Monday, March 21, 2011

Reflections on Atlanta

Of course I'm still mulling the events in Atlanta ... even as I hunker down back at home with my regularly-scheduled life, work and "to-do" list. We've still got a lot of work to do with the SCLM task forces to get our reports ready for submission to the commission and then off to the "Blue Book" (which hasn't been blue in awhile, but nevermind) and then off to Indianapolis for the debate and decision part.

But for the moment ... and it's a very big but ... I could not be more delighted with the feedback we continue to get about the tone and timbre of the meeting ... the content and the process.

Our goals had been to "Inform, Engage and Equip."
  • To Inform the deputies about the history of the work we've been charged to do and about what we've done so far in response to that charge.
  • To Engage the deputies in dialogue and discussion about not only the work we've been doing but the resources they need in their contexts.
  • To Equip them to go back to their deputations and to their dioceses and bring their colleagues and constituents -- as fully as possible -- into this church wide process of discussion and discernment.

Here's how Nicholas Knisely [Diocese of Arizona; Phoenix] described his experience of the consultation over at Episcopal Cafe ... a description that tells me if we didn't get it perfect, we came pretty darned close:

What this process has done extremely well is to listen to the diverse voices in the Episcopal Church. I participated in the small group conversations. I saw the scribe for our group carefully keeping track of our conversation. Our group arrived at some very interesting insights, some of which were new to me.

The group process worked; and when we disagreed, that was recorded too. Later in plenary sessions, the disagreements were recognized and honored. There is not a clear consensus on what the Episcopal Church should do with the report it will receive. There is a shared recognition that either way the decision goes on authorization, there will be some parts of the Episcopal Church that will not be able to bear the decision. But there was no sense that anyone was walking away. They had been heard and everyone was committed to staying in relationship with one another somehow, someway.

That's what reconciliation actually looks like.

And it is happening among the relatively small group that gathered for 22 hours of meeting time because of the process designed by the SCLM. So kudos to them. And I ask the question to the larger body; why don't we do this a lot more? The process used in Atlanta is actually only part of the beginning. We attendees were given tools and resources to extend the table and to report back to the SCLM. I'm hoping that is exactly what happens. I intend to make it so in Arizona.

We ought be regularly consulting in this way in advance of major votes at all levels of the Church. This event ought not be exceptional. The upside is so great that the expense is easily worth it.

[Visit the Episcopal Cafe link above to read more from Dean Knisely.]

I have heard some critique that "both sides" were not represented in the resources presented -- never mind that what C056 charged the SCLM to do was to collect and develop resources FOR the blessing of same-gender relationships … not to rehash arguments AGAINST the blessing of same-gender relationships.

More important than the increasingly small minority of folks who keep insisting we're not including them in the conversation because they've chosen not to talk about the subject we're discussing is the great work that is going on with those who do come to the table. Here's a great peek at that from Brian Baker's [Diocese of Northern California; Sacramento] blog post:
At the Churchwide Consultation on blessing same-gender relationships, I got in a great conversation with a priest who firmly believes that any sexual relations outside of marriage (which can only be between a man and a woman) is expressly forbidden in scripture. Consequently he does not support the church blessing any same-gender relationships. I do not have a need, or even a desire, to change his mind so he believes as I believe. I think it is vital that we make room for a diversity of viewpoints and theological perspectives, which includes those with which I disagree. I was thrilled that he came to the conference in which his view was a minority and I was pleased that the people in our small group welcomed him.

At dinner, and through the following break, he and I had an in-depth conversation. It became clear to me that his perspective on what the Bible is, and how to read it, is very different from mine. It isn’t that he takes the Bible seriously, and I don’t. I take the Bible very seriously. I just understand it very differently that he does. Here are some things I believe to be true about the Bible:
[And of course you'll want to follow the link and read what Dean Baker has to say.]

My point on all of this is THIS IS HOW ANGLICANS BEHAVE AT THEIR BEST! We are a people hard-wired for diversity because of the DNA of comprehensiveness that courses in our veins. Descended from a people who figured out how to be both protestant and catholic in the 16th century we have ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for not figuring out how to be gay and straight in the 21st.

One of the things I said in my presentation in Atlanta was our task force ... the Teaching Resources Team ... was charged with giving the church the resources it needs. The whole church.
For example: In my small group was a man who said blessings were forbidden in his diocese and WOULD NEVER HAPPEN THERE. And there was me -- from All Saints Pasadena -- where we'll be celebrating 20 Years of Blessings next year. And probably most folks in the Episcopal Church fall somewhere in between us on that continuum.

And our job is to resource ALL of them ... those asking the "Why would they ...?" questions as well as those asking the "How do we ...?" questions.

To resource the folks in the diocese that forbid blessings and swear they will never happen there to understand why other dioceses are making the choice to bless and celebrate same-gender relationships.

And to resource the folks in dioceses that have been blessing same-gender relationships for twenty years with the liturgical rites and pastoral care tools they need.

It is important work. Holy work. All of it. The "why" questions and the "how" questions. It's work that it's a privilege to do. And it is work I believe will help us reclaim a few more of those inches on the way to making the Garden of Eden grow green again.

6 comments:

LGMarshall said...

It's kind of you to say you were 'thrilled' with the attendance of the priest who said..."I firmly believe that any sexual relations outside of marriage (1man+ 1 woman) is expressly forbidden in Scripture"...

--amazingly, I believe that too! Wow, but he said it so much better than me or Martin T could have ever said it.

"...What this process has done extremely well is to listen to the diverse voices in the Episcopal Church.."-- SR
[well, except for the priests'.]

" ...the disagreements were recognized and honored..."-- SR
[well, except for the priests'.]

"...there will be some parts of the Epsicopal Church that will not be able to bear the decision.."-SR
[that priest has turned into a real nuisance.]

Martin T. said...

But LGM, they put morality to a vote and morality lost. It's all about numbers, not about what is right and wrong. Some things just shouldn't be allowed to be put to a vote. 2,000 yrs of biblical principals shouldn't be subject to a vote because some are tired of following God's Will.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

LG ... quickly, as I'm running off to meetings this morning:

I'm not at all "kind." I'm accurately quoting Brian Baker ... who was recounting his experience with a brother priest. And all the other quotes wee from Nick Knisely ... Dean of the Cathedral in Phoenix. (Please try to read for comprehension and not just reaction.)

Bottom line ... recognizing and honoring disagreements IS NOT THE SAME AS COMING TO AGREEMENT.

This all reminds me of my children when they were Jr. Hi'ish insisting I "wasn't listening to them" when I didn't agree with them.

One More Time:

1 - Head you +
2 - Disagreed with you
does not =
3 - Can't be in relationship with you ...

Unless your criterion for being included is being agreed with.

In which case, you're the one who's made the choice to be excluded.

The deputies who came to Atlanta knowing they held a minority opinion are to be applauded. So is the process that brought them there and treated their position respectfully.

Commenters on this blog could learn a lot from their example.

And now off to a staff inservice day.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Martin ... same arguments made about the ordination of women and The Divine Right of Kings.

Get over it.

Martin T. said...

Susan, thanks for that. Nothing like a fit of laughter to get the day started!

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

You're welcome.