Monday, September 17, 2007

We all need the Anglicans right now

There are days when I actually don't care anymore. About the Communion. About whether or not we're "Anglican" or not. About all the jots and tiddles that consume those consumed with the consuming saga of "As the Anglican World Turns."

On those days, I have lots of company. Titusonenine notes that "the buzz and news overload that those of us who follow the blogs are experiencing right now may be surprisingly limited in scope." For the truth is, the VAST majority of Anglicans -- whether they're in Nigeria or Northampton or Nebraska -- are going about their business, trying to love their neighbors as themselves and get their "inch at a time" done for the day.

Who cares if the Anglican Communion blows itself up? Honest to Pete not most of the people I talk to. Really!

And yet ...

And yet ...

And so ...

I was so very grateful at the end of a VERY long day to find the link to this article by Sr. Joan Chittister ... yes the very one whose "inch at a time" quote inspired the creation of this blog ... entitled:

"We all need the Anglicans right now."
Published today in the National Catholic Reporter you can read the whole piece here (and should!) but here's an excerpt:

The question the Anglican communion is facing for us all right now is a clear one: What happens to a group, to a church, that stands poised to choose either confusion or tyranny, either anarchy or authoritarianism, either unity or uniformity? Are there really only two choices possible at such a moment? Is there nowhere in-between?

The struggle going on inside the Anglican Communion about the episcopal ordination of homosexual priests and the recognition of the homosexual lifestyle as a natural state is not peculiar to Anglicanism. The issue is in the air we breathe. The Anglicans simply got there earlier than most. And so they may well become a model to the rest of us of how to handle such questions. If the rate and kinds of social, biological, scientific and global change continue at the present pace, every religious group may well find itself at the breakpoint between "tradition" and "science" sooner rather than later.

Theological questions driven by new scientific findings, new social realities, new technological possibilities abound. How moral is it to take cells from one person for the treatment of another if all human cells are potentially life generating? Is that the destruction of life? If homosexuality is "natural," meaning biologically configured at birth, why is it immoral for homosexuals to live in homosexual unions -- even if they are bishops? After all, isn't that what we said -- in fact, did -- when we argued "scientifically" that blacks were not fit for ordination because blacks weren't quite as human as whites? And so we kept them out of our seminaries and called ourselves "Christian" for doing it. Without even the grace to blush.

It is not so much how moral we think we are that is the test of a church. Perhaps the measure of our own morality is how certain we have been of our immoral morality across the ages. That should give us caution. We said, at one time, that it was gravely immoral to charge interest on loans, that it was mortally sinful to miss Mass on Sunday, that people could not read books on the Index, that the divorced could not remarry. And we brooked no question on any of these things. People were either in or out, good or bad, religious or not, depending on whether they stood at one end or another of those spectrums.

Clearly, the problem is not that definitions of morality can shift in the light of new information or social reality. The problem is that we don't seem to know how to deal with the questions that precede the new insights. We seem to think that we have only two possible choices: the authoritarianism model, which requires intellectual uniformity and calls it "community" or a kind of intellectual anarchism, which eats away at the very cloth of tradition in a changing world.

The problem is that threatened by change we are more inclined to suppress the prophetic question than we are to find the kind of structures that can release the Spirit, that can lead us beyond unthinking submission while honoring the tradition and testing the spirits ...

From where I stand, we need those who can develop a model of faith in times of uncertainty in which the tradition is revered and the prophetic is honored. Unless we want to see ourselves go into either tyranny or anarchy, we better pray for the Anglicans so that they can show us how to do that.

Yes, Sister Joan, pray for the Anglicans. Please. We need it this week. And thanks for reminding THIS Anglican why I care. So much. Even on the days when I think I don't.


Jeff Martinhauk said...

Amen, and may the via media between the two polarities she so articulately desribes shine through through our strife!


Anonymous said...

