Over the next three years, ++Frank will have to explain his justification for reinterpreting scripture.
++Frank would do well to consider the following. Welcoming practicing homosexuals is an innovation. He should argue that innovation is not a priori wrong. My view is that although we are indebted to tradition, tradition is holy, relevant and useful, only insofar as it frees us in Christ. Not all innovation is good; nor is an ill-considered prioritizing of the past. Surely not everything we inherit is beneficial. There is no reason to assume that the Eusebian view of the past is perfectly correct or accurate.
A theology of sexuality and sexual activity must include an accurate description of what happens in relationships, married and unmarried. A coherent liberal view might argue, for example, that sex is firs a form of communication or play, and secondly a form of procreation. This description is a much more accurate account of human relationships. Older women, for example, who have sex cannot procreate; and men do not desire for the sake of having children. Yet, procreation is a concern of the church because children are a concern of the church. Darwin and Aquinas were both wrong to emphasize procreation as a primary object of human consciousness, rather than socialization and empathy.
There must also be a careful exploration into the relationship between sex [or communication], property and polity. It seems that conservatives become very uncomfortable in this area, preferring to address marriage only as a sacrament, ignoring the practices and social mechanics of cultures, including Christian cultures, where marriage includes a transfer and cultivation of property in the household. Marriage has always been about a sharing of resources - including children. The Hebrew bible is deeply involved with the property of Israel, because it represents the blessed and joyful life. Our own culture, however, has generally divorced sexual activity from the purpose of marriage [as well as the possibility of death].
The protection and management of property in marriage is in the state's greater interest. The state protects marriage because it is a very efficient form of social welfare: when one person gets sick, the other can't simply leave thereby burdening the state. Cultures generally have an interest in marriage because it promotes order and productivity, and diminishes sexual rivalry. The church blesses marriage because it symbolically represents the economy, or family, of God.
One aspect that Frank might emphasize is the connection between morality and empire. On this front, the Episcopal Church can rerepresent African concerns more justly. It is perfectly true that the bible is written from the view of the exiled; the scattered; and the colonized. In this sense, Africans may have a better intuitive understanding of what story is being told in scripture. When they accuse us of affluence and decadence, we should listen, because this is a condemnation that sticks because it is true. Now, I don't recognize the accoutrements of this in any liberal parish I know [they are also deeply concerned about the excesses of our deeply aggressive and arrogant culture], but we should recognize that that's how they perceive us. We must insist, however, their struggles against greed, envy and violence, are ones that we also share while also recognizeing that Homosexuality, for them, communicates - implicitly - decadence, perversion, and violence. The primates recognize that in some of their cultures, homosexuality would severely undermine the public monosexuality that characterizes their environments. I suspect when Rowan gets conservative, it is because he worries about the persecution of Christians - and is making a quick moral calculus to his judgement. I think he also knows that, in time, the gospel - or technology - will eventually liberate gay people in every culture.
++ Frank will have to make a credible reinterpretation of Paul. My own view is that the argument that Paul knew of loving relationships in classical antiquity is undermined by the fact that such persons would not have been Jews or Christians; for him the connection between homosexuality, empire and violence was too strong. There may have been loving gay couples in antiquity, but Paul would have insisted that at root, homosexual acts were violent and greedy. In fact, that seems to be his point of view. This may have also been the view of homosexuality for all of Christendom. We must ask whether this is an accurate description.
Last, the idea of sexual complementarity as a role for Christian life must be posed against two stronger metaphors for the church: the trinity and the body. Paul emphasizes complementarity mainly to manage lusty desires. It is easly arguable that it is lust, and the greed that ensues, is the object of his consternation. I do not deny that sexual complementarity is one place where God is present; but it is not the only place - God is where we communicate with each other. And some have argued that gay men communicate more accurately to each other, than married couples or straight men. In the Christian community it is our contributions in a variety of ways - not simply as nucelar families - that is valued. Widows, the unmarried, the rich, the poor, the pious, the earnest, and the prayerful, all have a way to contribute to the church.
