Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Morning After

It is "the morning after." I just heard from John Clinton Bradley who is at the New Orleans airport and says the place is "lousy with bishops" and lousy is a very good word on this morning after the meeting of the House of Bishops. For these same bishops who were blackmailed into bigotry by passing B033 in Columbus reaffirmed yesterday in New Orleans that their commitment to tea at Lambeth trumps their commitment to the full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ.
I keep thinking of the question Stephen Bates asked in his "exit interview" column as religion repoter for the UK Guardian:

Why would any gay person wish to be a Christian? These are people condemned for who they are, not what they do, despite all the sanctimonious bleating to the contrary, men and women despised for wanting the sort of intimacy that heterosexual people take for granted and that the Church is only too happy to bless. Instead, in 2007, the Church jumps up and down to secure exclusive rights to continue discriminating against a minority of people it does not like. What a spectacle the Church has made of itself! What hope of proselytising in a country which has accepted civil partnerships entirely without rancour or bigotry?

And if you're asking yourself that same question this morning (and the emails and comments tell me many of you are) so am I. So are other LGBT leaders around the church, so are our many allies in the struggle for justice and equality.
And, I know for a fact certain, so are some of the very bishops who worked their butts off in New Orleans to craft this compromise response that affirms the status quo of sacramental apartheid for the LGBT baptized AND falls so short of "complying" with the dictates of the Primates that their troops are already gathering "as we speak" to continue to wage the schsim that has become the reason for their being.
Here's how "the other side" (Matt Kennedy on Stand Firm) reads the response:

The Response by the House of Bishops, joined with their earlier responses and those of the Executive Council, represents an utter rejection of the Primate’s request. There is a bold commitment to permit same sex blessings. There is an avenue ripe for exploitation with regard to episcopal consents. And, as was evident in past statement and in this Response, there will be no attempt to provide adequate oversight for dissenting people, parishes, and/or dioceses.

Not only does this statement recognize that a “minority” of bishops authorize same sex blessings, but as a matter of pastoral care they can and will continue to do so within the common life of the Episcopal Church.

The final sentence of the explanation is wholly passive and indicative. It recognizes a present state of affairs. It does not call the bishops to do anything.

OK ... if Matt hates it we should be happy, right?
Wrong. Yes, they "stood firm" against extraordinary pressure to turn the clock back and to agree to prohibit the blessing of unions in their dioceses "until the communion has come to consensus." (See also: "the cows are on their way home.") They were also pushed to agree to more mandatory language than B033's "urged to consider restraint" and instead affirmed that B033 stands as a resolution of the church at this point in our history. (That's a fact and it sucks and we'll change it in 2009 and here we are.)
But while they "stood firm" against turning the clock back they utterly failed to move the church forward. In making the concessions they made, they doomed us to another season of "As the Anglican World Turns" -- a series which should have been cancelled in 2006 and just keeps on running.
Rather than build the Kingdom they chose to cater to the Communion. They chose to be politicians rather than prophets. The LGBT faithful are the collateral damage from their failure to lead but the greater victim is the mission and ministry of a church afraid to claim the courage of its convictions and let the chips fall where they may.
Finding hope in the fact that the bishops didn't back down does NOT mean we settle for them not leading us forward. THAT, as I said in the release yesterday, is where we now turn our energy and attention. To influencing the Listening Process at Lambeth -- and some of us travel to London next month for meetings with Anglican colleagues toward that goal.
To repeal B033 at GC09 ... and that means electing deputies in your dioceses who "get" that we may have to stand up to our bishops in Anaheim.
To continue to move the church forward on Same Sex Blessings and end sacramental apartheid in this church once and for all.
I stand by Integrity's statement issued yesterday. I am "gratified that the final response from the House of Bishop declined to succumb to the pressure to go backwards, but rather took some significant steps forward." And that would be yesterday's news.
Today's news is that not being thrown under the bus does not mean we settle for riding in the back of it. The bishops' response from New Orleans included this proclamation: We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church.
To quote from Ed Bacon's sermon from last Sunday,
"Emancipation requires more than proclamation." Dr. King said, "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." William Sloane Coffin said about him, "Dr. King’s message was that it is not enough to suffer with the poor; we must confront the people and systems that cause poverty. It was Martin’s message that you cannot set the captive free if you are not willing to confront those who hold the keys. Without confrontation compassion becomes merely commiseration, fruitless and sentimental.
Today's news is our resolve to continue to confront those who proclaim out of one side of their mouth that we are are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church while they institutionalize our marginalization out of the other side.
And today's news is that we are going to keep it up -- until there's not a single stranger left at the gate or until the cows come home ... whichever comes first.


Lorian said...

YES, Susan. That's what I'm feeling. Certainly not exuberant jubilation. Not crushing defeat. But a sense of "here we go again."

