Monday, June 8, 2015

It's Time for the Episcopal Church to Catch Up with Tony Campolo

As we continue the journey toward the 78th General Convention -- where marriage equality will arguably be one of the major items on the agenda -- the "let's slow down and wait a little longer" chorus is singing their song and turning up their volume. Here's the version being offered by Craig Uffman from the Diocese of Rochester:

I begin with the premise that the task before us is to imagine a robust theology that makes our actions comprehensible to this broader audience, which also includes future generations of Episcopalians ... My conclusion is that such a theology is possible, but we still need to flesh it out ... My hope is that our next step will be to pause, let everyone catch up, answer those questions, and take the next step together.

So here's my premise: We HAVE "done the theology" -- what we haven't done is overcome the objections of those who insist we haven't done the theology because there isn't enough theology in Christendom to convince those with sole possession of the Absolute Truth that it's possible to come to different conclusions on these issues and still be part of the same Body of Christ.

In point of fact, there are still those who maintain we haven't "done the theology" on women's ordination either. And as my rector Ed Bacon famously said, "I'm so glad Mary didn't wait for the formulation of a Doctrine of the Incarnation before she said 'Yes' to God."

I'm all for doing theology. The more "faith seeking understanding" the better as far as I'm concerned.

But when our theological reflection becomes more important than our mission to proclaim the Good News of God's abundant love then I think we need to think long and hard about whether we're not doing the Peter thing and trying to build a booth to sit up on the mountain and theologize rather than get down on the ground and evangelize. 

And that's why I think we have something to learn from the example of noted Evangelist Tony Campolo -- who "came out" for marriage equality today:
It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.

Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.

I hope what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.
Rest assured, Tony is going to get a boatload of blow-back for this ... so if you're inclined to send him an "attaboy" via twitter he's @TonyCampolo. Meanwhile let those with ears to hear listen -- not only to the theology we've "done" over the last thirty years but to the example of Tony Campolo.

So -- contrary to Craig Uffman -- my conclusion is that it is time to "let our yes be yes" and to finally make full inclusion a reality and not just a resolution. And my hope is that in taking that step forward, others will indeed follow as we catch up with Tony Campolo and journey together into God's future.

[Susan Russell is an Integrity past-president, the convener of Claiming the Blessing and the co-lead of our #GC78 legislative team with VP Jon Richardson.]

1 comment:

Ann said...

What exactly are we taking up this year with regard to marriage equality? I thought same sex marriage was already approved in the Episcopal Church.