Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

It's certainly not too early to start the New Year off right with this New Year's Day interview by the Presiding Bishop on BBC Radio 4. Here's the link to the whole interview ... and here's a transcript of some of her remarks (thanks, titusonenine!) ... and here's a New Year's toast to a Presiding Bishop who knows what it means to "stay on message." Methninks it bodes well for 2008!

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The bishop of New Hampshire was duly and canonically elected, and consents received to his election, and duly consecrated. He is a bishop in this church in good standing.

It must be a pretty lonely place though to know that no one else quite like you is now going to be elected to be a bishop.

Well perhaps not in the immediate future. But he is certainly not alone in being a gay bishop. He is certainly not alone in being a gay partnered bishop. He is alone in being the only gay partnered bishop who’s open about that status.

In your own church?

Within our own church and within the Anglican Communion as a whole.

And so how do you respond to the fact that in a sense the Episcopal Church, your church, is paying the price for an honesty which other churches, perhaps even the Church of England, aren’t quite prepared to have?

Well that’s certainly a significant part of the current conversation. The Episcopal Church lives in a society that values transparency, increasingly values transparency, in all kinds of operations, not just within the church. To have other parts of the Communion express distress at having to have conversations about sexuality, is certainly understandable in terms of different contexts, yet that is where this church has felt led to be and felt led to have conversation, to bring these issues out into the public sphere where we can do public theologizing about them.

But you seem to be saying there’s a problem if other churches in the Anglican Communion aren’t prepared to be honest about the fact that they too have gay bishops?

Well it’s certainly a difficulty in our context. I think there’s a growing understanding in this church of how it can be problematic in other contexts, but there’s certainly a double standard.

The other issue is in relation to same sex blessings, the notion that the church would have an official service in order bless same sex couples. Again, the Episcopal Church has made this concession, said that there won’t be any authorized rites of blessing for same sex couples, but your opponents say that that’s all very well, but the reality on the ground is that those services are already happening and they continue to happen.

Well those services are, yes, are happening in various places including in the Church of England, where my understanding is that there are far more of them happening than there are in the Episcopal Church, at least in the United States.

But in terms of your own church are you happy to see individual parishes having actual services of blessing for gay couples?

That’s a matter for pastoral practice in the congregation and it’s a matter of decision for individual bishops.

But you’re not saying that those services shouldn’t be happening at all in any Episcopalian parish?

That’s not a matter for me to say yea or nay, it’s a matter of pastoral practice in individual congregations, in the same way that I don’t enter into decisions about whether or not it’s appropriate to bless a fleet of battleships going off to war.

There are those who would just say its not good enough to, on the one hand say that the official position is these must not happen, and then on the other to be so open about the fact that they do happen at the local level.

Our church, in the Episcopal Church, functions rather differently than some other parts of the Communion. The complaints that we should withdraw because we’ve done something that’s inappropriate often come from portions of the Communion where decisions are made fairly unilaterally, often by bishops, and I think a part of the controversy that’s often not recognized has to do with this different way of coming to theological conclusions and not looking alone to bishops to make policy and set decisions.

Is it possible for the Episcopal Church to continue to welcome and celebrate the role of lesbian and gay people and stay in the Anglican Communion in the same capacity?

We’re in a challenging place. I certainly hope that we’re able to move through this. My hope is that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole might remember our roots, our traditional valuing of diversity and our traditional sense that worshiping together despite differing views is what holds us together.

Of course for the Anglican Communion one of those rare gatherings of all bishops together is coming up in 2008, the Lambeth Conference. Some African churches are saying that if the Episcopal Church is allowed to attend, given what its done in relation to Gene Robinson, given what it perhaps doesn’t quite enforce in relation to gay blessings, that there really shouldn’t be a place at the table, as it were, for the Episcopal Church. How do you respond to those complaints?

Well that feels to me much like declining an invitation to a dinner party because somebody I don’t like might be there. My understanding of the planned program for the Lambeth Conference is one that has the possibility of letting people build relationships. I think that’s a remarkable gift. I think it would be very sad to go there and simply spend all our time consumed by legislation and I don’t think that’s what’s planned.

And you’ll be there so it’s up to those who are opposed to you to decide whether or not they too will attend.

I would hope that all invited people, all bishops of the Anglican Communion, might be there in conference and in community with each other.

