Monday, October 29, 2007

On Minding the Gap

Here's a link to the video and the text (posted below) of the presentation I made at St. John's yesterday members and friends of the BCGLM (Bishop's Commission on Gay & Lesbian Ministry):

Mind the Gap. The phrase is, of course, the British Rail system’s ubiquitous reminder to watch out for the sometimes daunting space between the train one is preparing to board or exit and the station platform. It’s a very British approach, isn’t it? In some ways it may just be the quintessentially British solution: “Just mind the gap, dearie – that’s a good girl. And then we can all go have our tea.”

Philosophically I can’t help but wonder if minding the gap isn’t another variation of the stiff upper lip – the famous “close your eyes and think of England” approach – the way an island people cope with the challenges of gaps that don’t have anything to do with trains! It’s a mindset that says “gaps happen and we mind them and keep moving” that is part of the DNA of not only the English people but the English Church – part of the DNA of an Anglican comprehensiveness that has – up until now – been able to hold together a world-wide communion in spite of the gaps between theologies and polities and languages and liturgies.

And I what I am wondering today is if our historic ability to mind the gap is going to be part of the collateral damage of the current “troubles” in the Anglican Communion.

I spent time in Britain this month, meeting with Anglican LGBT allies and representatives from the Anglican Communion Office about the upcoming Lambeth Conference, and on reflection it seems to me that maybe the most important work we have to do in the days and weeks ahead IS to mind the gaps – the very real gaps – between our lived experience of the Holy Spirit of God in the Episcopal Church and experience of the rest of the Communion.

For there are very REAL differences between us and our Anglican sibling: cousins and cousins-once-removed – and those differences did not start with the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003! To “mind the gap” is not to ignore those differences but to refuse to allow them to be exploited into the divisions they do not have to be.

George Bernard Shaw’s famous description of “two countries separated by a common language” is also a very apt description for the gap I found myself called to “mind” while I was in England – the gap between my experience in the American Episcopal Church and the experience of those who live and move and have their being in the Church of England. And if Americans and Brits have a gap to mind no wonder the Communion is facing challenges to its unity when we’re trying to bring Newark and Nigeria together under the same tent!

I’ll be happy to entertain questions about the “what-nexts” and wherefores of my visit across the pond … my “California Yankee in King Rowan’s Court” experience … but right now I want to talk about the wider implications of minding the gap and why I think it matter SO much – not just here in the Diocese of Los Angeles or even here in the Episcopal Church but throughout the Anglican Communion.

Here’s something I wrote in 2005 after my last trip “across the pond” – a trip to Nottingham as a member of the Episcopal Church’s presentation team speaking to the Anglican Consultative Council.

“We must commit to tell the truth about the very real gaps that exist between the experiences, worldviews, and theologies of many members of the Anglican Communion. We must find ways to speak the truth that the Gospel we share is stronger than the differences we acknowledge. We must likewise commit to tell the truth when those gaps are magnified rather than minded. We must refuse to allow our heritage of Anglican comprehensiveness to be jettisoned by the strident voices of an American Religious Right determined to reinvent Anglicanism in its own image”

That was 2005. And it’s gotten worse rather than better. Those of us who were part of “Survivor: General Convention 2006” remember how skillfully the gap between the American Church’s position on the full inclusion of LGBT people into the Body of Christ was exploited by those insisting that it was a gap we couldn’t mind as a Communion. We remember when B033 – a hastily crafted and ill-conceived resolution imposing a de facto moratorium on the election of another gay or lesbian bishop -- was literally crammed down the throats of first the House of Bishops and then the House of Deputies.

They bought the spin. They bought the fiction that we couldn’t “mind the gap” – couldn’t live with the diversity – had to “DO SOMETHING” -- and the something those with the power to do so chose to do was to bridge the gap with the bodies of the LGBT baptized … with the ethically indefensible sacrifice of the vocations and relationships of the LGBT baptized on the altar of the unity of the institutional church.

We must and we WILL overturn that injustice at our next General Convention and we are counting on many of you to be partners in making that happen.

Because moving Beyond B033 is not just a matter of justice for the LGBT community – although it is certainly that. (And don’t even get me STARTED on the “gap” between the rhetoric and the reality of a church that has been pledging “full and equal claim” for its LGBT members since 1976 – that’s another Forum!) Moving Beyond B033 is a matter for the WHOLE church because what is at stake is nothing less than the WHOLE church – the Episcopal Church – as we know it.

Here’s one recent example: this quote from a publicly circulated letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Bishop John Howe of Central Florida.

“… any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such.”

And that leaves the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church where?
Meanwhile, while Canterbury ties itself in knots trying to “bridge the gap” our brother in Christ and “bishop elect” David Anderson had this to say in a recent commentary:

"Although many of us are to some extent Anglophiles, the location of the see city is less important than the vitality of the faith and a structure that encourages that faith to grow."

And so the gap has widened to the point where the self appointed protectors of “traditional Anglicanism” are pronouncing Canterbury expendable. And I thought WE were supposed to be the revisionists?

