Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Forget the Primates. Fear Self-inflicted Wounds!

Right up front, let me say that I still have faith in Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. She accomplished many things in Tanzania, and apparently did so without much help from any of the other Primates. Any person who’s ever been the first woman in a meeting full of hostile men, or the first person of color in a meeting full of hostile white people, has some idea of the pressure under which she was operating.
I want to cut her some slack here – something that would be much easier to do if she would offer some words to LGBT Episcopalians instead of talking about them. But that’s true of just about everyone, from bishops, to Primates, to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Rowan has a lot to answer for, not least of which is why Bob Duncan was invited to address the Primates and Gene Robinson was not.
After reading more reaction than is probably healthy to the Primates Communique, the Schedule, et al, I think it’s time for a reality check.
But first, a personal note: as an Episcopalian who lives in a diocese whose bishop has asked for Alternate Primatial Oversight, let me be as clear as I can be -- I do not want a Primatial Vicar. So if we start handing out PVs, I don't need one. I have a PB.
Back to the Reality Check -- this is no longer about Katharine Jefferts Schori. She has done her part. Now this is about all of us and who we say we are.
Long before Lambeth 1998, the schismatics in the church have been hailing first this meeting, then that meeting as THE meeting in which The Episcopal Church will [pick one] be disciplined, be kicked out of the Communion, be censured, be excommunicated, be disciplined in some horrible way—and if the schismatics had their wish, the presiding bishop would be publicly humiliated, if not put in stocks.
And lo, meeting after meeting occurred, and resolution after report was issued, and behold! None of these things happened. The only wounds we've suffered have been self-inflicted.
The Episcopal Church agreed, foolishly in my mind, to voluntarily absent itself from a couple of meetings of the ACC, and then shamed itself with the passage of B033 in Columbus.
None of the dire things predicted have been done to us because NO ONE has the power to do any of it to us—not Lambeth, not the Anglican Consultative Council, not the Windsor Report and not the Primates.
The one person with ANY power to do anything is the Archbishop of Canterbury and the most he can do is withhold an invitation to Lambeth.
While that might hurt some Episcopal egos and horrify some Anglophiles, the important question is—exactly how will not going to Lambeth affect our spiritual health and our ministries? I suspect, not at all.
What WILL dangerously affect our spiritual health and ministries is for us to do what the Primates are demanding—to single out one small group of Episcopalians and say to them, “We’ve been ordered to make you our scapegoats. Your lives, loves, and ministries are the sacrifices we are offering up to people who have no authority and who have squandered any moral capital they may have had by acting like bullies and by remaining silent as LGBT people in Nigeria are persecuted with the active ecouragement of that country's Anglican leadership. By putting you aside, by keeping you under wraps, we not only will get to go to Lambeth, we also will be praised for our willingness to sacrifice you in order to appease the loudest mouths in the Communion.”
And here is my prophecy – if we do this, within minutes of our caving in, Akinola and his American cronies will be saying, “It’s not good enough. You have to promise not to ordain any more homosexuals.”
So we will have sold off part of ourselves in order to gain, what? Demands that we sell off another part. And then another part, most likely bishops who are women. And then another part, most likely priests who are women. If I were a person of color, I’d be a little uneasy at this point.
These people are remaking the Anglican Communion into something I don’t even recognize and certainly have no desire to be a part of – and I fear The Episcopal Church is going to go along with them.
I left the Roman Catholic Church because rage was not the spiritual experience I was seeking. If The Episcopal Church, my refuge, my church, MY CHURCH, sells off my sisters and brothers, my beloveds, WHY would I remain? How could I remain? How could I kneel to receive communion at an altar rail gaping with empty spaces? How could I be part of a community so willing to sacrifice its integrity, to sacrifice who and what it is, to appease bullies?
I became an Episcopalian because it is a church that remembers we are commanded to love God with our whole hearts and our whole MINDS. I became an Episcopalian because they were moving toward honoring the ministries of ALL the baptized, not just the white, male, ostensibly straight baptized.
If we do this to ourselves—and we are the only ones with the power to do this to us—we will no longer be The Episcopal Church, even if the name remains the same.
We will have sacrificed part of the baptized to become something else, defined by someone else.
I am very afraid.

15 comments:

Ann said...

Thanks for this. Good reminder of where our strength is and how we like to shoot ourselves in the foot.

Jim Hazel said...

Thank you, Katie. I agree that we won't get what we think we will if we sacrifice our LGBT brothers and sisters, but the moral argument that we may not sacrifice others for our gain, even if we do get what we bargain for, seems so much more powerful. Once again, you give words to what we know to be true. We simply cannot do this.

