Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Update on the Closeted Committee & The Ghosts of Studies Past

So here's the latest on the committee-in-the-closet "studying" the theology of same-sex relationships:

Episcopal Life ran this story today, entitled: Bishops' Theology Committee chair declines to release names of same-gender study group

"It has always been the committee's intention to publish the names of the panel when the work has reached the appropriate stage," Diocese of Alabama Bishop Henry Parsley, chair of the House of Bishops Theology Committee, said in a statement June 3. "We believe that for a season the work can best be accomplished by allowing the panel to work in confidence. This supports the full collegiality and academic freedom of the theologians and provides the space they need for the deep dialogue and reflection that is taking place among them."

"For a season." Where have we heard THAT before? Oh yeah ... B033. And, for the record, no one is opposed to confidence, dialogue and reflection. We're opposed to what one colleague -- an academic herself -- called as the BS it is:

I have been a member of the Modern Language Association and the American Association of University Professors. Both groups would contest the idea that a panel of study needed to be unnamed to have academic freedom. An unnamed panel, chosen to study an issue, absolutely contradicts the idea of academic freedom. I am surprised that scholars of any integrity would take part in this charade.

Katie Sherrod had this to say on her blog:

First we asked LGBT priests to "for a season" stand aside and become official second class people in the church in an effort to appease those unhappy with the moves the Episcopal Church was making toward full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments.

Now we are supposed to ask LGBT Episcopalians to "for a season" accept the secrecy of this panel in order to let the members "reflect deeply" on same sex relationships for three years. Why? Are they afraid that if we know who the members are they might be -- God forbid -- talked to by people whose relationships are the focus of the study?

And Mark Harris weighed in with this:

I believe the concern being raised concerns both the matter of inclusion on the sub- committee of GLBT people and about the matter of transparency. The first is a matter of justice, the second a matter of record.

And then there's the question of when is it time say enough is enough with "the study" thing -- time to say "been there/done that" to those who say "you haven't 'done the theology.'" For the record, here's just the tip of iceberg of the theology we "haven't done" ...

1994: 'Continuing the Dialogue: a Pastoral Study Document of the House of Bishops to the Church as the Church Considers Issues of Human Sexuality';'

1997: The Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships' report of the Standing Liturgical Commission with the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops to the 72nd General Convention;

2000: the liturgical commission's report to the 2000 General Convention titled 'Theological Aspects of Committed Relationships of Same-Sex Couples';

2003: House of Bishops Theology Committee's report 'The Gift of Sexuality: A Theological Perspective'".

... and (please note!) this is JUST the theology we haven't done that's been done by the House of Bishops.

There's also a whole bibliography of work done by theologians in the Episcopal Church and in the wider church ... "To Set Our Hope on Christ" -- the study we took to the Anglican Consultative Council in 2005 AND the Claiming the Blessing Theology Statement from 2003.

And speaking of 2003, I'm remembering that a week from today -- June 10th -- is the sixth anniversary of a trip Michael Hopkins and I took to Chicago together in 2003 ... to Seabury Western seminary where we had been "summoned" by the House of Bishops' Theology Committee (chaired by Henry Parsley.)

They were -- stop me if you've heard this before -- working on a "study" that included same-sex relationships and they hadn't -- up until that point -- actually included anybody in that process who was actually in one.

So we -- Michael and I -- were bussed in as two actual, live-in-captivity homosexual people: Exhibit A & B. In 2003. Six years ago. And now there's another study. Being done in secret. Due in 2011.

Cue music: It's time for the Final Jeopardy Theme.

Time to say enough is enough. Game Over. We're done.

It's time to stop "studying" our relationships and start celebrating them.

It's time for the Episcopal Church to "Just Say No" to more closets -- for committees or for bishops or for the baptized -- and finish the Coming Out process it started in 1976.

In a nutshell: It's time to claim the blessing of the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments and get on with the work of gospel.


SCG said...

I am deeply troubled by all of this. Secrets aren't good. And I am *really* tired of being talked "about". I agree: enough!! Given the great news out of NH, I have to wonder what's wrong when 'the church' is lagging behind 'the world' on inclusion. Isn't that like having the tail wag the dog?

Caminante said...

