Friday, March 24, 2006

To scapegoat or not to scapegoat, that is the question

The latest attempt to scapegoat gay and lesbian people for the challenges facing the Anglican Communion came this past week at the meeting of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops.

Ruth Gledhill reports in the London Times that the Bishop of Exeter, apparently speaking on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, warned our bishops "that any further consecration of those in a same sex relationship, any authorisation of any person to undertake same sex blessings, any stated intention not to seriously engage with the Windsor Report, will be read very widely as a declaration not to stay with the communion." He added that failure to head this warning would mean the end of Anglican-Roman Catholic and Anglican-Muslim dialogues.

No doubt, many people will wonder how those of us in the Diocese of California should respond to these dire predictions. Three of our nominees for bishop are partnered gay or lesbian clergy. How seriously should we take the Bishop of Exeter's admonishment as we discern whom God is calling to be our next bishop? If we elected Michael Barlowe+, Bonnie Perry+, or Robert Taylor+, would we be responsible for a rupture in the Anglican Communion?

It seems to me that the Bishop of Exeter's comments were rooted in fear and anxiety. And that is never the place from which the Holy Spirit speaks. As we in the Diocese of California consider the well-qualified slate of nominees from which we must choose, our decision must be guided by a sense of who will best help us to engage the Church's mission of reconciliation, embodying God's love for absolutely everybody revealed in Christ Jesus. We must act from a place of peace, joy, and hope. And we must act with courage, because faithfulness entails risk.

The risk is that the election of our next bishop will force the Anglican Communion to come to terms with its complicitly in the scapegoating of LGBT people and the violence and death it entails. The risk here is that the 30 year-long battle by fundamentalists to undermine the Episcopal Church will be seen as the institutional power grab that it really is. The risk here is that the sundering of the Anglican Communion is the cost of discipleship that we must bear for refusing to practice the very scapegoating over which Jesus triumphed in his death and resurrection.

Once again, we have been presented with the false options of either preserving the unity of the church, or else honoring our baptismal covenant by respecting the dignity of every human being. I believe that God is calling us to a much more challenging way forward: the way of the cross. It is far more difficult to stay together without scapegoating anyone, than it is to demonize LGBT people. Can we refuse the temptation of scapegoating and still remain together in the Anglican Communion? That is the real question that the Bishop of Exeter should be asking. The Diocese of California will answer that question with a resounding "Yes!,"
no matter who our next bishop turns out to be.

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