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." One is tempted -- on this morning after the House of Bishops meeting -- to add lousy with lousy 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.
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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.
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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.
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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 ndicative. 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?
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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.)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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To continue to move the church forward on Same Sex Blessings and end sacramental apartheid in this church once and for all.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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4 comments:

James said...

I, for one, have felt known Stephen Bates present emotions for years. I stay only because I have committed to stay as part of my community's rule of life, and because a musician requires a 'church' in which to be a 'church musician.' Short of that I can think of no other reason why any thinking person would voluntarily choose to be part of 'The Church' as it has been rendered in the present age.

Now, if we can scrap 'The Church,' 'Christianity,' and 'bishops' and return to wise and prophetic elders who lead the Body of Christ on The Way, well, where do I sign up.

The Way is not a denomination or a 'Church.' It is a radical way of being -- and it always is disconcerting to those who wish to remain in power at any cost -- and The Way IS Easter morning.

JM

Lisa said...

Spin this all you want to. The simple fact remains: The bishops are a bunch of liars. They voted for a resolution that claims we are "full and equal members of the Body of Christ," while they promised not to recognize our partnerships and not to approve any gay/lesbian person who may be elected as a bishop. How can you spin that in other way? In my view, the bishops' votes made it very, very clear that they would rather have tea with the Queen than minister in solidarity with us. Fine. Let them vote that way. And a pox upon their house.

Seeking to Know said...

Yup....I knew in 06 after B033 that it was time to go....how long does one stay in a dysfunctional relationship? If you've truly been in one..you KNOW whne it is time to go...it becomes a spiritual experience of sorts. I am relieved I left, I grieve for the Church, I marvela at the bishops who believe they have done some thing holy....

Gray Ghost said...

BO33 ended my nearly 20 year membership in the Episcopal Church. Yet I grieve for my brothers and sisters as the House of Bishops reaffirms its commitment to discrimination. In my case I could no longer give my time, talent, and treasure to a church that was more focused on itself than it is on the poor, the hungry, and the neglected, not to mention Christ.
The spin that we as LGBT Christians are making progress in the church is little short of self-delusion. Being from New Hampshire, I can tell you that the election of Gene Robinson was not an open endorsement of gay and lesbian relationships in the diocese. It was simply a matter of choosing someone who was known and respected.
It is agonizing clear that the HOB is willing to sacrifice LGBT parishioners for a ticket to Lambeth. In my new church, I am free to worship without having to watch my back or be distracted by the background noise of a denominational civil war. I’ve come to realize that there are two types of churches: those that sat they welcome everyone, and those that do welcome everyone.