And this so-called study forgets all the work that has been done on the diocesan level, e.g., the Diocese of Vermont's 2004 task force on blessings that issued its report that has a solid theological section. If they really wanted to engage with the matter, all they would have to do is google same-sex blessings.

Somehow I remember (!) the 1988 booklet, Continuing the Dialogue: A Pastoral Study Document of the HOB to the Church as the Church Considers Issues of Human Sexuality. Why don't they just reprint it? Really. We've already covered this ground.

How long, o God, how long?

Frankly, when I look at the membership of various committees (HOB Theology, the Windsor Continuation Group, and so forth), I can't help but feel the deck is stacked against us.

High frustration level!

Two Auntees said...

It is hard to believe that adults, not to mention Christians, would pull this kind of stunt. You form a committee to study a certain group of people but you don't tell anyone who is on the committee and no one knows whether the people being studied are represented or not. Does that sound about right?

We need to move forward!!! NOW!

Lisa Fox said...

Susn, this one has been dancing on my one last nerve. God bless you. I'm blogging as fast as my fingers will fly. I'll add this of yours, too.

God bless you for staying for so long, when our church has been so sinful.

Colin said...

People - it must be clear by now. They don't really want us. Jesus does, but the institution does not. We have to ask ourselves, individually, whether staying is worth the pain and ontological damage.

Fr. Marty Kurylowicz said...

I believe the Episcopal Church are at least attempting to dialogue and to keep the people in charge to be responsible. We in the Roman Catholic Church do not dialogue any issue on human sexuality. How irresponsible even criminal. I would like to place a small excerpt from you posting onto the "Thalamus Center" with all the necessary links back to "An Inch At A Time." If this does meet with your approval, it will be removed immediately.

You give us such a real sense of hope of what can be though difficult to do, you are in fact attempting to try. You as a woman priest is most inspiring and hopful of can be and the enormous benefits that come with it for everyone.

With all best wishes,
Fr. Marty Kurylowicz

Pat Klemme said...

I'm guessing +Robinson is *not* a member. How shall they learn what they need to know if LGBT's have no participation, no voice...?

It's been years, and evidently it will be years more. I'm in my 60's. Will I die of old age before I am welcome?

IT said...

Am I the only one who feels like we're on "double secret probation"?

Lorian said...

Excellent, Susan.

I hear your patience with the "process" coming to the end of its thread. But I must commend you heartily, because you have been far more patient than most. Thanks for all your patience and hard work. Sad that we're still waiting...

Fr. Marty Kurylowicz said...

To respond to Colin’s statement

“People - it must be clear by now. They don't really want us. Jesus does, but the institution does not. We have to ask ourselves, individually, whether staying is worth the pain and ontological damage.”

I stay because of the harm that is caused to very young children by these antigay teachings and actions of any church. If I didn’t know what I know from being a priest, a psychologist and my own time spent psychotherapy about being LGBT, I could walk away. But I know too much to be able to pretend I know nothing. Jesus does want us and likely wants us to spread that good news around too. However, I believe everyone has to decide that for him or herself, sometimes walking away may be the best thing to do. The Episcopal Church as tough as it is to deal with these issues of human sexuality you remain a shining beacon to us all. This is because you are at least facing the issues that must be faced for the sake of love.

I apologize for unedited posting earlier, a corrected version.

“I believe the Episcopal Church is at least attempting to dialogue and to keep the people in charge to be responsible. We in the Roman Catholic Church do not dialogue any issue on human sexuality. How irresponsible even criminal is that? … You give us such a real sense of hope of what can be though difficult to do; you are in fact attempting to try. As a woman priest, you are a most inspiring and hopeful sign of what can be and the enormous benefits that come with it for everyone.”

With all best wishes, Marty

Cameron Partridge said...

Amen, Susan. Amen.

Viator said...

Ms. Russell:

My theological position on many things including SSBs, etc., is the opposite of yours as stated on this site, but I enjoy your blog—it gets my blood flowing. I agree with your assessment that the two year study predicted for the secret study group established by HOB Theological Committee is almost surely a delaying tactic. The question is: who is trying to use the delaying tactic and why? It appears to me that the vast majority of the traditional bishops would rather see a decision be made at GC for SSBs, etc., than put off, if for no other reason than to clearly show the Anglican Communion where the American Church actually stands on these issues. It also now seems clear that the vast majority of the HOB is in favor of SSBs, and consecration of bishops living in same sex relationships and the traditional bishops don’t have the votes to delay anything. So, it appears that the word must have gone out from “the leadership”(who surely are on your side of the issue) that approval of these items is to be delayed until, at least, 2012 presumably for political leverage and advantage in the councils of the Anglican Communion.

