Sunday, August 28, 2022

True Religion vs Toxic Religiosity

 I've always thought there should be extra credit for anyone who remembers a sermon after coffee hour. And that has never been more true than in this age of accelerated data dumps and social media tsunamis.  The sheer volume of stuff shouting for our attention seems to exponentially increase from Sunday to Sunday … and shows no sign of slowing down. We are arguably on information overload.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away a seminary professor compared preaching a sermon to standing in the pulpit and flinging a bucket of water into a room full of Coke bottles. "If you're lucky," he said, "some of the water will end up in some of the bottles."

I suspect his point was to lower both our anxiety and our expectations as fledgling preachers -- but I remember it because even at the time it felt to me like the bar should be higher. And I still do.

Nevertheless, the metaphor stuck with me -- and this morning I'm getting extra credit for remembering a sermon past coffee hour … because I'm still carrying around some of the water flung from this pulpit last Sunday by Brother Chase. 

I'm still mulling the powerful image of the moment when Jesus stopped preaching the sermon and BECAME the sermon -- the moment when he dared to heal the woman who came to him on the Sabbath -- defying the purity codes, rubrics, customs, and protocols that defined the religious tradition he inherited ...  enraging the religious leaders of his day as he continued to make a name for himself as that Radical Rabbi from Nazareth.

And I'm still reflecting on this powerful question Chase asked from the pulpit:

“What will we be when life -- as life so often does --
dares us to be everything we say we believe?”

What will we be in response to a news cycle dominated by the rise of Christian Nationalism, by systematic faith-based scapegoating of transgender people in general and transgender youth in particular, by pearl clutching over student loan forgiveness and by the distortion of ancient biblical texts to justify eliminating the right to bodily autonomy for people who can become pregnant.

What will we be when judgment, condemnation, and exclusion are deployed as weapons of mass discrimination by those presuming to speak for Traditional Christian Values while utterly ignoring the justice, compassion, and inclusion preached by the Radical Rabbi they purport to follow.

“What will we be when life -- as life so often does --
dares us to be everything we say we believe?”

We’ll get to the “what will we be” part … but let’s back up for a minute to the “where do we start?” part.

And as Episcopalians – as people of Common Prayer (if not always common belief) we start with this prayer appointed for today:

Lord of all power and might,
the author and giver of all good things:
Graft in our hearts the love of your Name;
increase in us true religion;
nourish us with all goodness;
and bring forth in us the fruit of good works. 

Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion

These words we just prayed in the “Collect of the Day” – the prayer which began our worship this morning as it does every Sunday with words intended to summarize the themes of the lessons appointed for this particular day.

Let me just start by saying that “True Religion” – (the thing we just prayed for God to increase in us) is, I am convinced, a whole lot easier to pray for than it is either to recognize or to agree on. 

Here’s my own “religion confession:”

I spent a number years suffering from what I can only describe as a “religion allergy.” That is maybe a weird admission from a priest, but when I was a young adult I spent a lot of time explaining to people that I didn’t need religion in order to be spiritual.

I also spent a lot time avoiding attending the church I grew up in which was so full of rules and rituals, do’s and don’ts, judgment, criticism and cranky old people talking about the love of God while being truly dreadful to each other that there seemed to be no actual room for GOD – which I was naïve enough to think was supposed to be the POINT of this whole thing in the first place! 

It got to the point where religion became a roadblock in my spiritual journey – and so I took a detour. And because God works in mysterious ways, my “spiritual GPS” led me back to the Episcopal Church of my birth and to All Saints Church!

And eventually I looked up the word “religion” in the dictionary and here’s what I found: it turns out to have the same root as the word “ligament” – that which “binds together” – and one of its definitions is “that which binds together people in their quest for the divine.”

• Not “that which insists that our way is the only way.”

• Not “that which gives people license to villianize, exclude and even kill in God’s name.”

• Not “that which creates enough rules and restrictions that everybody you disagree with has to stay out.”

