Friday, September 21, 2007

A "Sophie's Choice?"


+Kirk Smith, Bishop of Arizona (and a former clergy colleague of mine here in Los Angeles) has published his reflections on the House of Bishops Meeting in his weekly E-Pistle posted online over at Episcopal Cafe. In particular, +Kirk wrote about what he'd heard from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In broad terms he asked us to postpone our own church’s agenda in favor of peace in the larger Communion. That desire was more strongly expressed by four members of the Anglican Advisory Council who spoke to us this morning. They again urged us to consider affirming in some way what was asked of us by the Primates at their February meeting in Dar Es Salaam, namely to refrain from consecrating openly gay bishops and approving same sex blessings; offer alternative primatial oversight to dioceses who wish it; and allow our church to be monitored by a council made up of other Provinces.

Most of us feel again the frustration of being caught in the conundrum of wanting to walk with our world-wide partners without turning our backs on our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Many of us also believe we have already done all we can to appease those who differ with us in these matters. It seems we are being given a “Sophie’s choice,” being ask to pick who we love more. Whatever choice is made, people will be hurt. Even the option of refusing to choose can be interpreted by both parties as rejection.


I've actually used that "Sophie's choice" metaphor myself in the past to describe the place we find ourselves in the Anglican Communion: that we're being forced to choose between the gay and lesbian baptized and our Anglican Communion brothers and sisters.

And someone (I forget who ... if it was you email me and I'll give you credit) talked me out of using it anymore by saying, "In order for it to be a Sophie's choice there have to be Nazis with guns pointed at you. And there aren't any. There are just people who are trying to make you think there are."

And they were right. The only "guns" out there are threats by Primates who insist on the exclusion of the LGBT faithful as the criterion for their inclusion at the table. The only weapons being deployed are the intercontinental ballistic bishops being consecrated and launched as weapons of mass discrimination against the American Episcopal Church.

There is, I am convinced, an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are. Watching brothers and sisters walk away from the Episcopal Church because they've been disagreed with is a painful thing. The Episcopal Church walking away from the gay and lesbian baptized to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion is a sinful thing.

As hard a choice as it is it is not a Sophie's choice. It is a Gospel choice and it is time for the bishops to make it.
.

31 comments:

Jesse said...

"Watching brothers and sisters walk away from the Episcopal Church because they've been disagreed with is a painful thing. The Episcopal Church walking away from the gay and lesbian baptized to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion is a sinful thing."
I think this is the real crux of the issue then isn't it? We're not choosing to leave the Anglican Communion rather we as TEC will experience what gay christians felt and continue to feel. We will be the passion bearer's if the Anglican Communion evicts us from our place at the table, we will walk as the slave has, as women and gays have and still in many parts of the christian world do walk, we will be the 'lepers' of christianity, the truly poor..but then as Jesus taught us "Blessed are the poor in spirit..."
God brace us to walk the 'victim's' walk and to bear in us the marks of Christ passion.
Jesse

laredo said...

I doubt seriously that any other province of the Angilican communion would agree to monitoring by a group from other provinces. Try that on Nigeria!

Dave said...

I have read Bp. Robinson's homilies. He has been honest about the consequences of witnessing the risen Christ: will we be crucified with Him? This is a witness we will choose to make or to avoid, that Christ came into the world to save *all* of us, not just the straights, and that we all have a place in His Kingdom, not just the straights. Proclaiming the faith of Christ crucified exacts a price, and the price we will pay, or not, appears to be membership in a body that no longer subscribes to this belief.

Think about Christ's examination by Pilate. There was a major "disconnect" between Pilate's understanding of the crisis and Jesus' understanding. Here we are again, struggling to reconcile issues of the Spirit with issues of the institutional church and the its rules for inclusion and exclusion.

"And still our wrongs may weave thee now new thorns to pierce that steady brow, and robe of sorrow round thee."

Bill Easter said...

A good choice is the metafor of Sophie's Choice. Add to it, not theatening Nazi guns, but firing ones.

Our P.B. has offered a plan for American primatial oversight. I gather she's waiting for her episcopal peers to sign of on it.

As for the other three'suggestions' that came out of Dar es Salaam, there comes to mind the Nazi 'suggestion' to surrender during the Battle of the Bulge. It was greeted by the American command with a single word , "Nuts!"

muerk said...

Then shouldn't the American Episcopal Church do what +Anis suggested:

"My friends, if you really believe that the truth revealed to you is different from that shown to the rest of the Communion, then you need to uphold that claim with boldness even at the risk of losing unity. If you think it is right and necessary to ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and that you should bless same sex partnerships or even marriages, you should be true to what you believe is right and accept the consequences."