Praying for the future. Thanks for putting it all into words.

Unknown said...

I admire your ability to "stay the course," but as the ole hymn has it "you've got to know when to hold 'em; you've got to know when to fold 'em." I've arrived at "fold em" time with ECUSA.

Michal Anne said...

My guess is that no single bishop feels exuberant jubilation with this statement. It is, after all, a consensus statement from a very divided group of people about the issues at hand--which is one reason for the self-contradictory position that advocates for lgbt civil rights while endorsing systemic discrimination within the church. That such a conflicted group can reiterate "stand firm" in the face of demands for change can be an indication of progress.

Unfortunately, it doesn't feel like progress--it feels like yet another humiliating, dehumanizing moment in my history with the church. So my thanks, Susan, for reminding us that we are not helpless victims of the rampant homophobia and heterosexism driving this issue, but are Christians called to help free the church from her bondage to these “spiritual forces of evil”. (Ephesians 6:12-17)

Alma Beck said...

I, too, have arrived at "fold'em" time with ECUSA. I can no longer preach the gospel of Christ inside the church. Telling gay folks they are eligible for five and a half of the seven sacraments certainly isn't proclaiming the Good News. In order to walk with integrity, I've asked my bishop to remove me from ordained ministry.

Christopher said...

There is something besides going backward and going forward. I think this is called pastoral. Again, the abstractions with regard to pastoral and ritual care could have been addressed as the Canadian bishops have chosen to do. It wouldn't have been backward, but neither necessarily forward, but concrete. It would have went a long way toward actually addressing lgbt faithful and taking seriously the average Joe Gay and Jane Lesbian rather than continue to speak in wink, wink terms.

"Private pastoral response" in my experience tends to mean no response at all even in liberal dioceses, and frankly, those who do respond tend to be those who would deny Eucharist and get us in reparative therapy. At least they're clear I guess that they have a concrete, public pastoral response.

Worst of all, the proclamation about us being "full and equal participants" is untrue, and acknowledging that this is the present reality is the first step in recognizing we have a problem in this church.

Anonymous said...

I think that folks who are ready to bail at this point have missed the point. I understand that the bishops' response is disappointing in many particulars, but given what powers the bishops do and don't have, the result can't be very surprising.

First, could you really imagine 20 years ago that TEC would be having this discussion today? Personally, I couldn't. Are things as good as they could be? No. Are things as bad as they could be? No. Are things going to get better? Yes, definitely. Is the historical tide with us or against us? With us for sure.

People can get frustrated and bail, or they can hunker down and make change happen. I know where I stand on that.

TEC is making history. It can either be good or bad. If too many of the people working for good leave, the results will be not be good. If my reading of the future is accurate, TEC will resolve this once and for all at GC 2012. I predict that progress will be made in 2009, but not completely. By 2012 enough of the people in the pews who are somewhat uneasy with the direction that things are going will finally understand that LGBT people are just like them and deserve FULL participation without hedging or qualifying.

That day is not today, but it is coming.


Ann said...

One more time and one more time - and can we please include transgender and intersex persons in our writing and resolutions?

Unknown said...

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Get ready for Anaheim, folks!

Anonymous said...

Some see the glass half full, some half empty.

As a lesbian Christian, I have to ask: How come all we get is half a glass?

And did our bishops do ANYTHING to add even one drop to our glass? nope They seem have been more concered with keeping their own Lambeth tea-cups full....

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Amen, Susan.

What has been politically sufficient is theologically, pastorally, ecclesially, and morally insufficient. The very integrity of those same bishops who just a few months ago said they were with us is now in question.

Resolution A161 was soundly defeated in GC06. The bishops highjacked the duly canonical legislative process and resuscitated A161 even though it failed to muster the necessary votes, and they did it under the guise of the insidious B033. How many of them could vote for anything referencing B033 is boggling to me, given that so many diocesan conventions have refuted that resolution-- I do not know how a bishop could stand and vote for something that his diocese has told him they are against. That seems a blatant disregard for the polity they set out in their last statement, no matter what happened behind closed doors that they think they had to compromise on. That language was plain and simply not the will of the Church. Or have we gone back to the days of heirarchical rule from our "smarter than us" bishops?


Anonymous said...

Thank you Susan, for your comments. Yours was the first site I went to last night after hearing the BBC say that the Episcopal Church has ". . . agreed to no longer ordain gay priests" or words to that effect. To find that the House of Bishops stood their ground and did not roll things back made me weep.

I agree with Walt--who knew 20 years ago that TEC would have an openly gay bishop and bring us to this conversation? There is more work to be done, sure, but a lot of progress has been made.

I love the Episcopal church too much to bail. Instead, I will continue to work for full inclusion of all, so that those who were invited to the table are not asked to leave.