Susan - I know this is off topic so it's up to you whether you post it or not, but I've just read on another blog of Integrity's goals, wherein it is stated that one goal is to increase Integrity's membership to 2,500. It was also commented that Integrity's current membership is 1931. Is this correct? I expected there was a much higher number of GBLT people in ECUSA given the amount of fuss. What is the current membership of Integrity and your estimate of the population of GBLT people in ECUSA?. If ECUSA's reported membership is 2.3m, and assuming even only 5% are gay, then wouldn't that give approximately 115,000 potential Integrity members? What is wrong with these figures? Is the 2.3m members on ECUSA's roll overstated, or is 5% really closer to 0.5%, or is Integritiy's too modest by 2 orders of magnitude?

cscwallace said...

As the HoB mtg. rapidly approaches, I admit to being somewhat nervous as to the outcome - namely, will my Diocese of Texas remain in TEC? Two recent events have given me increased hope:

1) Hannah Atkins of St. John's, DC, was just installed as rector of my former parish, Trinity Houston, and
2) Sr. Joan Chittister is coming to lecture at my parish, Christ Church Cathedral, Oct. 4-6, along w/ Marcus Borg.


Brian -- Did you happen be anywhere yesterday where they were preaching Luke 15? You might want to check it out and then ask yourself WWJD. (Hint: it’s not about the numbers—it’s about the Gospel)

Anonymous said...

just when i, too, feel all blogged-out, along comes this wonderful, insightful essay by sister joan. my wife is a benedictine oblate in the community in atchison, kansas. i sometimes feel that many benedictines, esp those in womens' orders, are episcopalians in waiting!!

R said...

Episcopalians in waiting, or a voice of sanity for our sisters and brothers in Roman Catholicism?

Sister Joan is such a blessing.

Anonymous said...

Only a few people belong to their district's chapter of a political party and vote for committeepeople for the district. I would guess that the number of people who attendthe monthly meeting or otherwise are active in the local district party apparatus are maybe 1% of the eligible voters in that party and district.

People who are sincerely interested in national church governance are also a low percentage of Episcopalians. Most people interested in governance are interested in local administration aka vestry, diocesan committees, etc.

1% to 2% of total lgbt doesn't seem like an unreasonable rate of lgbt interest / involvement in national TEC governance issues. That would work out to 1,150 to 2,300 people using the assumptions of 2.3 million members and an lgbt population of 5% within TEC.

Sufficiently tedious fisking of brian f's post, eh?


Lorian said...

brian f,

It's important to remember, as well, that many gay people are unchurched, specifically because so many churches have made it abundantly clear that we are NOT welcome. The current crisis in the Episcopal Church, while stemming from events which ought to be encouraging to us as GLBT Christians, yet pushes many of us away at the same time.

When your "Christian Brothers and Sisters" are engaging in a battle of wills and global war of insults stemming from whether or not you are worthy to warm the pew of a Sunday morning, and when people you never met are prepared to schism because they fear you might get blessed by a priest or even decide you want to become one, yourself, it can be a bit off-putting, to say the least.

There are certainly many GLBT people who remain hopeful and loyal in TEC, and many others who have come to see what the fuss is all about, but there are also plenty who have bowed to the sick feeling in their stomachs as people in their home parishes make it clear how unwelcome their presence actually is.

In other words, I wouldn't expect to be able to toss out numbers and percentages and have it present a clear picture of who the GLBT community is within the Church.

RonF said...

Susan, did I leave a posting here yesterday? If I did and you chose not to publish it I don't want to be tedious.


for ron f -- Yep. Got it. Deleted it under the category of: "if you want to post articles get your own blog/if you want to comment on the ones I post party on"

Thanks. Have a great day.

RonF said...

O.K. Susan; fair enough. I will then simply say this:

If homosexuality is "natural," meaning biologically configured at birth, why is it immoral for homosexuals to live in homosexual unions -- even if they are bishops?

First, because the concept that homosexuality is "natural" has in fact not been proven. Secondly, there are a number of things that are "natural" that we are commanded by Scripture not to do. Jesus has told us he would transform us and change us. He had no intention of leaving us in our "natural" state.