Tuesday, March 28, 2006

California's Choices: A Response to The Living Church

I post below my response to a recent editorial on the upcoming episcopal election in my diocese.

The reason that the bishop search committee of the Diocese of California included the Very Rev. Robert Taylor and the Rev. Bonnie Perry among the slate of five nominees it presented is simple: they were eminently qualified. That is to say, they evidenced the holiness of life and the gifts for episcope necessary to serve as a bishop in the church of God. This determination was made through a process of prayerful and passionate discernment. As one member of the committee stated, “For us to have made our nominations any differently would have been bearing false witness to the Church about who was truly called and qualified.”

In consenting to the election and consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003, the General Convention recognized that such holiness of life can be manifested by persons in committed, monogamous same-sex relationships. The Living Church would have us believe this contradicts the “plain teaching” of the Church. That is true: just as the ordination of women contradicted the “plain teaching” of the Church. The plain truth is that the teaching of the Church evolves as we come to new understandings of Scripture and tradition under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If that were not the case, we would still have slavery in the United States.

As we proceed to prayerfully discern whom God is calling to be the next bishop of California, the last thing the people of my diocese need to worry about is who “will be acceptable to the largest number of believers.” If that were the case, we would have to disregard the women nominees as well; the admission of women to holy orders is rejected by many members of the Anglican Communion, not to mention the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Communions. Opposition to gay and lesbian nominees is simply the sheep’s clothing covering the wolf of sexism.

Those of us from the diocese of California have lived too long with women and gay clergy, not to mention countless faithful lay leaders, to be taken in by this thinly disguised prejudice. And the attempt to pit gay and lesbian people against people of color is simply reprehensible. We do not need to choose between ministry with gay and lesbian people and ministry with people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. God’s love revealed in Christ Jesus encompasses us all.

If the California slate is sending a “message,” it is this: No more lies. And no more scapegoats. As Bishop Doug Theuner rightly said regarding the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson: “The ‘H’ word at stake here is not ‘homosexuality,’ but ‘honesty.’” The Anglican Communion will have to get honest about its heterosexism regardless of who is elected bishop of California.

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