Paul B said...

Muerk has it right.

You have changed the core beliefs of TEC. You need to admit that. You need to remove yourselves from the Anglican Communion, because you no longer believe what they believe. Why associate with a group that you do not share a core theology with?

Once you separate, you have to be honest about the property, as well. Centuries of Episcopalians did not/do not share this new belief. They have not given to build churches to worship your beliefs.

Frankly, if you state your new core beliefs and theology for all to see, whole congregations will want to leave. (More than already have) You need to let them, and make arrangements for the property. TEC won't be able to pay the mortgages with who's left, anyway.

You need to handle this with honesty, integrity, and love for the Christians.

Anonymous said...

So you're comparing the choice of a national church being dropped from membership in a world denomination, in which nobody would be killed and you wouldn't lose your home, your job, your parish or your freedom to sexually do what you want, and staying in that denomination but following its historic rules on having sex... to being forced to send one of your children to a death camp?

No.

young fogey

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

young fogey -- No, no I'm not.

Bishop Smith is.

This would be me disagreeing with him.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

for muerk
-- Of course there's a part of me that wishes the Episcopal Church (and it would have to be WHOLE Episcopal Church meeting in convention ... not just the bishops) would once and for all choose the full inclusion of all the baptized over continuing to make the G&L faithful the strangers at the gate.

And yet, for the sake of the ongoing relationships with those with whom we disagree we have -- over and over again -- been wiling to compromise. To settle. To seek reconciliation rather than insist on capitulation.

for paul b -- Nope. Don't buy it.

"Christ has died, Christ is risen,
Christ will come again" is core doctrine. And what we share with generations of the faithful who went before us. I guarantee you, as a too-many-generations-to-count Episcopalian centuries of my ancestors would roll in their graves at the thought of fundamentalist thugs hijacking classical Anglicanism and calling it orthodoxy.

That dog won't hunt.

paul b said...

I guarantee you, as a too-many-generations-to-count Episcopalian centuries of my ancestors would roll in their graves at the thought of fundamentalist thugs hijacking classical Anglicanism and calling it orthodoxy.

A group of people board a plane in Los Angeles on the way to New York. Somewhere over Kansas, they have a vote. The majority decide that the plane really should be going to Washington, D.C. The plane heads for Washington.

True, a plane is a plane, and Washington is a big city, but someone sure has been hijacked.

Rick D said...

As a lifelong Episcopalian who favors full inclusion of Christians into our church without concern for sexual orientation, I continue to have problems with the whole idea that because the Episcopal church does not wish to exclude gays from our life together, that we are threatening unity. I, for one, am not threatening unity. I want to learn and grow with other Anglicans, even those I don't agree with.

It seems to me that some vocal elements of the Anglican community are actually the ones threatening our unity, by breaking communion with me because I wish to include my neighbor in my church.

-- Rick

Anonymous said...

paul b ...

Huh?????????

Fred

uffda51 said...

George Washington was at least nominally an Anglican/Episcopalian. He was also a slave owner. This was perfectly acceptable and justified by both scripture and tradition. Then the church changed. It took a long time. Many people were upset by this change. Progressives brought about this change. Conservatives resisted. Tradition changed. Our interpretation of scripture changed.

All of us were taught Leviticus. Many of us, over time, came to believe differently. Why? Because we (straight people) got to know the people. Once this occurred, we found it impossible to continue to scapegoat and demonize these people. I attribute this to the work of the Holy Spirit. I’m sure that there are those who will quickly point out that Satan has deceived me and I have become a pawn in his attack on the church.

Hearts and minds can not change if some parties are excluded from the conversation. If one group decides that members of the other group are somehow not fully human, no progress will be made. You have to get to know the people.

I know a woman who, in her seventies, “came to believe differently,” and let go of her “traditional” beliefs. Why? A new priest came to her congregation. He was gay, though closeted at first. When he came out, and some people left the congregation, she became his staunchest defender. She knows her Bible backwards and forwards. And she is a stubborn Nebraskan, raised Lutheran during the Depression. She will be 90 next month. But she got to know the people. This gives me hope.

The young fogey said...

Sorry and thanks - I see that now. You agree: that metaphor takes it too far.

I'd go one further and say comparing new bishops under Africans (for part of the tiny minority who want to quit the Episcopal Church) to ICBMs aimed at your church also goes too far. Nobody can close you down (nor in a free society should they). The world denomination can, however, make and keep rules and drop a national church from its membership. Not at all the same as persecution.

