention is gearing up.

I'm exhausted from organizing it! But it was so rewarding. Susan, if you see Shaw and Charleston in Columbus let them know how much we enjoyed being with them.

And yes, we had the big blue Integrity Banner!

hg said...

Please notice that it was the Reverend Mother who brought up killing for anything in this discussion!

Pisco Sours said...

I think the bottom line is, faithful LGBT Christians want to subject our loves and relationships to and in Christ, as all things are. The consevatives don't. I haven't heard a good reason for this except that "Christ hates homosexuality," which I can't find any support for in the Gospels or anywhere else.

(Anyone citing Romans 1 at me without reflecting on its continuation in Romans 2 will be summarily ignored.)

Anonymous said...

Jeff,
Sure. Both the "left" and the "right" can shre ewhat is like to feel excluded. My view is that one group - the GLBT - that in the past was excluded can be confident that they will be included in TEC. But the other group you mention can not be so confident.
At the heart of the left position is the view that excluding GLBT is wrong. The anology with racial exclusion is raised quite often and given the history of your nation I can see why that is a powerful argument.
Given that it is a justice issue - the "right" can have little confidence that they will be able to flourish in TEC

Bruno said...

Yeah!! What she said!!

Peace
Bruno

Jeff Martinhauk said...

I think it is not about who can flourish in TEC. My point is that we, on the left, claim inclusion as our basis.

Radical inclusion means the ability to include even those who disagree with us, to radically include even as Jesus radically included.

If we live as Jesus did, if we walk as Jesus walked, we must not exclude. Rather we must walk in the steps of Christ and let the Spirit work to reconcile. That means that GLBT must not be excluded and neither must those who would exclude us.

It may well be (and is my hope and belief) that the Spirit, over time, will eliminate the fears and homophobia which causes this divide. But to further entrench the division by drawing lines in the sand on either side does nothing but reinforce the division.

j

Kevin Jones said...

I think as GC approaches, the amazing thing is that the AAC, on their blog, is talking about a compromise not being enough, but then going to say what they think would be enough. that is, the action they are contemplating as gc approaches is to engage in the debate again. the takeover failed, the schism is over and they are looking for a way back. it's not a way that is making anybody happy, on either side of the aisle. but it is a huge reversal in movement from three years ago.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Kevin -

I think you are right that there is a definitive change in the spin. I noticed a change in the posturing a few weeks ago.

But I'm not sure what it means yet.

I just can't figure them out. The change seemed to occur only 2-3 weeks after they distributed flyers in the network churches announcing the formation of the network without any reference to the ECUSA at all.

My thinking is that 1) they are scared that the ABC isn't backing them the way that they thought he would so they are backing off; or 2) they have some more devious plan that isn't in plain view yet.

I don't know what it is, but the sad part is that I don't trust them. With all the secret plans and lack of transparency they have about their desires it is difficult to hope that they could want at this point to walk in peace with us again. But I suppose we are called to always have hope in the darkness...

Tony said...

Susan's words below were edited and quoted in the Washington Times:
"Speak of the mission and ministry of the church we love -- and how sick unto death we are of having it hijacked by those determined to scapegoat LGBT vocations and relationships as expendable bargaining chips in the game of Anglican global politics."

Susan, speaking for myself, but also many others, I believe in ecusa, we believe that our church is being highjacked by an agenda that is neither biblical nor Anglican. You are a rarity, in my experience, and if my experience is too limited I expect that you will correct me. You and the PB are part of the few cradle episcopalians who are attempting to change ecusa into something that it has never been. When I talk to people, see who is saying what, and then take note of their backround, what I generally find is that they have come into the Episcopal Church from another church and have some grand design as to what TEC should be. Go through the PB candidates and note which ones are cradle episcopalians. Think of the Spongs, etc. and not how few are cradle episcopalians. When you've looked at this objectively and critically, maybe you'll understand why conservatives believe the church has been hijacked.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Tony -

I'm trying to understand this point of view.

Two questions:

1) Are you saying that only cradle Episcopalians should be able to determine the future direction of the church? If so, how do you propose to grow the church?

2) If you believe that you speak for so many, then how do you explain the actions of GC03?

Anonymous said...

I wish you all the best as you seek acceptance for the full inclusion of GLBTs in the church. Godhas done a wonderful thing. My wife and I live in Elmhurst, Ill and through my frequent business travels I have met and fallen in love with a remarkable woman in Scranton, Pa. We married last August with my wife Mary present as a guest. The three of us are excited for you and hopeful finally that out of your struggles we will also be able to live open, accepted lives in our community as a threesome family. Incidentally, our children by my wife Marian have taken to their new mother like ducks to water. We are truly happy.
Peace

tony said...

Jeff, no I am not saying that only cradle Episcopalians should determine the future of ecusa, or that cEs only should be ordained. I am pointing out what cradle Episcopalians (some) feel and believe - that the church is being hijacked by social engineers who have different commitments than the church. As to growth, evangelism is for all.

GC03 - as has been said in many places for many years, many conservatives are not activists by nature. Many conservatives are most at home in their parishes. Our agenda is evangelism and discipleship. I don't think that GC03 was representative of ecusa, although it was representative of 815, the Executive Council, and the HOB. I have seen that a poll done after GC03, I believe by Gallup, indicated that 20% of ecusa was supportive of the controversial decisions of GC03. The uproar since GC03 is often portrayed as a few angry males, or a tiny but loud minority in ecusa, but I believe that it is a bigger group than the left wants to admit. 80%? I wouldn't think so, but certainly not 10% like Bp. Lee likes to say about his diocese (and given the size of a number of evangelical churches in the DoVA, I don't think his number is accurate there either).

Lorian said...

To the "anonymous" poster from 7:59PM.

There is no issue with the conservative people being included in the church. They always have been and always will be. The only threat to their inclusion is their own unwillingness to BE included.

No one on the liberal side has attempted to tell conservatives that they cannot be full participants in the church. No one has attempted to deny conservatives access to the sacrements, to ordination, to marriage. No one has threatened schism if conservatives pass conservative measures at Convention.

It is only conservatives who have the power or desire to exclude themselves if their views do not hold sway in the church at large.

Lorian

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Tony -

There are just so many parallels to the story you relate about conservative Episcopalians and the story of Jesus.

Jesus, at least the Jesus in my mind, came to "shake things up," to get people to realize that being at home in parishes wasn't enough- that action speaks louder than inaction.

And, in my view, the result of that was the beginning of a religion. The beginning of that religion was a majority of the religious tradition which disagreed. The "actions of the church" in the beginning were viewed by most Jews to be incompatible with teaching. But as the Spirit worked, the teachings grew. People caught on.

And so it has been historically, as we've discussed in other forums.

I just don't buy the "majority rules" argument as a basis for doctrine.

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