No – in the Gospel According to Merriam Webster, the definition of religion is: “That which binds together people in their quest for the divine.”  

And if that’s true religion then that’s something I’m willing to pray for. To work for.  To speak out for.

Because it turns out the allergy I had wasn’t to “religion” at all – but to what it had become in the hands of those who had taken what God intended as a means to draw all people TO God and turned it into a system to hold everyone they found unacceptable AWAY from God.

And it turns out the allergy I had was the same one Jesus had – and acted on – throughout the gospels whenever he was confronted by the rule makers, gate keepers and power brokers of his generation. 

People like those who complained that he was healing on the Sabbath – who gossiped about his eating with tax collectors, sinners, and outcasts – who complained that his disciples didn’t wash their hands the right way … and dozens of other examples all throughout the Bible.

“And what is the greatest commandment?” (in other words “what IS “true religion?) they will famously ask him later (trying to trap him) And Jesus will tell them: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind – this is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it –love your neighbor as yourself. On these two hang ALL the law and the prophets. 

There you have it: the essence of true religion – that which binds us together in our search for the divine – turns out to be love: love for God and for each other.

ANYTHING else that we manage to create – even our most beloved rituals, most comforting routines, most cleverly designed systems – can become religious roadblocks if they themselves become more important to us that this walk in love, this quest for the divine – this journey to God.

True religion becomes toxic religiosity when it makes what is supposed to bind us together in search of the divine more important than the divine for which we search.

Toxic religiosity creates a narrow worldview that programs you to believe science is an enemy of faith and sets you up to reject as “fake news” the very science that calls us to come together to save what we can of this plane we have exploited rather than tended.

Toxic religiosity insists on male language for God 
marginalizing women and non-binary people, perpetuating the patriarchy and fanning the fire of unexamined privilege. 

Toxic religiosity lays down a roadmap where it a very short journey from “the Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it” to “my country, love it or leave it.”

And there is a direct connection between this theological worldview 
and the rise of nationalism, sexism, white supremacism and the rest of the litany of isms that plague our nation and our world: the rise of the forces we struggle against daily as we live out our baptismal promise to persevere in resisting evil.

And I’m convinced on this sultry summer Pasadena Sunday that toxic religiosity is high on the list of those things daring us to be everything we say we believe.

Daring us to live out in our time the same countercultural values of true religion the ancient biblical texts we inherit were calling our spiritual ancestors to live out in theirs.

And how is it those texts call us to live out those beliefs as Jesus followers in the world?

From the Letter to the Hebrews we heard this morning:

  • ·      Continue to love each other as siblings.
  • ·      Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers
  • ·      Keep in mind those who are in prison
  • ·      Be mindful of those who are being treated badly
  • ·      Let marriage be honored by everyone

From the Psalm appointed for today:

  • ·      Good people are honest in all their dealings.
  • ·      Quick to be generous, they give to the poor, doing justice always and forever
  • ·      They are generous and lend money without interest

And can we just pause for a minute and give a shout out to that Psalm? What are the odds this particular Psalm would be appointed for this particular Sunday in the week when forgiving debts has suddenly become a bad idea to some because it applies to folks staggering under the burden of student loans instead of corporations lobbying for tax credits?

Psalm 112, verse 5. You might want to write that down. It might come in handy.

And as long as we’re down the proof-text rabbit hole, here’s another one: Deuteronomy 15:1. At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. Seriously. That’s not from some liberal think tank. It’s from The Bible.

You think maybe with football season starting, we might start seeing Deuteronomy 15:1 signs in the end zones? 

Probably not.

Because as one of the meme-making pundits on Instagram put it:

“If there’s one thing student debt forgiveness has taught us
 about biblical literalists it is that they aren’t actually biblical literalists.”

This will not be breaking news to most of the All Saints Church faithful.