Anonymous said...

Sure they can drop us. But do expect the fission of the AC into two or more parts, and that Canada, Wales, likely Scotland, half of CoE, half to 3/4 of Australia (all but Sydney), will be on the US side soon. And the next +++ABC, a political appointment, after all.

Party # 2: ++Akinola and his successors, a primarily African group.

Party #3: American conservatives (who will leave Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya in droves now that they have plenty of bishops) plus ++Sydney, some of CoE, and the Southern Cone.

Anonymous said...

Oh, duh! that was me, NancyP

Anonymous said...

Part of the illusion is that this is about scapegoating people. If you warn someone of danger, that's not scapegoating. I also know an old woman, my mother-in-law, who has changed to accepting the practice of homosexuality based on getting to know a few practicing gays in the church. The ones I've known I've liked also, but what does that prove? The lack of rationality here is breathtaking.

Hiram said...

The "progressives," through their well-oiled machine, have taken over the leadership positions of the Episcopal Church. They have changed the teachings of the Church, incrementally but drastically. (In addition to the acceptability of same-sex sexual relationships, there is the idea of the Trinity simply being functional -- Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, or whatever -- and the idea that Jesus death on the cross was not an atoning death -- plus the idea that the Bible is simply a collection of ancient documents that tell us what people have thought about God.)

The "progressives" have changed a lot in the Episcopal Church -- but they cannot change God's Gospel, as revealed through the teachings of the Apostles. God's good news of forgiveness through the cross of Christ and of transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit is true forever, even if some take over the machinery of a denomination.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Ah, yes ... the urban myth of the "well oiled machine."

Hiram, Hiram, Hiram ... if you only knew!

Thanks for the smile -- I needed it today!

muerk said...

Susan Russell - A question for you...

Has anyone from America considered going to places that hold to other understanding of human sexuality (like Nigeria) and offering pastoral care to the lesbian and gay community there?

Is this a priority for gay and lesbian Christians who have their freedom in places like the US, Canada and Europe?

Because it strikes me that at the moment TEC is wanting to be inclusive within itself, but what about globally? If it's wrong to exclude gays and lesbians in the US, then it's wrong to exclude them everywhere.

I don't think the Gospel can change dependent on where you live.

Brother Albert + OSB said...

The idea of "worshiping beliefs" is not worthy of comment. How many of our Anglican brothers and sisters know the person for whom they blame the "brouhaha" taking place in the Anglican Communion today. Bishop Robinson, measuring by anyone's yardstick, is a bishop to be emulated by all those who live under the banner of "catholic Christianity." He is more Christ-like in his word and example than the vast majority of "catholic" clergy today. Shame on those who fail to understand the message of the Christ! Remember, we are living in the 21st century! We no longer sell our daughters, keep slaves, or observe many other "rules" set down in antiquity. Jesus attempted to show us the way by his actions which were in direct oppostion to the Pharisees. When will we ever learn?

Hiram said...

Susan, I took the phrase "a well-oiled machine" from a story you did at GC '06. It is not my invention, and I dare say you have more glitches than you want. But Dr Crewe got a bunch of people together a few decades ago, and things started happening.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Hiram -- Louie (t's Crew without an e) did indeed "get a few people together" over 30 years ago and "things started to happen" ... we call it the movement of the Holy Spirit.

paul b said...

Let's see:

Divorce okay? Check
Artificial Birth Control okay? Check
Abortion okay? Check
Homosexual behavior okay? Check

So, basically, once you get to know people you decide they aren't that bad after all, and decide to affirm their choices?

I suffer from pride, arrogance,and I get angry at people. Could you really get to know me and remove those from the list of sins?

uffda51 said...

The scapegoating we are talking about is the blaming of the LGBT community, not only for a potential schism in the AC, but also for nothing less than the decline and fall of western civilization. This is hardly an illusion.

If you want to talk rationality, how rational is it to believe that Gene Robinson is the only gay bishop in the AC? How rational is it to fail to invite Gene Robinson to Lambeth? How rational is it for a U.S. Congressman to equate homosexuality with kleptomania?

What is breathtaking to me is that one of the anonymous folks who places scripture and tradition above reason would even the mention the word rational.

I don’t want to make anyone here angry but can anyone tell me the day and the hour when they chose to be straight? Can anyone tell me when they selected their height, eye color, blood type or shoe size? Just wondering. I suppose divorce papers would have a date.

