Sunday, March 25, 2007

Episcopal Church Response

The American Episcopal Bishops responded to the Global Primates (heads of Anglican constituent churches, e.g. Church of Nigeria, Canada, New Zealand, Sudan, etc.) with a definite NEIN. Text here.

For the following four reasons:

First, it violates our church law in that it would call for a delegation of primatial authority not permissible under our Canons and a compromise of our autonomy as a Church not permissible under our Constitution.

Second, it fundamentally changes the character of the Windsor process and the covenant design process in which we thought all the Anglican Churches were participating together.

Third, it violates our founding principles as The Episcopal Church following our own liberation from colonialism and the beginning of a life independent of the Church of England.

Fourth, it is a very serious departure from our English Reformation heritage. It abandons the generous orthodoxy of our Prayer Book tradition. It sacrifices the emancipation of the laity for the exclusive leadership of high-ranking Bishops. And, for the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century, it replaces the local governance of the Church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable group of prelates.

#3 and 4 particularly stinging in an American and Anglican context--The Revolutionary War and the Reformation not bridge builder moments in history.

A good summary of the camps in the fight here.

Liberal camps will often argue for inclusion of homosexuals by analogy from the experience of the Christian church challenging both the Bible and Christian tradition on issues like divorce, slavery, and women's ordination.

The Bible from beginning to end assumes/supports slavery as an institution. Jesus said that divorce was forbidden--but even the Gospel of Matthew already concedes (for the community) certain cases.

Just so, the argument goes, the inclusion of gays & lesbians is a matter of justice and the love/mercy of God.

The counter-argument is that slavery, women's ordination, and divorce while serious matters and certainly the church has changed its position these issues were never a matter of doctrine or core issue to the faith. In that I agree with that argument. Those matters were not central to the faith.

The question of whether this issue is central is where the sides divide. The issue then is not the issue. The gay-lesbian issue is not the real issue it is deciding which teachings in the Bible are central to the faith and which are not. This issue--because while lesbians are mentioned is 99% focused on gay men--is the last vestige of these fights around sex or rather around patriarchy. Except perhaps for inter-religious issues.

Slavery, no contraception/abortion/divorce, imperial religious mentality, male only public authority roles, and anti-gay ("pro traditional family") are all hallmarks of a patriarchal order. The issue of gay men I think hits most closely at the heart of that order. The Anglican Church has allowed either/or across the board within the Communion. Polygamy is practiced and accepted in the church (another patriarchal structure) in areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

At some point there is a chasm--is this issue central to the faith as revealed in the Bible or not? With that question an entire world is assessed--one in which for some the answers of another do not and can never arise. Which is why for the traditionalist groups (blue), any moves towards inclusion of homosexuals can not be a matter of extending/widening the faith-praxis of the Church (i.e. can not recognize yellow/green belief), but rather must be a neo-pagan return (reversion to red/purple).

For whatever reasons this issue has become the one that will break the Church. While I understand in theory some of the arguments, it is hard to see this issue being more worthy of splitting over than slavery.

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At 5:26 PM, Blogger Joe Perez said...

Hi Chris,

I agree with you 100% that it would be quite odd if the homosexuality issue breaks the Church whereas the slavery issue didn't.

Not to disagree, but honestly it's a pet peeve of mine when people discuss the homosexuality and Christianity issue by downplaying its significance. Spirit has chosen to make this issue absolutely vital to the unity issue in the Church right now, I believe. Failure to recognize its importance is really more of a failure to appreciate the mysterious workings of Spirit than anything else. What you or I feel are more important concerns that SHOULD be dividing the Church is irrelevant in the face of the workings of Spirit which has dictated that THIS issue right HERE and right NOW is going to divide or unite the Church.




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