Anonymous said...

I have a great idea. Let's form our own Anglican Gay Church of North America and make +Gene our Archbishop. LOL - If Duncan and Iker can play that game then let's have a party of our own. Str8 and GLBT together in the New Reformed Anglican Church of High Drag in North America. Our bishops will fly any plcae to help you form a local chapter. LMAO

Paul (A.) said...

A historical question: How did we get from "we cannot advise" in 1998 to "don't you dare" in 2007?

Anonymous said...

very sad and disappointing indeed. i have left the flock to join my life partner on a path toward Reform Judaism. it still saddens me to see the institution i gave so much to over the years continue to turn its back on me and others like me.

Julian O. Long said...

I'm seriously disappointed, as I've said elsewhere. Don't know that I'm ready to fold, but I'm closer than I was a week ago.

OlderManOfTheSea said...

Oh Puleeeeeez! Maybe it is because I am not ordained. Maybe it's because I spent 35 years litigating LGBT rights in the trenches with scum like Peter Akinola. Really. These thank you's to the House of Bishops for not rolling back the clock and defrocking Gene Robinson are like the Jews of Germany thanking it for Kristallnacht because after all, it could be worse; it could be Auschwitz. Despite the fact that President Ahmedinijad doesn't think there was such a place, I assure you that there was, and the Church is well on the train to it. I have run out of cheeks to turn. Any really constructive advice would be welcome at this point. So far my e- mail, though swamped, is devoid of that. The song we should be singing is an old Country and Western tune: " You got to Stand for Somethin' or You'll Fall for Anythin'." In the key of G, of course.

Sarah said...

I feel extremely relieved. Not because I was scared that we'd be "thrown under the bus" as Susan so aptly put it (let's face it, as GLBT Christians most of us are used to hitting the pavement), but because I feared that such an action by the HoB would leave me with no honest choice but to leave the church.

No, I don't particularly care for what the Bishops said. But I am confident that we can fix this. More importantly, the next move is in the hands of General Convention (i.e. the rest of us). Nothing is more reassuring than having clear work to do, and knowing that we have the power to do that work.

Mark K said...

As we may feel that we have been left behind again, remember the name of this site -- an inch at a time. What our bishops did is really restate what has been articulated by the whole church at General Convention. The Bishops held that ground.Lets work as a church for the next inch in Anaheim. We should also remember that they are being vilified from the right because they didn't stand down to the demands of the conservative Primates. I'm saddened also that some think this statement is all about being invited to a big tea party. I think that's a cheap shot. There are many holy, thoughtful Bishops who take seriously their charge and vow to protect the unity of the church which they made on the day of their consecration to the apostolic ministry.

This Sunday I will still gather with God's people and stand at the altar and say mass. I will still be God's beloved child, still saved by the same savior Jesus Christ. What happened or didn't happen in New Orleans doesn't change that. I'm also saddened not so much by those gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who feel they can't walk with this church anymore -- they are needed in the struggle --but by those who say they can no longer be Christians. In what is our faith? An institution? We get too caught up in all this when it isn't the real deal -- its the Kingdom and the Lord Jesus Christ and a world filled with people who don't know about that. I need to remind myself that when the going gets tough, Lord, to whom can we go, YOU have the words of everlasting life.

Anonymous said...

I've gone down a long road. Methodist, Episcopal, Reform Judaism, and back to Episcopal. I was married, had kids, and divorced and single 10 years, and now have a life partner who is Catholic.

I believe that THIS church has made huge strides. Gene Robinson, a GAY Bishop?? WOW! And, looking at the long picture here... the next LAMBETH will surely acknowledge his legitimacy in the Communion. No doubt, Lambeth will also do more for LGBT over all.

I know we are only discussing the Episcopal Church here, but my goodness.... let us NOT forget WHAT the African diocese are up against in their territory. Muslim influence in Africa is only gaining and gaining and gaining. Unlike Episcopal Bishops there, who do not condone gay behaviour, their Muslim competitors go further and call for the execution of Homosexuals. As the Dictator of Iran reminded us at Columbia, Iran has no homosexuals, BECAUSE Sharia law calls for a wall to be pushed down upon them.

Let us not.. not understand the situation in Africa. But let us move forward knowing that the ANGLICAN communion is gradually moving forward, and that surely some position needs to be reached whereby our brothers in Africa may be, at least, protected in a Christian state, rather than executed in a Muslim one.

Anonymous said...

So, in addition to the stench left by Hurrican Katrina, we have to deal with yet another stench that goes way beyond New Orleans. This stench, created by our "dear brothers and sisters in Christ" our loving bishops with backbones made of mashed potatoes.


Anonymous said...

You are all welcome at Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) services where Gays and Lesbians are fully accepted.