It is ironic, is it not, that a tactic that has long been used by folks on the “pro side” of these issues (to delay a vote on them through various GCs until they could be sure they had the votes) has been turned against you when you do have the votes, by folks on the same “pro” side of the issues (if I’m right) in order to protect themselves from any responsibility should the approvals you desire be given at GC and the Anglican Communion actually condemn the American Church and actually do something about it (very slim chance in my opinion).

While I’m not with you on the issues, I am with you on the vote--GC2009 ought to make a decision, let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no”, but that is not, however, the Episcopal way. Obfuscation that enables “plausible denial” is our style, so I don’t have much hope that we’ll get the clarity we both want.

BookGuyBaltMD said...

Actually, I agree with Viator's assessment - albeit not with his conclusions.

Delay can sometimes be an expedient friend. Perhaps it would have been well to have learned this lesson before we pressed the issue on gays in the military and had to be "rescued" from the back-lash with "don't ask don't tell" (as opposed to an outright ban and subsequent witch-hunt - the very real probable outcome at the time).

That said, I would love to see a comprehensive listing of all of the official theological studies of this subject (especially if they are available on-line). For example, one of your readers cited a study done in the D of VT and another cited the HofB study from the 1980s (links would be helpful, if available).

I know that Tobias Haller and others did a very thorough, well reasoned, and well written one for the D of NY.

Aside from that fact that these studies would make interesting reading for me (already a member of the choir, as it were), I would love to be able to use these studies as a direct answer to those on "the other side" with whom I am in conversation. I, too, frequently hear these folks claim that the theology has not been done.

As a brief and inadequate answer to these folks, I did a brief and cursory search on Amazon and came up with some 180 plus homophile publications that take "our" side in the issue.

Interestingly enough, using my Amazon search criteria, considering recent publications, it is actually those on the "other" side who have not adequately done the Theology. The only recent "theologian" listed in that search writing on specifically this subject is a fellow named Gagnon. I gather he is not considered to be a reputable theologian. Certainly when I read his book his arguments we pretty easy to refute; his arguments fall apart in the most miserable way just on the basis of their sheet outrageous misuse of logic alone.

Bottom line: is there, somewhere, a bibliography of theological justification for same sex blessings and/or ordination of "homosexuals in a monogamous partnership" bishops? If so, I think this would be very helpful (at least to me).

If it does not exist, perhaps we could, on the internet, put our heads together and create one. I would be happy to do the collecting if others would supply the ammunition, but I am not a theologian by any reach of the imagination. I am also happy to defer to someone with better qualifications for judging the theological worth of any submissions.


Matt from Oregon said...

I am proud of Integrity's response. In addition to the great HOB theological works cited, "The St. Michael Report" of the Canadian Church and our own "To Set Our Hope In Christ" address these issues well. I, too, am concerned about "double secret probation". :)

OSLC said...

Hmmmm. Maybe the "Closet Committee" wishes anonymity because they are planning on getting to the "real" truth about our relationships by selecting a few of us for waterboarding. After all, the security of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion must be under threat for such secrecy to replace our polity.

gsbanjo said...

"Let's study it." = Delay it.
In the early 1970's newly ordained bishop, Arthur Anton Vogel, coadjutor of West Missouri told the House of Bishops they needed to study women's ordination. This effectively muzzled his diocesan bishop, Edward Randolph Welles, who felt he could not speak against his new coadjutor. The bishops passed the stupid resolution to study what had been accepted by some Anglican theologians since Raven's book in 1929. When the news of the bishops' action reached a meeting of women at Virginia Seminary, it is my understanding from what Katrina told me, that the meeting was outraged and founded the Episcopal Women's Caucus. Outrage is a good thing. All blessings! George Swanson
PS (a member of Integrity)will have a booth at General Convention (#162) promoting the ERA, women theologians, Indigenous Peoples, African children's education, and the abolition of torture in American jails and prisons. Bobby Dellelo, mentioned in the New Yorker article, "Hellhole," will be with us in the booth. Evidence of torture inside America is on the web at:

The Reverend Marcia King said...