This is a community of faith that has literally spent decades challenging the kind of biblical literalism that takes passages out of context and twists them into weapons of mass discrimination – turning true religion values of justice, compassion, and inclusion into toxic religiosity values of judgement, condemnation, and exclusion.

It is part of the DNA of this community of faith we call All Saints Church and it is one of the building blocks we are called use as we to continue to build forward into God's future. 

“What will we be when life -- as life so often does --
dares us to be everything we say we believe?”

I pray that the answer is that we will be "ligaments of love" 
that bind up the wounded, encircle the lonely, welcome the stranger, bridge the divide, and preach the Good news of God's inclusive love radically available to absolutely everyone.

A tall order in the face of all that challenges us on sultry summer Sunday in Pasadena? Of course it is.

Political activist and philosopher Angela Davis famously said:

“You have to act as if it were possible radically transform the world.
And you have to do it all the time.”

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.
And yet that is the work we have been given to do.

It is why we gather around this table week after week, year after year, to be fed by the holy food and drink of new and unending life — reminding us that it is in the broken that we are made whole that until all of us are gathered in none of us are truly home and that another world is not only possible ... she is on her way.


All Saints Church, Pasadena | August 28, 2022 - Proper 17C | Susan Russell


Friday, August 12, 2022

How the Anglican Communion Continues to Fall Short of Being "God's Church for God's World"

The purple dust continues to settle from the recently concluded gathering of Anglican bishops known as Lambeth 2022 and aspirationally entitled "God's Church for God's World."

There was much good to be celebrated and much to be grateful for in the two week assembly ... particularly for veteran Lambeth Watchers who still carry around PTSD from the 1998 and 2008 Lambeth Conferences dominated by pitched battles over issues of human sexuality in general and debates about the full humanity of LTBTQ people in specific.

The bait-and-switch effort to slide a reaffirmation of 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 prohibiting the marriage of same-gender couples into the mix failed -- and the final language adopted by the Conference acknowledging the differences held in tension between provinces across the communion was widely applauded -- including by yours truly -- as a significant sign of both hope and progress. 

But just because it wasn't as bad as it could have been for LGBTQ Anglicans doesn't mean it was good enough for Jesus or for us.

Which brings me to this important analysis by the brilliant Jim Naughton of Canticle Communication fame. He puts flesh on the bones of the argument that there is an ontological difference between feeling persecuted because you’re disagreed with, and being persecuted because of who you are.

It is nothing less than a false equivalency that continues to feed, water and fertilize unexamined cis-het privilege — perpetuating the oppression and marginalization of LGBTQ people which grieves the heart of God and flies in the face of the Gospel imperative to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Jim writes:

Episcopal bishops are beginning to write about their experiences at the conference, and it is encouraging to see so many discussing their conversations with bishops who minister in dire situations in the Global South and elsewhere. These exchanges help those of us who live in privileged and sheltered contexts understand what Christians in other parts of the Anglican Communion are up against. But conversations in which one bishop mediates their reality to another give us only a partial and possibly distorted sense of life in the communion.

At this Lambeth Conference, and other high level Anglican meetings, bishops whose churches have moved forward on LGBT issues are pitted against bishops of churches who have not. Each party is cast as “representing” its people.

However special provisions are made for members of inclusive provinces who oppose inclusivity (Bishop George Sumner, the anti-gay bishop of the Diocese of Dallas was on the Lambeth Conference design team. Christopher Wells, a member of Sumner’s diocese who supports sanctions against provinces that pursue LGBT inclusion—is now the communion’s director of faith and order.) but no compensatory provision for LGBT Anglicans or their allies in the Global South.

Justin Welby has suggested that Global South churches would face derision, and in some cases danger, if they moved toward inclusion. This is intended to explain their not doing so. While this claim has some truth to it, it deserves greater scrutiny. Putting aside for the moment that civil marriage equality prevails in some hardline anti-gay provinces, it is not Anglican churches that are under the greatest threat in countries that persecute LGBT people, it is LGBT people.

