Monday, September 17, 2007

Hope for New Orleans?

In his usual perceptive way, Jim Naughton has written a thoughtful essay about the upcoming House of Bishop's meeting in New Orleans. Hopes for New Orleans essentially comes down to a hope that the bishops will preserve the status quo. The gist of it is this:

A minority in the House doesn’t like the fact that a candidate in a same-sex relationship would not currently receive a majority of consents from diocesan bishops, and hence could not take office. But they acknowledge it as a political reality, and probably wouldn’t mind saying so . . . If the question is whether Episcopal diocesan bishops are willing to postpone the development of an authorized text to be used in blessing same-sex relationships, then the answer, in all likelihood is yes. If the question is whether every diocesan bishop is willing to enforce a ban on the blessing of same-sex relationships, the answer is almost certainly no.

If I understand this correctly, the best we can hope for is that the bishops will assure Archbishop Rowan Williams, and the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and Anglican Consultative Council, that BO33 really does mean no more gay or lesbian bishops, and commit themselves collectively to refuse to authorize blessing rites at a national or diocesan level. This is where we are at now, and we can't move forward one way or another until at least General Convention 2009.

In other words, The Closet triumphs anew, and polity trumps prophecy. Is this really the BEST for which we can hope?

Maybe. But I dare to dream better dreams.

I can imagine the bishops saying something like, "Yes, we understand that B033 urges us to exercise restraint in consenting to the election of a bishop whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion. But the truth is that many of us really do not believe that being in a committed same-gender relationship in-and-of-itself constitutes an impediment to episcopal ordination. Therefore, the most we can do is assure you that we will collectively and individually vote our conscience in the matter of consent to episcopal elections, much as we always do. Only God the Holy Spirit knows whether or not that will lead to the consecration of a gay or lesbian bishop in the future. She hasn't spoken yet on the matter, but we are confident more will be revealed."

Or something like this, "General Convention hasn't authorized rites for the blessing of same-gender relationships at the national level, and only a handful of dioceses have done so. As we continue to experience the reality of gay and lesbian couples in our congregations, further discernment on the matter of blessing such relationships will emerge. Some dioceses will judge them already blessed by God and will seek to have the Church acknowledge this publicly, liturgically, and in good order. Others will not. We are unwilling - in fact, we are unable - to preclude the work of God the Holy Spirit in this ongoing discernment. If at some point we as a national church authorize such rites, then y'all will have to enter into a period of reception about the matter. Until then, don't get your panties in a bunch. We have a way to go before you need to get anxious about it. And by then, you'll be more concerned about gay and lesbian people in Nigeria and Uganda anyway."

Perhaps that isn't much more to hope for than the status quo, but words do have meaning, and honesty is the better part of valor. Surely we can hope for our bishops to say a word of encouragement to us, to declare that they can not pretend to ignore the gifts of gay and lesbian people, and will not suffer those in the Church who are ready to receive those gifts being forced to refuse them. So, dear bishops, be courageous and don't dissemble. Tell the Primates and ACC leaders how it really is with us and don't make promises you can't or in good conscience, will not, keep. Oh, it may hurt a little bit in the short run, but all is in God's hands anyway. In the long run, all will be well.



Very well said, John! From your blog to a bunch of purple ears! :)

R said...


Agreed. B033 would be sorry place to hang Those who have most villified TEC don't buy it anyway, it seems to me.

Then, Jim points out it bought time with the ACC, which really holds the cards. Question is, is a political settlement a Faustian pact or a Christian way forward?

Again, unity seems priority one, when those truly threatening to end it will not be appeased.

Like you, I hope to see some real integrity and courage.

Beyond that, the Spirit will out in every sense!

God's peace, love, and prayers.

Fr. John said...

A comment emailed to me from Louie Crew that raises an important point:

Thanks, John.

This will be ++Rowan's first time with an out gay peer in his assembly. I hope that sister and brother bishops will speak candidly about +Gene's episcopal ministry to them. I hope that +Gene will have an opportunity to share with ++Rowan living water from our Samaritan wells. +Gene always uses the fear-mongering of others as an opportunity to speak much better news.

I rejoice in your ministry!

Louie Crew

John-Juian, OJN said...

Ah, that is so good to read, Fr. John!

It seems everything is in CAPS these days, and it is fine to hear a quiet, sensible, rational voice.

And I do hope HoB will listen to voices like yours: there need not be any shouting or screaming or condemning or the like - just a simple and quiet statement that we will continue peaceably on the path we have begun....judging no one, demanding nothing from anyone else, waving no flags and shouting no slogans, and hoping to continue to be Anglicans in fact as well as in practice.

That, I hope, is what ++Rowan will see and hear.