And how much of a setback is it that Gene Robinson, who as you said, is an official bishop of the Episcopal Church, doesn’t have that invitation?

Well, it’s a long time til July.

Do you think he might still be invited?

I would very much hope so.

Have you had any indication that that may be the case?

We’re still hoping that that might be the case.
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So here's the "Breaking News" ... +Gene is not the only gay bishop in the Anglican Communion. (That, BTW, is filed under "duh!") ... it IS a long way til July ... and it is always bad manners to decline an invitation to a dinner party because somebody you don’t like might be there.

15 comments:

RonF said...

I don't think that anyone has ever disputed that there are other gay bishops in sexual relationships in TEC or in other member churches of the Anglican Communion.

I don't doubt that there are adulterous bishops in such positions as well. I don't doubt that there are bishops who are thieves or who commit any number of other sins as well.

The issue before us is not whether or not there are gay bishops elsewhere in the Communion. We are all sinners, and "we" includes bishops as well as the rest of Christ's body. The issue before us is whether or not such behavior is to be considered sinful and to be condemned, or to be considered to be lawful and even laudable.

To speak of the existence of other homosexual bishops as if it justifies the election of Vicki Gene Robinson as Bishop is to miss the point entirely. I do wonder whether or not that is deliberate or not.

Hiram said...

I know that there is one bishop in a small diocese in the Indian Ocean who has admitted that he has an attraction to members of his own sex. He is not, however (as far as I know) in a sexual relationship with anyone. God calls unmarried clergy to be chaste, and this bishop (again, as far as I know) meets that criterion.

But Bp Schori is claiming that there are other bishops in the Anglican Communion who are both sexually attracted to members of their own sex and sexually involved with others of their own sex -- perhaps even in long-term relationships.

Her comments remind me of what was said at the Sen McCarthy hearings: "I have a list..." Does she really know of sexually-partnered homosexual bishops, or is her statement a ploy? If she knows, how does she know? Why have not these bishops been more open themselves? Does she speak with their permission (if they actually exist...)? If not, why not?

I think that Bp Schori is engaging in rhetoric. If she is not at liberty to say of whom she is speaking (again, if such closeted, partnered homosexual bishops actually exist), then she should not say anything. She is trying to get mileage out of an unverified statement -- out of gossip, in reality. If she cannot make her point with open information, she should not use such an argument.

At best, the jury is still out on whether homosexual partnerships are within the bounds of Christian morality. Bp Schori speaks as if the case were clear and uncontested, that the question has been settled theologically, and that resistance to this "new thing" is simply cultural or psychological, not a matter of theology. Bp Schori is wrong; the theological case is far from made, and resistance to the acceptance of homosexual relationships comes from biblical and theological positions which have not yet been fully addressed or overcome with any degree of completeness.

Brian R said...

Ronf, This is the argument used by my Anglican priest and caused me to leave that parish and travel 80km each way to worship in an accepting Anglican parish. He said "We are all sinners".
I agree but I do not see my homosexuality as a sin. Bishop Robinson's sins do not include being in a same-sex partnership and they certainly do not include the hypocrisy that other bishops display.

Ricardo said...

Palaver, palaver, palaver. Schori continues to talk, talk, talk (around an issue). Why should there be a "discussion" about a state of being? If such an entity as "sin" exists, it must be characterized as hypocrisy. The human struggle for control and power as exemplified by clergy couture -- ahh, for more purple and gold -- is not a very good basis for ideology.

Joan K said...

The fact that there are partnered gay and lesbian clergy in the Church of England is not news. The Archbishop of Canterbury had a special mass for gay and lesbian clergy and their partners in November of 2007.

The service was conducted under the auspices of the Clergy Consultation - an LGBT support group. Williams obviously wanted to support these clergy, despite his failure to do so publicly.

The Presiding Bishop was attacking hypocrisy. How can Williams hold a secret Eucharist for gay and lesbian clergy while at the same time refuse to invite a duly elected Bisop of the Episcopal Church to Lambeth?

I am an Episcopalian and a lesbian. I know of one Bishop that is a homosexual although I have never heard it discussed publicly. My sources are clerics that are gay and lesbian priests in the diocese of that Bishop.

And no, I'm not going to name names.

I am sick to death of those obsessed with homosexuality. People are starving and dying, wars are killing thousands, children don't have medical care, genocide in Africa. The list could go on and on. If we used all that energy for good, imagine what we could do.