I learned this through my firm’s work with the Chicago Consultation which sponsored three gatherings on sexuality and scripture in the Anglican Communion in Africa between 2011 and 2015. The first was in Durban, South Africa, the second in Limuru, Kenya and the third in Elmina, Ghana. The gatherings drew people from across Africa who could afford to risk being identified with advocates of inclusion in the Episcopal Church, or could attend in secret. Many were scholars, some clergy, a few bishops, and, at every gathering, some local LGBT people.

At the two latter gatherings in particular, these LGBT leaders described the risks they faced in their daily lives and the rejection they endured from their churches. After the meeting in Kenya, a Kenyan participant posted video on Facebook of police raiding a club where she and her friends gathered. After Ghana, a few participants sent us video of one of their friends being beaten on the streets.

The Episcopal Church makes much of how we “talk across differences” about LGBT issues. The Anglican Communion has begun to follow suit. The phrase “despite our deep divisions” or something similar appears in almost every story about the Lambeth Conference. But in the communion, “talking across differences" usually involves LGBT-aligned bishops who are at no earthly risk for stating their views talking with anti-LGBT bishops who are at no earthly risk for stating theirs.

There is, however, is a more profound division in the communion.

It is between those who are at risk of having the sh*t beaten out of them for loving whom they love, and those who are not. And until the Anglican Communion “talks across” that difference, it is complicit in the persecution of faithful queer Christians, and worse than that, it is complicit by design.

We cannot live into the aspiration to be God's Church for God's World unless and until we repent of the sin of heterosexism and both recognize and celebrate God's LGBTQ beloved who are part of God's World and entitled to full and equal claim on the love, care and pastoral support of God's Church offered every other member of our human family.

Thank you, Jim Naughton for your tireless advocacy in this ongoing work of calling the church to continue to become the best it can be: refusing to settle for it at least not being as bad as it was. 

La lucha continua -- the struggle continues. Nevertheless, we persist.


Sunday, August 07, 2022

A Sermon for Proper 14C: Of Treasure Hunts and Vin Scully and 20 Years of Claiming the Blessing

I bid your indulgence this morning by beginning with this favorite prayer of mine.*

·      God of the stand-up triple, the backdoor slider, the stolen base and the 3-6-3, we thank you for the ordered enchantments of the game of baseball.

·      For the snap of a split-finger fastball in a catcher’s mitt and the arc of a white ball against a blue sky, we praise you.

·      For the green of the grass and the throat of the crowd, we glorify you.

·      For the grace and grit, the speed and strength, the skill and savvy of those who take the field, we give you thanks.

·      Shower your blessings like so many free agent contracts upon those who play, those who coach and those who cheer.

·      Exalt with us when we knock in the winning run, comfort us when we muff an easy grounder, befriend us when the hour is late and the game on the radio is our only company. 

·      Creator God, teach us to play fair; to cheer excellence whomever exhibits it, and to root for teams worthy of our affections. And keep us ever mindful that no matter what the umpire says, in your love, we are always safe at home. Amen.

I grew up on baseball. My dad was a lifelong Dodger fan who believed it was an outward and visible sign of the inherent goodness of the universe that the Dodgers moved to L.A. after he came west from New York looking for work during the Great Depression. The voice of Vin Scully was literally the soundtrack of every summer of my life until he retired – after 67 years of broadcasting the ups and downs of the Boys in Blue. And I know from the outpouring of responses to his death this week at the age of 94 that my story is the story of countless others for whom Vinnie was not just a voice on the radio but a friend and a companion on the journey – not just through the baseball season but through life.

In reflecting on his life this week I have found myself bumping up against all kinds of bits and pieces of my own life. Fond memories of listening with my daddy on the patio in Eagle Rock on hot summer nights to games on the radio. Of sitting in the stadium where the sound of Scully’s voice hovered over the crowd from the hundreds of transistor radios tuned in to his play-by-play.