Once we set these foundations, reading scripture becomes a bit different. I'm looking for what God is communicating through sexual activity - and in scripture there are all sorts of relationships. We can see that sex communicates power, status, fear, hostility, and peace. What we want, as Christians, are relationships that promote peace and love, gratitude and joy - the fruits of the spirit. I know that some of the orthodox find this to be... easy [God bless them] and unrepresentative of the sacrifices that God requires us. But God requires - Jesus requires - we give up everything - our wealth, our souls, and our bodies. Yet, in the church, we've mitigated this through the sacraments so that all of humanity might eventually come to Him. Homosexuals shouldn't be the first persons to live celibate lives. I suggest that, if the orthodox want to offer their lives up to God, they might themselves choose celibacy, as Jesus did, so that they can represent to gay people the kind of unblemished lives they expect of them. Yet, until then, Gay people are here, and to the faith of us liberals, their sins are no different than ours.
But I don't know what good it will do Frank. You may win the argument. But people don't follow what they know. They follow what they believe.
Well, the BBC has reported about the statement as a "gay rift." As I said, no matter how the more precise commentators explain this obsession to the world, the controversy appears to be about sexuality, not about scripture or authority. Most reflective people recognize that the devil himself can quote scripture - so this looks like a political squabble revealing plain bigotry of some of those in charge. Now I don't think that's true - after all, Akinola is known by my own bishop, and we have a Ugandan bishop in our diocese. It is hard to convey truly complicated things.... What they say in public may just be for a local audience. It seems that Akinola and Griswold were working together to craft something presentable.
The BBC reports one bishop of Owerri Diocese in Nigeria, Cyril Okorocha, saying the statement was intended to remind the North Americans that their
actions were "hurting" other members of the Anglican Communion.
"In any family when the child is being naughty, the
parents... should let that child know that what they are doing is
wrong," he said.
Progressive Protestantwrites: It’s not sensible for the Anglican Communion to avoid schism by denying
its two most progressive churches the right to speak on matters
dividing the church. If “mak[ing] room for different points of view”
means progressive churches remaining silent and been barred from the
table on these discussions, it’s time to shake some dust off the
sandals and walk away. It’s very, very sad that a church as consciously
inclusive and loving of autonomy as the Anglicans have been
historically is now demanding doctrinal unity on an issue so far from
the center of the Gospel. It’s especially disgusting to see the impetus
for this coming from churches in Africa that have demons worse than
this to deal with themselves—they seem not to notice the log in their
I'll have more to say about that. After all, I don't know how they can expect us to follow the rules when th've told us we can't play the game. In my own church, I've been holding off presiding over same sex marriages. Now, perhaps I should just go ahead anyway. They've said they don't want us there, after all. Maybe its true, that the south has been a burden and this is a liberation for the Episcopal and Canadian churches.
The Canadian Primate Responds: Celebrating how we share Communion together is not a matter of what is
written on paper, but rather of how we live out our faith in relation
to all of our sisters and brothers. Brilliant liberal "fudge," as an antiquarian might call it. I think it merely describes what happens between churches, accurately. ++ Frank says that this "gives us space." Well, the
Stephen Bates reports, mentioning an interesting factoid: Last night the leading
critic of the Americans and Canadians, Archbishop Peter Akinola of
Nigeria, was said to be entertaining his supporters and the
traditionalist American and English evangelicals, who have been
circling the meeting semi-clandestinely all week, at what was described
as a "celebratory" party, paid for by the Americans.
[sigh] I know that some conservatives will say this is not truly a "victory." You know, when Gene Robinson talks of traditionalists leaving, he says it will be a "loss" for the church. Yet, excluding liberals, however, conservatives consider the church saved. Now, they couldn't have done much more. They couldn't. Now, after three years, we will have to come up with "theological justifications." I wonder if it would make any difference, anyway, given that homosexuality already describes, for most conservatives, a kind of relationship that liberals don't recognize.
The political wing of the Anglican communion does not want us to kick off the dust from their sandals. They hare hoping for our charity and patience. Fortunately, we have plenty even though we're independent, we're protestant, and we're Americans. We're transparent and democratic. Maybe its time that we liberals took a cue from our president and start evangelizing other countries about democratizing their ecclesial structure.
Get Religion reports this quote via the Church of England newspaper from ++Frank. Get Religion chastizes journalists by insinuating that innovation, not charity, is the problem, ignoring that it is the southern churches demanding the division, not the liberals, who are not insisting that African Churches ordain homosexual priests.
