Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Blame-the-Gays-Game: It's BACK!!

Some things you can set your clock by. The Rose Parade coming to Pasadena for New Year's Day. The swallows returning to Capistrano for St. Joseph's Day. And the Blame-the-Gays-Game reappearing on the House of Bishops/Deputies list serve for General Convention.

We're -- let me check -- yes, 49 days out from our first legislative day and like Pasadena swimming with tourists or Capistrano swamped with swallows, the rhetoric on the list is knee-deep in blame-shame-and-attack at the "distraction from the real work of the church" our conversations about human sexuality have become. It is rife with straw "men" arguments involving the ever-popular themes of polygamy, promiscuity and bestiality. And -- the part that got on my last gay nerve this morning -- the blaming of the "decline of civil discourse" (which is certainly worth bemoaning!) on "the events of 2003" (which is code for "the election of Gene Robinson.)

Which precipated the following commentary from yours truly -- which I share here for your edification and information:

This will be my 8th General Convention. My first was Phoenix in 1991 when the discourse between bishops came so notably "un-civil" that then Presiding Bishop Ed Browning opted to clear the visitors from the gallery in order to let the bishops argue behind closed doors. Verna Dozier famously said we were "a peculiar people." She did not say we were "a perfect people."

That said, what I know from my experience of more legislative hearings, committee meetings and floor debates than I can now count, that the tone and timbre of our work at General Convention has been overwhelming characterized by respectful discourse, prayerful consideration and genuine care and concern for those who hold opposing viewpoints. For all its challenges, when we gather as the Body Politic of the Episcopal Church there is a holiness about our work that transcends our differences -- so I have no choice but to blame the Holy Spirit.

What I know about this list serve is that passions rise, keyboards click and it is all too easy to lose sight of the humanity behind the words we disagree with in our responses. Finding ways to communicate respectfully across differences is an ongoing challenge -- in our culture and in our church -- and because we are human we, of course, will fall short of that mark. And because we are Christians, when we do we are called to repent and return to how the Lord would have us treat each other -- in love as Christ loved us.

At the same time, I believe the promise that the truth will set you free in John 8:32 calls us to speak the truth to each other -- and when that truth is that our positions are being misrepresented, when we are asked to defend arguments we haven't made and when the lives, relationships and vocations of the LGBT baptized are reduced to "issues" then we will speak that truth -- while endeavoring to speak it in love. And for my money, no one every spoke it better than the Reverend Michael Hopkins when he wrote these words:

"We ask you to stop scapegoating lesbian and gay Christians for every contemporary ill in the Church, particularly for our current state of disunity or the potential for the unraveling of the Anglican Communion. You know as well as we do that the issues are far deeper than human sexuality. They are issues of scriptural interpretation and authority, including the very different polities that exist in different provinces of the Communion and whether or not local autonomy is a defining characteristic of Anglicanism. Issues of human sexuality are just one tip of that very large iceberg and if sexuality went completely away tomorrow, the iceberg would still be there.

This movement is not about getting our way or else. This movement is a means to further the healthy debate within the Church, to deepen it on a theological level, to begin to articulate how we see the blessing of same-sex unions as a part of the Church’s moving forward in mission rather than hindering mission. We believe that it is time for the church to claim the blessing found in the lives of its faithful lesbian and gay members and to further empower them for the mission of the Church. We are trying to find a way forward in this endeavor that holds as much of this church we love together as possible. We ask all our fellow-Episcopalians to join us even if they disagree with us."
That was 2002. Before the nomination or election of the 9th Bishop of New Hampshire -- much less C056 or the SCLM Blessings Task Force. And his words are still true. And they will still set us free if we will let them.


hank wall said...

This is a very honest piece. It is indeed about how one views scriptural authority; that is the crux of it. Yet those who have different views are all bigots and homophobes...simply because their view of scripture is different than modern redaction.

uffda51 said...

Let’s not do what Michael Hopkins asked us not to do – reduce differences over scriptural authority to one issue.

No one would claim that those who still believe in a flat earth, or that the moon is a light source, or that the resurrection was literal, are bigots or homophobes. Those who employ the straw men Susan used in her post to demonize LGBT persons do in fact tend to be homophobic, which is by definition irrational.

The issue is, did God write the Bible, or was the Bible written by men, using the limited information they had available to them at the time? Maybe there has always been division on LGBT issues among religious folk, even in the Bronze Age. Maybe someday we will find the minority report written by the compilers of Leviticus. Perhaps the minority felt that there was no nexus between sexual orientation and morality and that the demonization of those perceived to be “other” was not the will of God and should not be included in scripture, but lost their case on a 5 to 4 vote.