Monday, April 03, 2006

The Spin Cycle

I think we've all had it happen: one minute the washer is happily turning dirty laundry into clean clothes and the next there's the telltale thump-thump-thump-THUMP of the spin cycle spinning crooked. The only solution is to get up, lift the lid, rearrange the wet laundry and start over again.

Well, it happened to me today. Only it wasn't the spin cycle on my washing machine -- it was the spin cycle on the Anglican News Machine. One minute I was happily working at home, getting Holy Week texts in order and coming up with a Good Friday sermon title ahead of the noon-today-or-else deadline and the next I was getting calls and emails by the drove from reporters about the "U-Turn" the Episcopal Church was about to make on gay inclusion -- thump, thump, thump, THUMP!

The only solution was to get up, "lift the lid" and check out what was spinning around in there.

Turns out the "big story" was: based on the comments of Baby Bishop +Kirk Smith in his "from the airport" email on the report the House of Bishops heard on the recommendations forthcoming from the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion ... as picked up by Jonathan Petre in the London Telegraph and cast as "the mind of the House of Bishops" rather than "the opinion of One Bishop" ... and jumped on by other press folk as "breaking news" ... which it was not!

So I spent the next while "rearranging the laundry" in one phone call after the other:

No, there is nothing new to indicate that the Episcopal Church is about to Stop Backing Gay Clergy.

Our House of Bishops in its Covenant Statement demonstrated no stomach for any "moratoria" that impacts only LGBT vocations.

We expect that the recommendations of the special commission will affirm that position while continuing to offer regret for the impact of our actions and commitment to the communion-wide listening process.

And it's likely to get worse before it gets better. As the anxiety mounts in the days between now and the 75th General Convention so will the frequency of the spin cycles. Last week it was Ruth Gledhill's blog speculations picked up by David Virtue as "The Times of London Reports" ... followed by a flurry of articles on the "ultimatums presented by the Bishop of Exeter to the House of Bishops on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury." Once again, one bishop's opinion miraculously turned into fact certain. Thump-thump-thump-THUMP.

Then it was the "LEAC poll" non-story. A "secret poll" commissioned by an overtly partisan "traditionalist" contingent headquartered in Maryland and responded to by barely 1/4 of the 300 bishops polled led to articles like the Dakota Voice piece entitled: Most Episcopalian Bishops Would Oppose Church Stance. Never mind that the conclusion based on the opinion of 56% of the 27% who self-selected into a biased survey -- never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Thump-thump-thump-THUMP.

And on it goes. "Un-spinning" the spin cycle could be a full time job -- in fact, I get emails from folks who think it should be: mine! Thanks but no thanks.

The energy and resources it would take to debunk every out of control rumor and respond to every opinion-morphing-into-fact boggles the mind ... but more importantly, I think, would numb the soul. Those manufacturing facts and exploiting rumors are doing so toward a strategic goal: producing fear and anxiety in the-church-at-large in order to polarize it around this one issue and distract it from its larger mission and minstry.

The truth is none of us truly know what will happen in Columbus and beyond until we get there. And when we get there our job will be the same as it has been: to speak the truth in love and trust that the same Spirit has "brought us thus far on the way" will continue to lead us into God's future ... an inch at a time.

And when all else fails, remember to pray the Collect of the Day from Lent V:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Anonymous said...

A friend send me +Kirk Smith's Email and after contemplating for a while whether the label "Quisling" applied to him (while he was Rector at St. James/Wilshire in Los Angeles, he displayed few of the reservations he now displays, or so I'm told), it occurred to me that the focus up to now has been on not driving the conservatives out of the American Church or incentivizing the conservatives to exclude us from the Anglican Communion.

Perhaps we should begin to ask, if the Kirk Smiths and Kendall Harmons of this world have their way, what on earth would induce any of us to remain part of the Episcopal Church? Speaking for myself, I can't think of a single thing.

Anonymous said...

I will remain in order to work for the inclusion of all people; to help the Kirk Smiths and Kendall Harmons see what I percieve to be strong weaknesses in their theology; to show them that they are not reading the Bible literally but only reading part of it literally while throwing reams of other wonderfully inclusive passages out the door and throwing out those in need of pastoral care with them; I will stay to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us for a bigger, broader, church, that accepts more viewpoints and more people. That's what the ECUSA represents to me, and that's why even if we lose on this issue (which I pray and hope we won't) I can't give my life over into despair and leave. God loves us and we know it-- AND God calls us into action to work for peace and justice and even reconciliation with those who don't understand that God loves us yet. To leave is, I believe, to abandon God's call to me to do that very good, and necessary, work. But as you said, that is speaking for me, and the calling may be different for different folks. I hope, though, that no matter what happens we will all stick around to keep the ECUSA a broad church, even for those who do not agree with us theologically. That is the frustrating part of this "spin cycle" - that those opposed to us don't seem willing to wait before deciding to leave.

