Friday, January 04, 2008

What would be lost if TEC pulled out of the Anglican Communion?

Louie Crew has responded to the question, "What would be lost if The Episcopal Church pulled out of the Anglican Communion."

I asked permission, which he graciously granted, to post his response on my blog because I think he gives us all much to think about.

Here's what Louie wrote:

A gay professor who is a good friend asked me:

What would be lost if these meetings did not happen? What would be lost if the ACC was taken over by the Primates? What good comes from the ACC meetings? What would be lost if they held Lambeth, and we ignored it?
I guess I'm back to my earlier point. We can still do the work of feeding the poor and taking care of the widow. But why do we need the meetings?

Here is my answer to him:

We would forfeit our participation as interdependent and autonomous in a world-wide communion. We would set our own course without the benefit of others in the Communion to tell us how they see us.

It is an enormous benefit to have to be accountable to Anglicans outside TEC. I don't want TEC to be insular. I don't want us to demand control as a price of our remaining: that's terribly American but not Christian, whether we do it or whether our adversaries do it. Love does not insist on having its own way.

TEC would lose our ability to tell others in the Communion how we see them.

If TEC left, we would lose our influence with other Anglicans regarding ills that we see in their parts of world.

Ills are often not seen as ills up close. Everyone benefits from the point of view of those at a distance. Likewise, things seen as ills from afar are often discovered not to be ill when viewed up close, with local understanding. The dynamic tension when points of view differ can nurture the interdependence those who disagree. We can grow when we are stretched.

TEC would lose our ability to speak for all whom we see as marginalized by local blinders throughout the Communion. Anglicans elsewhere would lose their ability to call The Episcopal Church to account for the enormous American abuses of power throughout the world.

TEC would lose ready access to the network of personal relationships built and nurtured over decades -- relationships which play an enormous part in facilitating our mutual exchange of gifts and services.

Communion networks now facilitate Anglican work for peace and justice.

We would lose direct access as peers to persons of great spiritual depth.

Why would anyone want to cut off from being in the same church with Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela? Or in the same church with Bishop Ding in China? Or with Bishop Baharona in El Salvador? . . .

Why would anyone want to cut off from being in the same church with Bishop Akinola in Nigeria or Bishop Orombi in Uganda? They do not grow snouts just because they disagree with us. We might be wrong. They might be wrong.

I am especially close to all with whom I have struggled. When ++Peter Akinola told the London Times (Christmas 2006) that he jumped back "with wonder and horror" when I introduced my husband to him, he revealed a great deal more than he realized. St. Francis did not jump back from the leper: he embraced him. Jesus did not go around trashing drunkards and sinners; he took on their stigma by becoming their friend.

In this wondrous faith of ours, ++Peter Akinola and I are locked in a holy embrace in which each will be judged not by how right he is, but by how kindly each can treat the one with whom he disagrees.

When ++Henry Orombi traveled all the way to my home state of Alabama to stir up discord against TEC for its kindness to gay people like me, I went to hear him, delighted to see white folks welcome a black spiritual leader into that historically segregated parish. In advance I called up the Bishop of Alabama to urge him to be there, where he too was not particularly welcome,and he did come.

Archbishop Orombi and I are sealed as brothers for all eternity. I have been amazed by the number of Ugandans, gay and straight, who have connected with me as a result of our encounter. Archbishop Orombi has not always been hostile. He took on stigma in behalf of gay people when he was just a bishop and not yet a primate. With God's help, the archbishop will not always be chiding.

Love well your enemies of today, for soon they will be your friends.

A parish in Fort Valley, Georgia asked me to leave to "find a parish more in sympathy with your concern for gay people" in 1976. How rich an experience it was when they invited Ernest and me back in the late 1990's to help them celebrate an important parish anniversary.

What a blessing it was in July 2006 to be invited at the specific request of the deceased to be a reader at the funeral of Rt. Rev. Bennett J. Sims who 30 years earlier had used the ATLANTA JOURNAL to summon me for discipline for "disturbing the peace and good order of the church."

I believe in the Holy Spirit. I have seen the Holy Spirit happen.

Don't flee your enemies: love them. Forgive them. Hold them accountable.

Hold yourself accountable, especially when others challenge you to.

Ours is a strange religion indeed. In it the last will be first and the first will be the last. That protocol is very hard for us to take as Americans. Were I not gay, I would likely have missed it.

God's priorities are easier to understand if we have suffered, as lgbts have suffered.

Unmerited suffering is always meant to be redemptive, Dr. King taught.

In Christianity you gain your life only when you lose it. Witness the life you gained by giving up the safer life of the closet. Imagine yourself still back in that suffocating "protection."

Christianity is about a peace that is no peace, the marvelous peace of God.

The Anglican Communion is a legacy of slavery and colonialism. It's the ecclesiastical infrastructure those great evils left behind. Dare we throw away this marvelous opportunity for connecting merely because of the current unpleasantness?

It would be so much easier to love our neighbors as ourselves if we could just pick and choose them. But that's not the way it works, as the Chanaian hymn puts it best for me:


Jesu, Jesu,
Fill us with Your love, show us how to serve
The neighbors we have from You.

Kneels at the feet of his friends,
Silently washes their feet,
Master who acts as a slave to them.


Neighbors are rich and poor,
Neighbors are black and white,
Neighbors are near and far away.


These are the ones we should serve,
These are the ones we should love;
All these are neighbors to us and You.


Loving puts us on our knees,
Serving as though we are slaves,
This is the way we should live with You.


Kneel at the feet of our friends,
Silently washing their feet,
This is the way we should live with You.


(The tune is here.)

Through the Anglican Communion that hymn can be a reality, not just a vision. Let it begin in me.


Thank you, Louie, for letting me reprint this.

But thank you most of all you do in reminding us to love one another.

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