I know you won't post this on your website, Susan but I must say, it's truly amazing to read these comments. No, the names of the committee members to study homosexual behavior should not be revealed too early. Yes, it should be studied theologically and biblically a very, very long time. No, you have not waited too long. This is incredibly important. Do you not for a moment recognize that the LGBT initiatives have torn the fabric of our communion to shreds already? That TEC is losing 1000 members a week? Waiting a little longer? Yes, I think so.

JayV said...

Yes, thanks for this post. Lifelong (cradle) Episcopalian.
Gay. Been in this battle for nearly 35 years. I just realised that's over one-half my life! I'm sick of being told to be patient. For what end?

KJ said...

I'm encouraged that our bishops in the Diocese of Olympia are as concerned as many of us.

And, agreed regarding the lack of need for more studies. Put a fork in it! It's done!


Marcia ... thanks for taking time to comment.

And do you not for a moment recognize that if they could have, they'd still be "studying" women's ordination and neither one of us would be "The Reverend" ... because, well, you can never study something too long and besides -- some are threatening to leave if we ordain "them" so let's just keep studying.

(See also: Justice delayed is justice denied.)

Colin said...

I'm very interested in your comments, Marcia (I'm guessing your use of 'The Reverend' with your name is to denote your status - bully for you).

You assert that it is important that the names of those on the committee not be revealed. Why? I don't see any logical reason in your comment, so I'd appreciate it if you could clarify that. Do you think it is important so they won't be lobbied by any person or interest group?

You assert that those of us who are being forensically examined have not waited too long. 2000 years is a long time. Why do you think waiting longer is indicated? The fabric of the communion was torn apart by the ordination of women. Should be have waited there too?

You assert that the fabric of the communion is being torn apart by 'LGBT initiatives'. What initiatives are those? Actually following the gospel? This statement feels to me like an attempt to blame those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered for the current troubles. Scapegoating is nothing new.

What is missing in all of this, all of the delaying, examining, studying, fighting and blaming is love.

Where is your love, Marcia?

The Reverend Marcia King said...

Well, I AM surprised to see my comment appear. Thanks for allowing a different voice, Susan.

Christ loves all of us and died for all of us. He welcomes all into his embrace. There is the love. We are all sinners, that's why he died.

This issue is extremely important. So far, nothing has broader implications that this one. It deserves our greatest attention, prayer and study. No, it hasn't been examined for 2000 years. My goodness, get real. This has only undergone a thorough examination of Scripture quite recently in the church and theological circles. It is much broader and deeper than the prayer book or women's issues (or slavery for that matter.) Women's issues should have received the same complete review to avoid so much division in the church. Our Lord prayed for unity in John 17. It grieves and saddens me that so many have left over this issue, both liberal and conservative.

PS I didn't put "The Reverend" for any specific purpose. It's just how my email is structured for my parish. Sorry if that offends or bothers anyone. Don't know how to change it for this reply. The "bully for you" comment was a little surprising.

Colin said...

Hello Marcia

I regret writing "bully for you" - it means "lucky for you" or "you're lucky" where I come from, but it was unclear and in any case unnecessary, so I apologise. The title is being taken from your Blogger profile, so you have entered it there for some reason at some time.

As far as I can see, you didn't articulate with the points I raised in my comment, but that's OK and your right.


uffda51 said...

With all due respect, Reverend Marcia King, it's truly amazing to read your comments.

If there’s anything more absurd and demeaning than a committee to study homosexual behavior, it’s a SECRET committee to study homosexual behavior.

“No, you have not waited too long.” So the bigotry and scapegoat which has gone on since before Leviticus was written should continue because . . . ? Do you not see the condescension in this statement?

I agree with you, “This is incredibly important.”

I do not agree that LGBT initiatives have torn the fabric of our communion to shreds. Conservatives who hold the Fred Phelps position on LGBT issues have torn the fabric of the communion.

“Waiting a little longer?” When even Dick Cheney has seen the light on gay issues? I think not.

Except to say that the time spent viewing “Voices of Witness” or “For the Bible Tells Me So” should be all the time anyone needs to both understand and embrace the LGBT position.