Anonymous said...

The Episcopal Church isn't the only show in town. If by its actions it shows it is determined not to be an inclusive church, then I'll have to look at other denominations.

Anonymous said...

No, and while the road may be long and at times seem dark, God never said that being called to his service would be easy. We can make ECUSA a truly unique place of inclusion for all, not just those like us, by staying, no matter what. Hope is hard, and it requires trust that God will bring us through to the promised land even when we feel like we are in the wilderness.

Anonymous said...

AND... we first need something to leave for!!! As of today, the only indication we have that things aren't going our way is the innuendo and spin of the right, which I believe is Susan's point entirely. Right now we have clergy in many parts of the country performing same-sex blessings, gay bishop, perhaps another gay bishop on the way, and untold numbers of gay clergy. That's a lot. I hope we all hold on to see what happens before allowing the rhetoric and spin affecting us, and falling into despair.

Anonymous said...

At this point, it's hypothetical. I hope Susan is correct. I asked the question by way of saying that schism is a two-way street. I have no hope for the likes of Kendall Harmon, but +Kirk Smith ought to know better and certainly knows gay and lesbian people. He hosted a gay/lesbian Epiphany party at the Rectory when he was at St. James', for heaven's sake! "Moderates" like the "baby bishop" ought to ask themselves whether they want to risk driving people like me away.

Anonymous said...

jg6544 said... The Episcopal Church isn't the only show in town. If by its actions it shows it is determined not to be an inclusive church, then I'll have to look at other denominations.

From the other side of the issue similar comments are being acted on -- that is why I see a fracture in ECUSA inevitable. This is an issue where there will be no compromise from either side.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that hope is theoretical. I do think that the other side is having the discussion of leaving. I don't think that means that we can't intentionally set out to make a church broad enough for everyone. If they don't have enough hope, enough love, to hold on for reconciliation then that is between them and God - not us and them - as long as we have offered to try without sacrificing our self-worth in the process. I was inspired this morning to create my own blog to discuss our need to stay - Forgive the self-promotion!

Anonymous said...

You can spin or parse this any way you want, but the result of the resolutions being discussed is a public statement that the ++Robinson consecration, and by extension all other gay ordinations, was wrong and sinful.

I guess I shouldnt be surprised to see the lukewarm supporters of diversity run for cover. I actually prefer the Pittsburg Bishop to these folks because at least he has the courage to states what he believes, however wrong.

Get a bowl of water so these Bishop's can wash their hands. As for the rest, as Jesus said, let your yes be yes, and your no be no.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is un-Christian to not be hopeful, although there may be little bumps along the way (and who knows yet whether GC 2006 will be one of them). I still also say that we have to invite the other side to stay with us, so that if they leave it is not because of a lack of hospitality and invitation on our side, and that we do this in such a way that we do not compromise our own values and/or self-worth. The Epistles are full of references to make peace with those we most disagree with, and then let them walk first. If they walk, it is between them and God. If we ask them to leave or are rude to them, it is between us and God.

Anonymous said...

I believe it's just waking up and smelling the coffee.

I'm not inviting conservatives to leave, either. At the same time, I detect no interest on the part of many of them in staying if they have to stay in a Church that welcomes all baptized Christians, including honest gay or lesbian ones, and treats them equally.

Anonymous said...

I'm just not sure that is true. I think there is a loud minority that has certainly made it clear that they are not going to be happy unless we are pretty much burned at the stake. But I have read positions from others saying that while their theological positions don't support us and they won't vote for us, it is more important to them to stay then to break their bonds with us should they not get their way (the Bishop of Texas, for one). That is the kind of church I want to be in. A church where community is so important that there is room for all, no matter what the disagreement or which side you fall on. That means that after the dust settles we will have enough pieces to pick up to build something on, enough value to continue doing the good work of Christ. Showing some of those left that GLBT people are of equal value will be some of that work no matter which way GC06 goes.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Susan:

I confess that I'm one of those Episcopalians guilty of being "spun" from time-to-time (no sooner do I get my Christian Hope back, but I get spun again: the Father-of-Lies is so very busy these days...).

