Friday, December 05, 2008

"Love the misogynist, hate misogyny"

My friend and colleague, John Taylor+ -- Episcopal priest and Executive Director of the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda -- offers this blog on his "Episconixonian" reflecting on the schism-dujour. Enjoy!


Covering the creation of something called the "Anglican Church in North America," the LA Times buried the lead today. Twenty-one paragraphs down and three from the bottom in in a front-page story, reporter Duke Helfand writes:

The differences go beyond the role of gays and lesbians in church life. San Joaquin, for instance, is one of just three of the church's 110 dioceses that do not ordain women.

While an afterthought in Helfand's article, the ambiguous role of women in the Church of Christ may be the biggest problem facing Episcopalians (not to mention its Roman Catholic and evangelical wings, where the conversations are nowhere near as advanced).

For years TEC has been convulsed by its struggles to determine what constitutes a full sacramental life for for the two or three percent of the population who are gay or lesbian. Now, attempting to present themselves the true light of Anglicanism, the schismatics have made it clear that they believe that half the population are unworthy to be bishops and, in some cases, priests.

That's right: In the 21st century, in the nation that has done more than any other to make equal rights a winning proposition, some Christians are taking the view that both women and gays and lesbians are forever second-class citizens in the body of Christ. I say this with all due respect, but I'm amazed they let the blacks in.

The church must make a better effort to help the media understand that the root of the conflict over homosexuality is the stubborn insistence that the Bible, and therefore God, call for hierarchies among categories of human beings. It's possible that some with big hearts, who'd prefer to be absolutely fair, can't get around their literal interpretations of first-century Bible rules.

But others' exclusionary doctrines, no matter how magisterial-sounding their rhetoric, can't help but be rooted in existential fear of the other -- especially, I'm beginning to suspect, women.

It's fascinating that even among social progressives, just as in the LA Times article, women's issues remain secondary.When the Episcopal Church permitted the ordination of women in 1970s, in a spirit of compassion (others might say prudence, for fear of more schisms), it tolerated dioceses and churches that opposed the move. Yet it probably would not have been as indulgent of priests' and bishops' defiance if the issue had been the ordination of African-Americans. Why have women had to wait for the rules to be enforced?

The dynamic is present in national as well as church politics. When Barack Obama was elected President, much was made of the progress that had been made by those who had been second-class citizens under the U.S. Constitution until 1863-65. How long will the successors of those who only received the right to vote in 1920 have to wait?

In retrospect, once TEC completed its agonizing debate over women's ordination, it erred in tolerating misogynist practice in parishes and dioceses. I suspect that if it had stuck to its principles 30 years ago, the newest schismatics would have been long gone already.

Besides, if we still can't get to the bottom of the complicated dynamics of gender relations, how can we be expected to have a fruitful conversation about society's ancient aversion to homosexuality? Those who say all homosexual activity is a sin like to say, "Love the sinner, hate the sin." It's time to say, "Love the misogynist, hate misogyny." It may be that the best thing TEC can do for gays and lesbians right now is finally to fully live out its Spirit-driven faith that women are full members of him who lived, died, and rose again for everyone.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Oh, sigh. Girl cooties. I'm afraid that there are some people in purple shirts running around with their fingers crossed on their deltoid muscle, yelling, "Shot! Shot!"

(And I had to laugh at the appropriateness of my "comment confirmation word" below...ovorionc...sounds like an ovarian mass...

Jim said...

Let the people shout AMEN!

A number of us have been saying for years that at the end of the day, it is all about equity for women. The more cynical among us (moi) have long ago concluded that for the career minded, it is also about competition. Bad enough to have to fight off other equally mediocre male candidates on the way to a miter, but competant women? That is scary!

Some years back in a rare moment of candor, one of those now gone to a holier church observed that he only wanted to "make his confession" to a male, white priest. As he put it, "someone like me."

I had to leave the room as I was unable to keep the laughter back and could not control my 'cough.'


DavidJustinLynch said...

Whether women can or should be ordained is no longer debateable. They have been, are, and will be ordained. The same is true for gays and lesbians. Let's move on to more important issues, like poverty, peace, justice, health, and environment. Christian Theology is not rooted in the property and purity codes of Leviticus, but in the Song of Mary, the Beatitudes, and the Lord's Prayer.

Mark Andrews said...

Just so I am clear about what's being asserted here. Christianity is:

* not so much a definite, unchanging set of propositions which we come to understand better over time as we attempt to adhere to them

but, is rather

* some kind of continuing revelation to those who are in the know

For example, "in the know" about the "real" meaning of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, previously obscured by 2,000 to 5,000 years of social and cultural bias. Geez, who says miracles don't happen?

Seriously, this statement:

"Let's move on to more important issues, like poverty, peace, justice, health, and environment"

says more about modernity than the roots of Christian theology.

Its been said Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality. Jesus didn't give us the Millennium Development Goals as holy writ, either.

Lets be careful about our so-called modern superiority. You never know where that predatory animal named "supercessionism" will strike next.

JCF said...

some kind of continuing revelation to those who are in the know

The word you're looking for, is "Gnostic", Mark.

Because if a church embraces the idea that women---equally made in the Image of God---are equally called to ordained ministry by God, then that church MUST be heretical, right?

Just so I am clear.

uffda51 said...

Jesus did NOT speak about poverty, peace and justice? He did NOT heal the sick? Perhaps the environment was not quite the issue then as it is now but the world was not on the verge of poisoning itself out of existence during Jesus time.

I know that modernity is a bummer for conservatives but none of us gets to choose the century in which we are born, in the same way that none of us chooses our sexual orientation or the religious beliefs of our parents.

Mark Andrews said...

Well, JCF, if the shoe fits....

Finding the heretical locus in the wide variety of ancient gnostic movements - in a given gnostic form and/or in consequent behaviors stemming from it - would be interesting. Perhaps we'd find those same patterns of behavior alive and well today.

john said...

"Its been said Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality. Jesus didn't give us the Millennium Development Goals as holy writ, either."

And that leads you to conclude what, that they are an abomination?

Mark Andrews said...

The MDG an "abomination?" Of course not! I think attention to the MDG could be a sign of a transformative encounter with the Kerygma, about which we find precious little discussion around here.

Encountering the Krygma and being transformed by could be a working definition of "conversion." A sign of conversion could be advancing the MDG. That's not to say that advancing the MDG could not also lead "back" to a transformational encounter with the Kerygma, though I think that is less likely.

Here's my point: no Kerygma, no Christianity. And the MDG become another great plan - written, spoken, shelved and ignored.