Of the night Sandy Koufax pitched his perfect game against the Cubs in 1965 … yes I was there! I was nine. Do the math.

And all of those memories transcend the context of a particular game or team or stadium or sportscaster. Rather they are about remembering and celebrating the relationship at the center of those memories. Not only with my dad but with others I’ve shared the joy of victory and the agony of defeat as a lifelong Dodger fan.

Yes, baseball is great. And I give thanks for it. But even more so, I give thanks for the memories of the relationships that have sustained and shaped me – relationships which moments like this week’s collective grief over the passing of Vin Scully has surfaced and given me the chance to ponder in my heart.

And as I mulled the lessons appointed for this Sunday, these words from Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel According to Luke are the ones that jumped out at me:

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Jesus tells his followers to get rid of their stuff – empty out the Public Storage locker of all the gizmos and whatnots they weren’t using but couldn’t bear to part with – and store up a different kind of treasure: the kind thieves cannot steal, and moths cannot destroy.

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

What I wonder this morning is if the history of the church -- ostensibly founded to follow Jesus and live out his teachings in the world -- has not spent the last 2000+ years on a kind of treasure hunt trying to figure out what that treasure is and therefore where its heart is.

And whether it’s more breaking secular news of the rise of Christian Nationalism in our nation -- or more breaking church news about bishops behaving badly by turning the lives and vocations of God’s beloved LGBTQ people into bargaining chips in the game of global Anglican politics -- we don’t have to look far to see how far we are from bringing that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven we pray for every time we gather.

And – listening to the words from the prophet Isaiah this morning – it seems we have plenty of company from our spiritual ancestors who were evidently blowing the treasure hunt thing, too.

“These interminable sacrifices of yours: what are they to me?” … Do not bring any more of your useless offerings to me — their incense fills me with loathing. New moons, Sabbaths, assemblies — I cannot endure another festival of injustice! 

“I cannot endure another festival of injustice.”

Maybe it’s just me, but the fact that this particular lesson is appointed for this particular Sunday -- which just happens to be the final day of the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops -- struck me as a rather remarkable coincidence: and that is not to say some good things did not happen across the pond … I’ll get to those in a minute.

But to get back to Isaiah – here is what the prophet proclaimed trying to get them back on the hunt for the treasure God would have them both find and share:

Cease to do evil and learn to do good!
Search for justice and help the oppressed!
Protect those who are orphaned
and plead the case of those who are widowed!
Come now!  Look at the choices before you!

The choice before them was between focusing on their rituals and gatherings and incense and sacrifices or focusing on their relationships with those in need: leveraging their power to protect the orphaned and plead the case of the widowed.

This is the same treasure hunt Jesus called his followers throughout his entire ministry. From the first sermon he preached in Nazareth – which riled up the hometown crowd so much he almost got tossed off a cliff – to his final words in Jerusalem which led to his death and – ultimately to his resurrection.

The treasure map is this simple:

Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two hang all the law and the prophets

All the law and the prophets.
All the rituals and sacrifices and assemblies and festivals.
All the liturgies and cantatas and prayer book revisions and fights over inclusive language.
All the General Conventions and Lambeth Conferences of Anglican Bishops.

It all hangs on love – love lived out in relationship with God and in relationship with our neighbor.

All our neighbors. Not just the ones who live in our zip code or drive in our carpool or put the same yard signs out on their lawns.

All the law and the prophets.
All your neighbors.

Now this may feel like a non sequitur, but work with me.
I’ll bring it back. I promise.

Twenty years on last Monday, August 1st I arrived here at All Saints Church with a milk crate full of file folders to set up camp in the southeast cubicle in the "temporary trailer."

My title was Executive Director of Claiming the Blessing and my job description work for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in Body of Christ in general and in the Episcopal Church in specific -- by healing the rift between sexuality and spirituality.

I know. Right?? Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Well, clearly that work is not done yet. There are miles to go before we rest and there have been countless two steps forward and one step back in the last 20 years.