I will try to take your wise words to heart. It took TEC 30 years+ to get to GC2003: they're not going to throw that away so easily (+GR may be the one OUT voice in the HofB, but in the HofD, it's a very different story! :-D)

Jon said...

If I may make a suggestion, the people you need to worry about swaying aren't the commited conservatives. The ones you need to be worrying about are those that are pissed at both sides for taking time away from the important ministries (prison ministry, soup kitchens, christian education/formation) they are engaged in and the more catholic-minded (ie. those that assume they should obey the church and hold it together while they work for change within the bounds set by canon). From what I've heard, the ABC is an example the second type of person to be persuaded. For both these cases, pushing hard and refusing to take no for an answer is a recipe for alienation, while gentle, persistant pressure along with carefully wrought arguments from what they already accept should lead to widespread acceptance.

As for the rest of the stuff roiling the blogosphere, including fear that the resolutions put forward will amount to a u-turn, I suggest, as I think Susan does, that we wait and see what is actually proposed. While the rumors are likely to have some truth to them, the actual wording is important and could change the impact hugely.


Anonymous said...

Jon, I might find your argument in favor of "gentle, persistent pressure" more persuasive had this debate not been going on for thirty-odd years in this country and were what is being talked about now not such a huge step backward. But neither is the case. This issue is not going to go away and for me at least, if the Church takes a backward step, it takes it without me.

Jon said...

The debate's age in the US in no way reflects how long the debate has been going on in the rest of the AC, and if we value being Anglican we can't really ignore their processes. Look where taking the gentle way has got us so far, the conservatives on the ACC where only just barely able to get us disinvited for three years and keep the Council from giving us much more positive thanks than they did. Besides, even if we take Bishop Smith at his word, we aren't taking much of a step back. Bishop Robinson will remain bishop of NH, and priests will most likely still be able to bless ss unions with their bishop's permission. The only changes from pre-GC'03 will be that we have a partnered gay bishop and perhaps won't move to add more partnered gay or lesbian bishops for the moment.

Anonymous said...

Jon, "if we value being Anglican, we can't ignore [other members'] processes". If that is the case, how can they ignore ours?

ANY step back is too much.


Anonymous said...

John Gibson says, "They're just fine with closeted gay or lesbian Christians (and always have been). They're happy having us in the choir and serving in various capacities in various parishes. They're certainly happy to take our money. But let us be Episcopalians or even Christians on equal footing with all others - OHHHHH NOOOOOO!"

On the whole, most church members do not pry into the personal lives of others. But when that personal life affects the larger community, breaches of the Lord's commands cannot be ignored. The embezzling treasurer and the adulterous priest are removed from office.

Most thoughtful people know that same-sex attraction is not a choice. But those who regard Scripture as being authoritive and reliable (most Christians until the past century or so) also are convinced that sexual activity with members of the same sex is against God's design and command. Unfortunately, it has been common to respond to knowledge of such behavior with disdain and other tools of social disapproval, rather than with grace and support to enable a person to live into 1 John 1:8,9 --"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I am not saying that such a path is easy -- but that it is promised by the Lord.

Conservative Christians do not want hypocrisy (on the whole; some people who are conservative are SOB's -- and so are some "progressives"). Neither do they want open sinning. They want all to know the Lord Jesus as the one who forgives and transforms.

Anonymous said...

Hiram, explain to me how the fact that I am not and never have been sexually attracted to women and do not behave as though I were affects your life or that of "the larger community."

So if sexual orientation is not a choice, what then, God screwed up with His "design"?

Anonymous said...

jg -- 1) No particular homosexual couple will have a negative effect on society -- but if society moves away from the one man, one woman, one lifetime ideal (which is happening in quite a few ways), then society will suffer. You can already see that the urban boys raised in single-mom homes often see no reason to learn, work, or be responsible. And I have certainly seen plenty of pain and personal disruption from "ad hoc" pairings up.

2) Regarding design -- Genesis 3 enters in. Humanity sinned, and a spanner was thrown into the works. Even the best relationships exist only by hard work.

Anonymous said...

How is it that homosexual couples will negatively affect heterosexual marriage. Heterosexuals couples seem to be busy pretty much destroying marriage much more effectively than opening it up to homosexual couples ever could. We need to work on the committment of marriage, rather than any definition of it. I also don't understand how people can say that same sex attraction is not a choice, but that those who have that attraction don't have the option to act on their attractions, when heterosexual people, whose attractions are also not a choice, have that option.

Anonymous said...

