I've been trying to take my own advice not to give up epiphanies for Lent and I guess it's working because I had what I think might qualify as an epiphany today: selective literalists are not selective in their selective literalism.
The same folks who profess to receive the Bible as the inerrant words of God -- except for the part about dashing babies heads against rocks, the parts where slaves are supposed to obey their masters and not complain about their lot and (in some dioceses) the parts where women are supposed to cover their heads and not speak in church -- read other things the same way!
The Constitution, for example really offers "equal protection" -- except when it comes to the equal protection of gay and lesbian families.
The Windsor Report is authoritative -- except when it comes to bishops violating diocesan boundaries.
Resolutions from the Lambeth Conference are definitive -- except for the part about listening to the witness of gay and lesbian Christians. And on it goes.
This "aha" moment came to me while re-reading some of the commentary on the recently published letter to the Anglican Primates by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Here's the quote that got all the "play" in the conservative blogosphere: "I do not hear much enthusiasm for revisiting in 2008 the last Lambeth Conference's resolution on this matter. In my judgment, we cannot properly or usefully re-open the discussion as if Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 did not continue to represent the general mind of the Communion" leading several pundits to declare that ECUSA's "To Set Our Hope On Christ" response to the Windsor Report was now officially "dead in the water."
As part of the team that presented ECUSA's response to the Communion in Nottingham it was abundantly clear that what we were offering ACKNOWLEDGED that our theological perspective does not represent "the general mind of the Communion." The point of "To Set Our Hope On Christ" was to present our perspective TO the Communion toward the stated Windsor Report goal of finding a way to STAY in communion with those who hold differing positions.
Pulling one sentence out of +Canterbury's letter and declaring it "the end of the conversation" is consistent with pulling one verse from Leviticus and declaring that one has sole access to the mind of God on issues of human sexuality.
Consistent, but not particularly helpful -- not to mention, not particularly Anglican.