But we are inarguably in a different place on the journey than we were when the sidewalks outside 132 Euclid were frequently lined with megaphone carrying protestors, when the blessing of a same-sex union or the ordination of a gay or lesbian priest was front page news, and when the Episcopal Church was under threat of being voted off the Anglican Island for consecrating the first openly gay bishop. (Emphasis on the “openly.”)

Yes, we organized and strategized,
legislated and lobbied,
fundraised and focus grouped,
prayed, studied, and then prayed some more.

And yet overarching all the work we did were these values we held to throughout the struggle:

That we never threatened to leave if we didn’t get our own way; 
we only threatened to stay and continue to speak the truth that until there are no strangers left at the gate none of us are truly welcome.

That we called the church to focus on who will come if we include all – not who might leave if we refuse to exclude some.

And that the love that unites us in relationship as members of the Body of Christ iis greater than the differences that challenge us.

Which brings me back to the treasure hunt metaphor and my wondering this morning if the treasure at the heart of our Anglican tradition might just be its ability to value relationship over agreement. 

As Anglicans our DNA was, after all, forged out of the English Reformation by spiritual ancestors who found a way where there was no way to become a particular people of faith who were willing to live with the tension of being both catholic and protestant – rather than keep burning each other at the stake over who was right about which dogma or which doctrine.

We continue on that seeking the treasure of relationship over agreement  at every level of the Episcopal Church –
from our bishops gathered at Lambeth
to our recently completed General Convention
to our work here in the Diocese of Los Angeles
to our mission and ministry here at All Saint Church in Pasadena. 

Nobody ever said it would be easy – but if we continue to set our hearts on relationship … with God and with each other … then we will indeed have the treasure that thieves cannot steal nor moths destroy.

A publication called The Anglican Digest used to have a feature entitled "Makes the Heart Glad." Here's what made my heart this week: this quote from the Archbishop of York addressing the Lambeth Conference of Bishops:

“Now we are no longer threatening to leave, we are threatening to stay. This week is a new beginning for the Anglican Communion, a new beginning of discipleship.”

It makes my heart glad because hope springs eternal and I believe it may truly be a watershed moment.

I am daring to hope that we have arrived at the point where we can live into the DNA of our Anglican Comprehensiveness and move beyond the decades of pitched battles over the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the work and witness of the church as we focus on our common call to discipleship: to telling the Good News of God's inclusive love to this beautiful and broken world in desperate need of it.

I’m not naïve enough to think that we have “arrived at destination” … but I am old enough to know that we are a way piece further down the road than we were when we set up shop in the “temporary trailer” 20 years ago this week – and that is something to rejoice and be glad in.

And so we continue on the treasure hunt – for that is where our heart is.

And as we journey together in God’s future, our job post-Lambeth will be to continue to do what we've been doing. 

To insist that nothing less than full inclusion is good enough for Jesus or for us.

To leverage our privilege to stand up and speak out for those LGBTQ siblings whose voices have been silenced by oppression and marginalization.

To continue to build relationship across difference and trust that the Holy Spirit not only can but will use those relationships to change not only hearts and minds but theologies and policies until there are no strangers left at the gate; until there is no treasure left to hunt; until no matter what any umpire says, every single member of our Big Fat Human Family will know that in God’s love, they are always safe at home. Amen.

Preached on Sunday, August 7, 2022 at All Saints Church, Pasadena by the Reverend Canon Susan Russell

* [adapted from Jim Naughton's Opening Day Prayer, 2019]

Friday, August 05, 2022

The Power of Threatening to Stay

The Anglican Digest used to have a feature entitled "Makes the Heart Glad." Here's what makes my heart glad today: Friend Craig Loya, Bishop of Minnesota, posting this picture from the waning days of the Lambeth Conference with this quote:
“Now we are no longer threatening to leave, we are threatening to stay. This week is a new beginning for the Anglican Communion, a new beginning of discipleship.”             -  Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Lambeth Conference 2022

It makes my heart glad because believe it really is a watershed moment for our Big Fat Anglican Family if we truly have arrived at the point where we can live into the DNA of our Anglican Comprehensiveness and move beyond the decades of pitched battles over the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the work and witness of the church and focus on our common call to discipleship: to telling the Good News of God's inclusive love in this beautiful and broken world.