Hiram, enough of the "Chicken Little" talk about society "moving away" from the model of the "nuclear" family (and I'm not sure how long-standing or wide-spread the tradition is, if, indeed, it is a tradition at all) and connecting it in ANY WAY to recognition of same-sex relationships. You show me the host of straight couples breaking up to settle down with partners of the same sex and I'll quit making fun of you for all the "sky is falling!" talk.

And if you'll look at the divorce rate for the past half-century or so, you'll find plenty of pain in straight relationships too, even the ones blessed by the "traditional", bride-as-walking-meringue weddings.

The creation myths in Genesis are just that - myths. People are gay or straight because they are BORN that way, not because of what may or may not have happened in a fable.

Unknown said...

jg6544: People are gay or straight because they are BORN that way, not because of what may or may not have happened in a fable.

People are born gay or straight in precisely the same way as they are born greedy or generous, pedophilic or straight, alcoholic or "responsible", whatever.

You are not morally responsible for your temptations. You are morally responsible for your actions. And, by the way, there is no scientific evidence that "homosexual orientation" has any more genetic component than any other behavior.

But we wander off topic. As to spin, I really don't think your side of GC06 has much to worry about. Even the relatively weak HoB WR committee report won't fly in the HoD, even though everyone knows that it would be universally ignored. And if it were passed, it's still inadequate to keep ECUSA in the Communion.

As to +Exeter's speech being "one bishop's opinion", perhaps so, but as +Exeter himself made quite clear, that bishop is the Archbishop of Canterbury...

Jon said...

jg6544, so because my brother has sinned against me I have a right to sin against him? I doubt it.

Hiram, thoughtful Christians who regard Scripture as authoritative and reliable have always known that there are only two ways of living out what we now call sexuality, marriage and celibacy. These Christians have also always known that both ways of living are enabled by God's grace. More recently thoughtful Christians have looked at these truths and started asking themselves why it makes sense to assume all glbt people have the grace that enables celibacy, and, after listening to the stories of gay men and lesbians, have started to believe that, in fact, some gay men and lesbians require the sexual partnership that goes along with marriage in order to effectively live out a good, faithful life. Since they're not inclined to be hypocrites they note that ss partnering is assumed to be sinful in Scripture or unclean because it doesn't fit a very limited view of what the appropriate boundaries are for things, and refuse to add to anyone's burden more than God has already given them.


Anonymous said...

jg6544, I did not say that having same-sex marriages would lead to multitudes of heterosexual marriages failing and those formerly in them engaging in homosexual liaisons. I have never heard any reasserter say that such a scenario is what they feared. If reappraisers think that is what we mean, either they do not understand at all what the institution of marriage means, or they are willfully misunderstanding our concerns.

Marriage, in this sin-filled and broken world, is, even at its best, not what the Lord intended at creation. Even so, in God’s mercy, the institution of marriage has continued even past the fall. (The creation story in Genesis is accurate in what it says about certain key events in humanity’s relationship with God. That is what Jesus believed, in any event, and I will stick with him – he is, after all, God incarnate.) God gave marriage as the proper setting for sexual activity, and he defined it with both objective terms (male and female, physical fidelity, separation of the couple from their parents as a distinct unit) and subjective terms (emotional fidelity – “Cleaving” – and emotional fulfillment.)

Over the last several decades, if not longer, the institution of marriage has been eroded on a number of fronts. “No fault” divorce has eroded the element of emotional fidelity. Permission to have sex, and children, outside marriage has eroded both emotional and physical fidelity. Recognition of same-sex unions as a moral equivalent of marriage will erode another objective aspect of the institution, the male-female aspect. Also, Andrew Sullivan, speaking about same-sex unions, said that it would loosen heterosexual marriages as well, so that they could enjoy what is true of many homosexual couples, “sexual friendships” (a term I borrow from a lesbian professor at EDS, whose name I forget at the moment). So, fidelity is on the block as well. And you know that there are now advocates of polyamory are now seeking recognition of multiple partners, in the name of “more love.”

When societal expectations are that there is no particular shape that sexual relations should have, then there will be emotional chaos, both for adults who think that they have this freedom, and for any children who are born in such circumstances. I am not saying that such chaos will be immediate, but when it is permissible to enter into any sort of relationship because it follows one’s desires, then there will be relational distress on a huge scale. And children, who need structure and stability in order to flourish emotionally and intellectually, will flounder.

I am not saying that the only form of family is that of a mom and a dad and 2.6 kids living in the suburbs. I am saying that a man, a woman, and their children are the basic building block of society. I think that the extended family is God’s plan, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all being a part of one’s experience. In this fallen world, there have been a number of variations (polygamy, notably), but the basic pattern has been found in many cultures and at many times.