We’re not. We’re the ones minding the gap. We’re the ones who believe that the historical roots of Anglican comprehensiveness that managed to mind the gap between being Protestant and Catholic in the 16th century can mind the gap between liberal & conservative; gay & straight; New Hampshire & Nigeria.

We are women who mind the gap between over 30 years of ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church and the fact that our orders are not recognized in many parts of the Anglican Communion. And we are NOT the ones insisting that the fabric of the communion is irreperabley rent by those differences.

We are LGBT Episcopalians who mind the gap between what this church we love says about our full and equal claim on its love, care and ministry when it continues to marginalize our relationships and deny our vocations.

And we’re going to continue to mind these and every other gap that keeps this church from becoming the Body of Christ is is called to be.

We mind those gaps by partnering with our justice allies within the Episcopal Church to continue to influence our General Convention to move forward: no turning back, no turning back.

We mind those gaps by partnering with Anglican allies committed to participating in a listening process whether or not those on the other side of the gap are willing to hear what we have to say.

But most importantly, we mind those gaps not because we’re politically correct or socially liberal. We mind them because we’re Gospel obedient – Gospel obedient to the witness of a God who loved us enough to become one of us and then called us to love absolutely everybody the God loved us. Even those across the gaps.

We mind the gaps because we HAVE decided to follow Jesus: no turning back, no turning back.

Won’t you come with us?

P.S. To join Integrity online click here!


Anonymous said...

And an excellent presentation it was too!
In response to my question, "What can one do?", your answer, "Join Integrity, for one thing," brought about the desired result: sent in my dues last night.

RonF said...

And that leaves the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church where?

Applicable to those Dioceses who willingly submit to them.

Up to this point the differences among different constituent members of the Anglican Communion consisted mainly of differences of language and modes of worship. While there certainly were differences of doctrine, there was agreement on basic Christian doctrine. That's lost now, at least between TEC and those supporting it and the rest of the Anglican Communion. When the primitive church got to the point of having Bishops and Dioceses, those were the basic units of the Christian polity, not national churches. It seems we are headed back that way, at least for those dioceses whose national churches seem to have run into error.

RonF said...

BTW, apropos of nothing but the fact that you're a Dodger fan and I'm a Red Sox fan (and thus pay some attention to what goes on in the Bronx), it seems that the Dodgers are getting ready to buy out Grady Little and take on Joe Torre as their new manager. As a careful observer of the machinations of the Bronx Zoo, you'd be getting a good man there.

Go ahead and delete this if you like, I'll understand.

joemar said...

"On Minding The Gap", so well written. The differences, reflection, however, the common thread that binds us to follow Jesus. Brava/Bravo.........
Thanks, Joe (just what I needed to read today)

Jim said...

Sue-z and I have been of two minds. On the one hand, no question where we are walking, or with whom. One the other, we are straight, should we join Integrity?

I suspect we should, and if this job holds out, probably will. They need the money if nothing else.


Anonymous said...


There is a difference between men and women. They differ in biology, in emotional make-up, and in parenting styles. They are complementary. Mind the gap, dearie.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...


Anonymous said...

ronf, When did gay bishops approach "basic Christian doctrine"? I think the Canadians decided gay issues aren't core doctrine? But you have? It's SO hard to keep up with the different flavors of Episcopalianism, let alone Anglicanism.

No one said women and men weren't different. Please, DO try to keep up.


Jack Sprat said...


I don't want to stretch this metaphor so far that it breaks, but "Mind the Gap" resonates for me in a different way.

In the United States, we have a strong history of taking legal action against people and organizations that cause risk or harm. Therefore it's inconceivable that a U.S. transit system would have a gap between the platform and the rail car so wide that, for instance, a wheelchair couldn't cross it, or an elderly person, or a blind person, etc. etc. In the United States, we demand safety and accountability. At the same time, hardly anyone here uses public transit. Rather, we waste the planet's resources by driving individually in cars everywhere we go. It's all about "me."

In England (and the rest of Britain and Europe), social concerns are very important, but do not always take precedence over practical realities (i.e. the improbability of repairing/redesigning every single rail platform in a country with hundreds of thousands of them). Instead, there is a sense that "watching one's step" is an individual's responsibility, and that not everything can be made smoothe and easy. Nevertheless, no matter how much they complain about it, the British have a vastly superior public transportation system to ours. In a sense, one might say "It's all about you."

That's why it's so weird to me that in this instance the ABC is on the side of those demanding uniformity of rules over all else. You'd think there might be a bit more of an accomodating viewpoint. At the same time, I find it interesting that U.S. conservatives, who are always talking about keeping government off our backs, are in this instance trying to develop the very type of intrusive rules and regulations they profess to hate.

It just gets curiouser and curiouser.


Allen said...

Even greater still, Integrity can come up with a plan to offset the announced 1.8 million shortfall in the General Church. While the creative juices are flowing, I look forward to Integrity's plan to boost the increasingly sagging membership and loss of 23,000 in average Sunday attendance in 2006.
Can Integrity inspire great sacrificial giving and evangelism to counteract the Church's increasing losses?