I am ashamed of those hate-filled, evil, bigoted, former Bishops of the Episcopal Church. We are far better off without them.

Mark said...

Theology is both cultural and psychological -- you speak as if it were clear and uncontested.

The Pilgrim said...

"At best, the jury is still out on whether homosexual partnerships are within the bounds of Christian morality."

Actually, it isn't. That jury reached a verdict 4000 years ago, and has not changed its mind since.

RonF said...

I agree but I do not see my homosexuality as a sin.

Homosexuality is not a sin - neither is heterosexuality. What you do, OTOH, is sinful if such behavior lies outside the boundaries set by God. Scripture says that the only non-sinful sexual relationship is one within marriage, a bond between people of the opposite sex.

It's my guess that you disagree with at least the last sentence. You are not alone. But I have yet to see Scriptural justification of that viewpoint.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Joan ... AMEN! And how about the spiritual damage done to folks who have to make the "Sophie's Choice" between pursuing their God-given vocation in the church and telling the truth about their partner-in-life at home? I pray for the day when the church will not demand dishonesty as the price for ministry!

Pilgrim ... That would be the same jury that reached verdicts on the issues of "women are property of men" and "slavery is part of God's plan"?????? I think those cases were over-turned on appeal ... to a Higher Authority.

RonF said...

I am sick to death of those obsessed with homosexuality.

So am I.

People are starving and dying, wars are killing thousands, children don't have medical care, genocide in Africa. The list could go on and on. If we used all that energy for good, imagine what we could do.

Quite right. If the proponents of homosexual behavior would drop the unscriptural and innovative idea that somehow homosexual relations are not sinful, we could indeed shift that energy to good use.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Yeah, Ron ... that'll work! Put 'em back in the closet where they belong! And while you're at it, get those women back into the kitchen ... it would be SOOOO much better if we could just turn back the clock to 1954 and get back to those Lazy Crazy Hazy Days of Patriarchy.

David said...

while you're at it, get those women back into the kitchen ...

Heh, heh. So, uh...

::best Ralph Kramden impression::

How about goin' to the kitchen and gettin' me a beer ? And would it kill you to make me a sandwich while you're in there ?!

::grins, runs and hides::

(On a more serious note, don't you just love the "Catch 22" in remarks like Hiram's ?)

Brian R said...

"Scripture says that the only non-sinful sexual relationship is one within marriage, a bond between people of the opposite sex."
You really believe in a God that would expect me to live a lonely unfulfilled life, because I can tell you the above is impossible for me and I did try leading to the unhappiness of a beautiful girl as well as me. Thankfully I came to the realisation that God created me gay and what God creates is good.
Luckily I am not fond of shellfish or I would be committing more sins in the eyes of your God and perhaps I had better find some adulterers to stone in order to get into God's good books. Thankfully I grew up and rejected this evangelical nonsense.

Jim said...

Rev. Susan,

I was there in 1954. Even then the idea of patriarchy was collapsing. My mom was suddenly eligible to be a registered Scouter in Boy Scouts. The reason the Gleason jokes about Alice were so funny to us was that they represented what we all knew was dying. Only (significantly) the church was safe for men whose only ability was being male.

A very few years later, men and women marched to end the competent-by-skin-color-only privileges and the 'revolution' was well and truly on!

What is a poor idiot to do now? He is not accorded power because he is male, he is not important because he is white, and no one thinks he is special because he is straight! The only thing left is becoming an African bishop.

FWIW
jimB

Joan K said...

Scripture also forbids eating shellfish, clothing made of 2 fibers and and eating pork. It advocates slavery. Stoning is a penalty for many offenses including working on the Sabbath. Contact with menstruating women is forbidden. The Bible forbids tattoos or trimming of beards. Sowing a field with 2 kinds of seeds is forbidden. Women are forbidden from speaking in church.

These are just a few examples. I could go on. Why do we ignore all of these rules yet obsess on homosexuality?

We have realized that some of the rules of the Old Testament should no longer be enforced.

I am legally married according to the laws of Massachusetts. Like it or not my marriage is a fact. I take my marriage vows very seriously.

I take my membership in the Episcopal church equally seriously. I'm not leaving. I'm not going to let bigots and homophobes hijack the church and twist it to their evil adjenda.