Ann Marie said...

I have stated before that I think that TEC (and the Anglican Church of Canada - should they surprise me) need to decide what is their priority. Is it full inclusion or is it membership in the Anglican Communion. At the moment (and I emphasize at the moment) it does not seem like both are possible given the words of the communique and recommendations. I think that +Akinola et al have the upper hand because they have prioritized and are focusing on what that priority is rather than trying to accomplish everything. They are willing to let go of one thing in order to gain another. I'm not sure if push came to shove if they would because so far they haven't been really tested.

I read what is happening in Nigeria and see the horrendous silence from the church and I wonder if it is worth it. For a long time, I've been wondering if organized religion is worth it. I keep hoping. I don't believe being a member in the Anglican Communion at the expense of anyone or the expense of our integrity is worth it. I firmly believe that when one door is closed, God is not stopped but opens another door that has ever so much more wondrous and creative possibilities. We just have to be willing to let go and trust. (Of course this is easy for me to say as I am Anglican Church of Canada and not TEC. I have my doubts that the ACC would do any such thing although I would support it whole-heartedly should it, by some miracle, decide to do so.)

And who knows, maybe the outcome will be that we can have both or maybe not. Maybe what we gain is 100 times better. I don't see where we lose doing God's work toward the bringing in of the Kin-dom. (Of course it is easy enough for me to say because I am ACC. However, if the ACC should, by some miracle, to choose this path, I would support it whole-heartedly.)

Prior Aelred said...

You are absolutely right -- if we offer total capitulation, they will up the ante -- enough is enough.

Bryan Taylor said...

Clear-sighted and eloquent as always, Katie. (Molly's proud!) Thank you.

Bryan Taylor, AOJN

Rebecca said...

Katie, thanks for your clarity. I too want to cut the PB some slack, and understand some of her reasoning--how preserving unity serves to work with parishes overseas in humanitarian efforts. But at what cost? And surely there would be a way to work with willing parishes overseas in the development arena even if schism were to occur.

Kirstin said...

I feel the same. You expressed this much more clearly than I did, or could. Thank you.

tonybartel said...

"If I were a person of color, I’d be a little uneasy at this point."

You can't seriously believe that Peter Akinola and co. are going to start demanding that people of color not be ordained.

Lauren Gough said...

Katie, I am afraid too. I do not trust the HOB to act wisely after B033. But IF the laity are willing to stand up and claim their baptismal calling, Church as we have known it may take a faithful turn.
This may just be the time for a new Reformation.

Weiwen Ng said...

"If I were a person of color, I’d be a little uneasy at this point."

you gotta admit, Katie, the people in the AC who are making the most noise are African and Asian. people of color have nothing to worry about - at least we got that debate settled a while back.

that tells me that in a hundred years, we'll still be arguing over something, and threatening schism, but at least this debate will be settled. so, we should take the long view. people are smart, and my fellow Anglicans in the Global South will unlearn the prejudices they learned from colonial missionaries.

your contention that people of color in TEC should be worried is, frankly, ludicrous. however, I think you are absolutely right to say that if we give in on this one, we'll be forced to give in on the other issues you stated. (sidebar: from what I heard and iirc, Akinola is prepared to accept female priests in CANA, but not yet in Nigeria proper.)

so, at this point, I'm leaning towards standing our ground without any compromise and letting the chips fall where they may. the board of Oasis (one of TEC's LGBT outreach ministries) is meeting this coming Wednesday. I'm going to ask us to meditate for the rest of Lent, at least, before committing to a firm course of action; my stand is also subject to change depending on what LGBT and other Episcopalians say.

Weiwen Ng said...

clarification for my last comment: the board of Oasis Michigan is meeting. I think highly of myself, but not so highly that I'd drop in on the national board meeting for Oasis.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this honest assessment of our situation. We must stand our ground and accept the consequences.. whatever they may be.
Perhaps this may be the energizing force that turns us from being "frozen chosen" into an empassioned unified body of Christ, with one mission: doing Christ's work in the world!

Weiwen Ng said...

Ann Marie, looks like the Anglican Church of Canada might indeed surprise you - their Executive Council has proposed a resolution stating that same-sex blessings are consistent with their doctrine. now, they could refuse to consider it or vote it down, but we'll see.

http://admiralofmorality.blogspot.com/2007/03/canadas-executive-council-recommends.html#links

Ann said...

And how 'bout them bishops?? March 28, 2007

Weiwen Ng said...

Katie, when will we see more of your writings? Waiting eagerly.