And maybe -- just maybe -- we've managed to get there.

As I said in a tweet yesterday "Justin Welby appears be getting blasted equally by the "he's a homo-loving heretic making sheep eat with wolves" set and the "how dare you not fix 2000 years of misogynistic homophobia in a two week conference" crowd -- meaning he probably got it about right."

And our job post-Lambeth will be to continue to do what we've been doing. To insist that nothing less than full inclusion is good enough for Jesus or for us. To leverage our privilege to stand up and speak out for those LGBTQ siblings whose voices have been silenced by oppression and marginalization. To continue to build relationship across difference and trust that the Holy Spirit not only can but will use those relationships to change hearts and minds as well as theologies and policies.

It's nothing less than the Gospel of Margaret Mead in action: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

The actions across the pond -- including the quote from Archbishop Cottrell today -- remind me to give thanks for how far we've come even as we redouble our efforts to keep moving forward. For a window into that journey we've been on, check out this quote from a 2009 NPR interview (which is miraculously still available online) where someone named Susan Russell said:
"LGBT members of the Episcopal Church have never threatened to leave if we don't get our way. Instead we want to focus on who will come if we include all  -- not who might leave if we refuse to exclude some."
And here we are.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

"We are a Communion of Churches, not a single church" -- Thus Spake the Archbishop of Canterbury

So it was evening and it was morning and it was the Seventh Day of the 2022 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops. And rather than resting on the seventh day -- which actually has a nice biblical precedent -- the bishops dug in for the long awaited discussion on the Lambeth Call entitled "Human Dignity."

And as I "process" the events across the pond in Lambeth Conference Land today, I once again find myself recalling the words of our All Saints Church, Pasadena Rector Emeritus George Regas who called us to "set audacious goals and to celebrate incremental victories."

As a Lambeth Conference observer (1998) and survivor (2008) I believe that the comments posted below from the Archbishop of Canterbury are inarguably an incremental victory over the days of moratoria and threats to vote whole provinces off the Anglican Island for striving to fully include LGBTQ people in the Body of Christ. And for that I rejoice and celebrate.

At the same time, I am working here to balance my gratitude to Justin Welby for not throwing LGBTQ people under the Lambeth Conference bus with my anguish at the damage continuing to be done to LGBTQ people in the name of the Church. The fact that we're better than we were is not good enough as we continue to work toward that audacious goal of being a community of faith where all are welcome, loved and included -- not in spite of who they are but because of who they are. 

Nevertheless, we persist. And today I give thanks for all who have persisted and insisted; advocated and agitated; prayed, lobbied and organized to reach the point where these words could come out of the mouth of the Archbishop of Canterbury ... words I could literally not have imagined when we stood on the fringes of the University of Kent in the summer of 2008 with the Bishop of New Hampshire who had been locked out of the Lambeth Conference.

Of the provinces that are in the minority on the full inclusion of LGBTQI+ people in the life of the church and the world, he said: 
“They have not arrived lightly at their ideas that traditional teaching needs to change. They are not careless about scripture. They do not reject Christ. But they have come to a different view on sexuality after long prayer, deep study and reflection on understandings of human nature. For them, to question this different teaching is unthinkable, and in many countries is making the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For these churches not to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.”

“I neither have, nor do I seek, the authority to discipline or exclude a church of the Anglican Communion. I will not do so. I may comment in public on occasions, but that is all. We are a Communion of Churches, not a single church."
It's not the whole enchilada ... but it has enough guacamole for me to give thanks for today for the steps forward -- and to regroup and recharge for the ongoing work ahead. La lucha continua.