Peter Akinola has been quoted as saying “When we sit down globally as a communion, I am going to sit in a meeting with a man who is marrying a fellow man,' he added. 'I mean it's just not possible. I cannot see myself doing it."

Is it such an irrational and controversial idea to suggest that we learn more by talking to each other than we do by not talking to each other?

trog said...

Please, have the table. If you still think your voice is not heard, please let me know and I’ll find a microphone.

You are my neighbor so in love I hear you; I also hear the Africans talking about a table and I must love them as I love myself and my other neighbors. I’ll build one for them too. If that strikes you fancy perhaps I could build on just like it for you or, maybe, they’ll trade with you.

I’ll build tables as long as needed.

frharry said...

"There is, I am convinced, an ontological difference between feeling excluded because you're disagreed with and being excluded because of who you are."

I agree to the extent that the use of ontological points toward a different nature of being. Clearly all religious bodies and the relationships of their members are socially constructed and thus ontological is probably the wrong word. We don't have to structure ourselves any given way, we simply choose to structure ourselves in certain ways. Perhaps essential a bit closer to that reality than ontological.

Yet, from a political perspective, we are talking about very different social constructions - one which allows for full membership for all parties even with disagreement over policy, the other in which policy, and the values which underlie it, dictates less than full membership for all the parties.

Tillich said that our ultimate concern was our god and that often such ultimate concerns fell well short of the G_d who lies behind all gods. Seems to me that those who would allow their understandings of theology to maintain second class citizenship for some to protect their own privileged first class citizenship can only be seen as opereating out of ultimate concerns for control, the god of power. While utlimate concerns for inclusivity and diversity can become gods of their own, so long as they are seen as means to an end - the end being the healthy functioning of the people of G_d in socially constructed church organizations in the world - clearly we are talking about at least a lower tendency toward idolatry than gods of power and control. At least in theory, G_d has not been replaced by the gods of lesser concerns.

"Watching brothers and sisters walk away from the Episcopal Church because they've been disagreed with is a painful thing. The Episcopal Church walking away from the gay and lesbian baptized to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion is a sinful thing."

I believe this is the primary reason the Anglican Communion cannot come to grips with LBGT issues. To do so would require them to admit they are wrong, recognize the harm their views has caused historically, confess that as sinful, repent and ask forgiveness. That's an awful lot to ask of any human being, particularly one with much invested in a tradition they have bought into, often without much critical thought. To recognize the sinfulness of homophobia is to produce cognitive dissonance, a painful condition in which our understandings no longer match the reality we encounter in the world. Confessing the sin of homophobia means recognizing that centuries of forebears were wrong, with disastrous consequences for the victims of their error. It also means that if they were wrong about this, what else might they be wrong about? Most people find such cognitive dissonance unbearable, hence the resort to denial, dismissal and stoning the prophets.

Harry Coverston,
Orlando

cp said...

I suffer from pride, arrogance,and I get angry at people. Could you really get to know me and remove those from the list of sins?Maybe if we take the time to get to know the people that we disagree with, our mental lists will be shorter, and Kingdom of God will be nearer.

paul b said...

Maybe if we take the time to get to know the people that we disagree with, our mental lists will be shorter, and Kingdom of God will be nearer.

I do not feel anyone should be refused entry or membership in any church. I purposely don't say that churches should be 'inclusive', because that is a buzzword in these times that I do not mean.

I agree, we should all love each other. Friendships with people different from you expands your understanding. If we are trying to love each other, we can more easily further the Kingdom of God.

I believe that there is sin in the world, as a result of the Fall, and that we are sinful. All of us.

Everyone should be working out their salvation, which means being open to hearing about sin in their life, and doing something about it.

Sin separates us from God. Our goal is to increase in holiness and draw closer to God. That obviously means being less like us and more like Him. And He told sinners to stop sinning.

So, the idea is indeed to try to make smaller the list of sins in our life that we are working on. But we whittle that list down by increasing in holiness and reducing our sinful behavior, not by removing the sin from the list because it's not REALLY a sin.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

paul b -- Agreed. And if we start from a position that sexual orientation is morally neutral then we can call ALL God's beloved to the same standards of holiness.

Which would be our point.

paul b said...

Susan,
Okay, I agree that who you are attracted to is not sinful.

We are, however, responsible for our actions, which is where we don't agree.

I think it boils down to doctrine, as you and Mary were discussing last night on BB. When does the tent stop stretching and start to tear?

What is justice in this case? If there is a doctrinal shift in the church, what do you do with the minority that don't want to shift? How do you treat that minority justly?