Tuesday, March 06, 2007

My comments on last week's meeting with the Presiding Bishop

I am deeply grateful to my colleague Michael Hopkins (Integrity's immediate past-president) for his most excellent reflections on our meeting last week with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in Portland prior to the beginning of the meeting of Executive Council.

His reflections are posted here on his blog "From Glory Into Glory" and I commend them to you. If you're just looking for "the bottom line" here it is:

"Susan and I presented Bishop Katharine with three bottom lines as we perceive them among lgbt Episcopalians:
  • The full inclusion of lgbt people in the life of this church (incomplete as it is, but also as far along as it is) is not up for negotiation, and this must include our being very clear that Lambeth 1.10 (1998) is not the standard of teaching in this province of the Communion (the most recent missive from the Archbishop of Canterbury makes it clear that his goal is our accession to this standard. If that is the case, then the Communion is indeed in trouble).
  • The days of pronouncements such as the Tanzania Communiqué that are about lgbt people without the body producing them having been in any substantive conversation with us must be over. It is absolutely intolerable for this non-listening to continue.
  • Integrity in particular, and lgbt Episcopalians and our supporters in general, will continue to insist that nothing short of the full inclusion of all the baptized at all levels of the church, including sacramental ones, is acceptable for the church to be a whole and holy body. We asked her not to perceive this as our being unsupportive of her.
She signaled her agreement to all of these points, although I have no doubt we remain in some disagreement about how best to carry them out."

I also appreciated and commend Michael's perspective on "next steps:"

"She told the Church Center staff after her return from Tanzania that she really did not know if the Episcopal Church could make a positive response to the “requests” of the Primates. I believe she sincerely means that, and is willing for us as a Church to disagree with her. I say disagree, because I do believe she thinks the current proposals are the best way forward, and I have no doubt she will continue to argue for them. On the other hand, she is not going to force us to do something we are not willing to do.

This means that we (lgbt Episcopalians and our supporters) must vigorously participate in the forming of consensus, whatever shape that is to take. It is time for us to make clear who we believe we are, and what the limits are to our participation in this ongoing process. I think we can do this in as non-anxious and non-defensive way as Bishop Katharine, so that our word is not a simple, “We have no need of you,” which would be a less than Christian response."

Our meeting, not suprisingly, has generated some "commentary" on the blogs:

Stand Firm has lots of speculation on the hows and whys of our meeting with the Presiding Bishop and on Titusonenine Kendall Harmon notes "When I arrived in the hotel in Portland, Michael Hopkins was sitting in the lobby. I was unable to greet him because he was speaking to someone, but I later heard that Integrity’s leadership had come to Portland to meet with the Presiding Bishop at Katharine Jefferts Schori’s invitation. It is nice now to have this confirmed from Michael."

In the interest of transparency, let me clarify that our meeting was one that had been "in the queue" since +Katharine's election in July and which 815 staffers had been communicating with Integrity leadership to schedule at a time and location convenient to all. Post-Tanzania we communicated our hope that a meeting could be scheduled "sooner rather than later" and were gratified to receive the invitation to come to Portland for a one-hour meeting preceeding the Executive Council meeting.

"Are you staying for the whole meeting?" asked TLC reporter Steve Waring when I ran into him in the lobby.

"Nope," I replied. "I'm just here for a 5:00 meeting and then I'm heading back tomorrow morning to my actual job -- which is not lurking around other people's meetings."

Which brings me to the singing of the praises of Michael Hopkins ... one of the busier rectors on the planet who agreed to join me in meeting with +Katharine to represent both Integrity's concerns and our commitment to work with the church to continue to move it forward. The "ante was upped" when rather than a trip from Rochester NY to NYC he was called to fly cross country to Portland OR and I am deeply grateful that he made the trip -- even though it meant leaving directly from our meeting to return to the airport to take a red-eye back to Rochester to be part of diocesan anti-racism training he had helped orchestrate the next day.

This is the "manner of life" that causes such concern to the Communion that should be so lucky to call him one its bishops one day!

7 comments:

Ann said...

Thanks for all the work.

Lisa said...

Thanks for this report, Susan. It has much encouragement in it.

I do want to ask you about this.

You said:
"She told the Church Center staff after her return from Tanzania that she really did not know if the Episcopal Church could make a positive response to the “requests” of the Primates. I believe she sincerely means that, and is willing for us as a Church to disagree with her. I say disagree, because I do believe she thinks the current proposals are the best way forward, and I have no doubt she will continue to argue for them. On the other hand, she is not going to force us to do something we are not willing to do.

At the risk of "committing news," are you saying here that you actually believe Bishop Jefferts Schori believes the primates' Tanzania demands are our best way forward?

Country Squire said...

Most of us out here are sick and tired of hearing about what Kendall Harmon said or didn't say. He has got to be the biggest homophobe windbag that calls himself an Episcopalian in the US, even David Virtue isn't that bad.

Jonathan B. Percells said...

You don't say much about the president of Integrity who decided he wasn't gay.

Anonymous said...

jonathan: how is this relevant to the full inclusion of lgbt persons in the life of the Episcopal Church?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

Surely Integrity works for the inclusion of all -- including its ex-gay members -- so s/he should be mentioned at least sometimes.

Susan Russell said...

anonymous ... I think "full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ" covers it.

And of course I believe that includes those who understand themselves to be "ex-gay" just as long as it also includes those of us who understand ourselves to be "ex-straight."