"We find ourselves overtaken by a compassion, which because it is
of the Spirit and not the result of our effort or imagination, knows no
bounds and can enfold all persons and all things. It is a compassion,
which in the words of St Isaac of Syria, embraces not only humankind
but the birds and the beasts, the enemies of truth, those who wish to
do us harm and 'even the reptiles', which may be seen as representing
those slithery aspects of our own humanity which we are loath to admit
to the company of our 'better' selves and therefore often displace on
to others as evil."
Well, here it is. It won't take you too long to read it, a collaborative midrash on our current obsession, composed by five straight married men typing out a letter that demonstrates how politics is local. A little nod here, a slight nuance here, a little silence on that point, and a few affirmations thrown in. For our sake, don't come around here for a while, we just can't be near you while you're with... that man. I know you have an invitation, but can you just forget to mail it back? When you agree to the seating arrangement and menu, there will be a time for dialogue - by that time, the dinner party will be at our house, and there won't be any confusion about who's with who. And no fornicating or sodomizing bishops.
Granted, when you're worried about your churches burning and have boy martyrs who died because they didn't want to be raped, you've got other things on your mind. Sad, in a way. Akinola has never, to my mind, accurately described who Gene Robinson is. He sees Gene Robinson as an imperialist, worse than Shell, Exxon, Halliburton or... Disney. Thinking Anglicans has a little post on perspective.
Well, I'm not too upset at the letter. If the American Churchs refuse to show up, The ACC will have lost two important voices, which is too bad. When conservatives and liberals hang out with their own too much, they become arrogant and brutal, convinced of their own ideology, mistaking their own foolishness for wisdom. However, it's voluntary. I wonder if the liberal church will continue to foot the bill.
That's true charity, to pay for a party you won't even be invited to. Perhaps now, through example, the liberals can focus on the more important things - like global poverty and AIDS, instead of this weapon of mass distraction. There are plenty of smaller churches who would benefit from these gifts.
After an evening talking with a colleague and his wife....
Jane says, "Johnny, if I hear one more stupid conversation about gay clergy... I think I'm going to barf." What's the big deal, don't you know the conversation is ridiculous? "I mean, can't you talk about movies, books or babes some times?"
In the west we're foolish. In the south, we're satanic. Can't win.
Orthodoxy may or may not prohibit homosexuality. However, is always against innovation, except for the innovation of the cross. Alas, that orthodoxy is against innovation says nothing about its relationship to politics, to God or to Truth.
If Jesus had a few too many drinks with the tax collector; had ever slept with a prostitute; or lusted after a woman; would he still have been sinless? Was his sinlessness part of his nature, or was it because he didn't act? Would we still say "Jesus is Lord?" Or would we be scandalized? And why would this, why should this, scandalize us any more than the cross itself?
A progressive must never say he is for innovation. Let him simply tell the story; may he speak accurately and sincerely. Let the progressive refer to Samaria; to eating unclean foods; to marrying for the sake of managing lust; of blessing enemies; of saying "here I am"; of being free in Christ. The progressive is bathed in scripture and doesn't know which words are his own, as the Christian fathers. We stand firm in saying, this is about the heart of God, that it is enveloping enough to stand loving, marginalized, Christians in the world.
There is no revisionist agenda. We merely do not see gay people, and the pastoral theology that roots our ministry to, with and of them, as fundamentally destructive or dissonant to the trinitarian faith or to church polity. Our agenda is not to force people to become gay, to force heterosexuals into gay marriage.
Who fights for Jesus? The antiquarians / reasserting side? or the Heterodox / modernist side? The pagans teased us for loving each other. And today they do the same, for hating each other.
Alas, for all the good work the Orthodox churches can do, they risk that their main organizing principle, belief and reason for being will be perceived, not as the gift of Jesus Christ, nor even of scripture, but as a fear of homosexuals in the life of the church. Orthodox Anglicanism will be indistinguishable from other religious institutions that insist its primary moral claims concern sexual ethics and secondly about the nature of God. To an outsider, the individual sects that consist of the AMiA, TAC, FIF, REC, will seem primarly motivated not in fact by their historical prejudices, but in fact by their common hostility toward Gene Robinson. This will be exacerbated if they unite, for it will not be love, it will not be that they discarded their historical disagreements, but because they oppose Gene Robinson that they found unity.
Mr. Orthodox: "I'm simply protecting the integrity of the Word of God" Mr. Secular: "What is the Word?" Mr. Orthodox: "Let me point to you a few verses..." [flips to the verses on sexual immorality] Mr. Secular: "This is your religion?"
