Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Creating Martyrs - An Ancient Story

This piece was written in response to the urging of a moratorium on the consecration of partnered gay and lesbian priests as bishops in The Episcopal Church, urged by conservative and reactionary Anglicans in different parts of the world. Martyn Minns, mentioned below, is the titular leader of most of the individuals and groups that have left the Episcopal Church because of our desire and will to become fully inclusive. Peter Akinola has led the world-wide fight to demonize and demean gay and lesbian people.

Recognizing that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was "once for all," it is still true that that sacrifice is reenacted and represented through additional innocent victims, sacrificed by those who cannot abide their presence or what they represent.

Many of us have recognized and been deeply affected by the saving grace of the martyrs of Sharpeville and of Birmingham and Selma. Nearly every posting on the House of Bishops/ House of Deputies list-serve points to the impending sacrifice of gay and lesbian Christians within the church and countless throngs outside the church hoping for some word of affirmation from God. "Sacrifice" may seem too strong a word for a moratorium, except that the message of a moratorium in this case carries the strong message that there are those who can be sacrificed for a greater good -- even by those who represent Jesus. That is an ancient message and, unfortunately, there are plenty who are eager to hear it. . . and to act on it.

Martyrs, as we all must know, do not always shed blood -- some shed tears, some shed their emotional and spiritual lives if the betrayal or hurt is deep enough. And there is worse.

If, as it appears to many, that we choose Martyn Minns over Matthew Shepherd even for a while, we will create martyrs. It will be the church creating martyrs. And those martyrs will, in time, be saving martyrs, sharing not by choice but by destiny in the saving work of Jesus on the Cross in their humiliation.

It may be for some that the death of Jesus on the Cross, which was accomplished to hold the religious establishment's faith, to hold the Empire together, was not enough, not sufficient. Just as for me and for so many others of us in this and every other church, it took the Martyrs of Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery for us to begin to understand the humanity of the victims, so it will take more Matthew Shepherds (some Black, some Brown, some Asian) for those who stand against The Episcopal Church and its full embrace of gay and lesbian people.

How odd that it will be a brother or sister of Matthew who will be the agent of salvation for Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola and his brothers and sisters in faith, enabling them to see the full humanity and holiness of those they once saw only as sin or threat.

I hesitate in publishing this, because I know I can't speak for the experience of others. I can only assume that I am not overstating their case.

Incompatible with Scripture?

I woke up this morning thinking, what would the difference be if we granted the divided vote in Lambeth on 1.10 to stand? What does it really say? “Homosexual behavior is incompatible with Scripture?” Then I thought:

- Remarriage after divorce is incompatible with Scripture.
- Injustice in any form is incompatible with Scripture.
- Turning one's back on people blessed with holiness is incompatible with Scripture.
- The taking of human life is incompatible with Scripture.
- Even the touching of pigskin is incompatible with Scripture (there goes Rugby and football throughout the Anglican Communion).
- The treatment of women as less than fully human, while not incompatible with some of Scripture is clearly incompatible with the teaching and actions of Jesus Christ.

So, the questions spill out:

Why, with so many things being honored and practiced throughout the Anglican Communion that are incompatible with Scripture, is there so much energy behind the blessing of a faithful, loving relationship between two members of the same gender who wish to respond to what they know of God in their lives together?

Why so much fear and anger about a diocese electing a priest they have known for years – and known for his godly leadership and live – and then consenting to the discernment of that diocese?

If you want to be a Scriptural absolutist, be a Scriptural absolutist; but do not pick and choose to support your own personal predelictions. That is, by and large, incompatible with Scripture.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

An Open Letter to Our Bishops

     I urge the Network-related bishops of The Episcopal Church as well as others to communicate publicly to the primates opposed to seating our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming primates’ meeting  a demand that she be seated and be treated with the same deference and courtesy these primates ask for themselves.
     I urge you, as well, to remind the primates who support you that this treatment of Katharine Jefferts Schori is shameful behavior for any ordained or lay person. We live by the words of Jesus, not Dick Cheney.

     Jesus accorded the woman at the well and the woman taken in adultery more consideration and courtesy than these primates are according the elected leader of our church.

     If you remain silent, you are complicit in this shameful behavior -- and surely, once such behavior is countenanced, it will come back to inflict terrible damage on you, once you are out of step with this kind of ecclesiastical arrogance.

     Our church which nurtured you, confirmed and ordained and consecrated you and has provided you with your theological education and your opportunity to serve God as Bishop, deserves this from you.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Breaking of Vows

     Two images come to mind in reading Pittsburgh’s bishop, Bob Duncan, explain his reasons for seeking Alternative Primatial Oversight for his diocese, even though he knows and his attornies know that such is illegal and completely against the polity of The Episcopal Church, which he has sworn to honor:

1.        St. Paul in Romans 9-11 goes to great pains to assert that when God makes a promise, that promise is unbreakable. Otherwise God would be untrustworthy. The same is true with our Lord's promises of faithfulness to his vocation -- the Cross is preferable to the slightest deviation from his promise. When we break our ordination or consecration vows, we undermine the credibility of the Christian Church, the Body of Christ we were ordained or consecrated to serve.
To do so, in two words, is to commit spiritual abuse.

2.        When dealing with a married couple when one of the couple wants out to begin or continue with a different partner, the advice of professional is almost always the same: deal first with the stresses and anguish within your marriage -- and divorce if you must. Only then and only after a period of time should you consider any new affiliation.

     My own conclusion is that Bishop Duncan should first deal with his ordination  and consecration vows of loyalty to The Episcopal Church and its doctrine and discipline. He should have done so without involving his clergy or the people of his diocese. The honorable thing to have done would have been to take a leave of absence to sort things out with peers or spiritual advisors, then announce his decision to leave The Episcopal Church's ordained ministry because he could no longer honor his vows (without which he would not have been ordained or
consecrated) or hold a private ceremony of recommitment to his ordination and consecration vows. Once separated from his vows, he would be free to seek out whatever succor or position he wanted in the church of God.

Encouragement of one's clergy to follow anything but this process is, I believe, conduct unbecoming. From my own experience of leadership in the civil rights movement and the Sanctuary movement, I know how beguiling power and the attraction of opposion is -- those of us who have been more or less successful in resisting the evil hold of those things are fortunate while those who succumb end up doing more damage than any good they could have envisioned.