Mr. Orthodox: "Not all..." Mr. Secular: "How odd to consider such things first, as primary, as essential."
Mr. Liberal Christian walks in: "Mr. Secular, let me begin with a different chapter, say John 20:18 or Matthew Chapter 5. We'll talk about the rest a bit later."
"Apostasy," "Heresy". To the orthodox these words are sexy and powerful, conveying the taint of the devil; to the modernists, they are primitive and incomprehensible, cumbersome weapons used to destroy individual conscience.
Yesterday, as part of our after-church discussion, we discussed how values frame our actions. I asked, if anyone would die for anything. One said "freedom" and another "independence." Others were more specific: "my children" or "my friends." One person said the flag, and another said, no way.
I mentioned off handedly, that the communion was in crisis. Some bishops who would sacrifice their membership in the communion for freedom. Just as conservatives say that there is no turning back, some liberal bishops think that a transparent, free, compassionate, and democratic church is worth fighting for. We'll do what we can to stay remain with our brothers and sisters, but we will not make the bishop of New Hampshire our sacrificial lamb. One person remarked that he didn't like the idea of bishops from other countries telling us how to run our church. Another said "its not like we're sending gay missionaries there...." Others thought it wouldn't make much of a difference.
One interesting metaphor about Gene Robinson that has come up is that gay people, or whatever led to them becoming such a damned problem, represent a "cancer" in the body of Christ. Can't fault the metaphor: I've used a similar metaphor - that the words concerning homosexuality in scripture are equivalent to a body's tonsils or appendix. Historically interesting, but practically useless. I've just not used it against people.
You see, when I meet openly gay priests, I don't think of them as particularly cancerous to the body, no more than your ill-tempered, dilettante random, mean spirited, closeted, or misogynistic Anglo-Catholic. If you want to know a real cancer try really boring worship; or bands of complaining ECW members; diva organists; Reality TV; two-income households; or... cancer.
Those are much more threatening to the church and the healthy.
Of course, Akinola and a few others disagree. I don't think, however, that Akinola is beyond reproach. That he is more concerned with Gays in New Hampshire than AIDS in his own country makes me speculate about his own moral credibility.
Frank, God Bless You. Your eagerness to make amends might prohibit an open challenge to Akinola to proclaim righteousness in his own country. You could easily ask why they barely recognize the seriousness of disease and corruption there.
Kendall points to an article in Stand Firm MS. The article is pleasant in tone. After attending a conference led by the bishop, Greg writes:
Yes, sometimes it seems that the battle is lost, that the foundation
has crumbled beyond repair. But we have to remember that the
revisionist agenda is embraced by a minority of Episcopalians and
Canadian Anglicans, who are themselves a tiny
minority of the world's Anglicans. It's true that the material wealth
of the Episcopal church makes this minority disproportionately
powerful, and it's also true that some influential leaders of the
communion would just as soon wave these innovations through as not. But
we also have to remember that the church is not these people, and that
these innovations are only a few decades old, in a tradition that's
some 450 years old. There is a case to be made that the swiftness with
which these innovations have been embraced, and the strategic position
occupied by those who favor them, spell doom for orthodox Anglicanism
and, as a result, Anglicanism itself. But many of us can make an even
stronger case that the truth of the Gospel will prevail.
What bothers me about this frame is that it begins with division. Instead of "how will we get through this" the question is still how will the side that calls itself orthodox overcome the side they call revisionist. This kind of thinking assumes a rivalry that both sides must relinquish.
The term "orthodoxy" easily becomes a code for group think. Schleiermacher noted that orthodoxy is almost always a term for a belief attributed to the past, without any admission that orthodoxies change.
Greg then quotes: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such
things there is no law.
This, of course, is exactly what progressives believe. If we live this way with the reasserters, then we need no law to divide us. I admit that I always find the caricature of "liberals" a bit displeasing, for in the end, a caricature is always a caricature, and is easily defeated.
Anyway, Your grace, Presiding Bishop Frank, The Mostest of the Rightest, here's my prayer for you:
Almighty God, creator of the universe, and earth our island home,
You are the same God that led Jacob to wrestle with the Angel who blessed him;
You are the same God that Led Namaan to the waters of Israel;
You freed captive Israel from bondage;
You speak through the prophets of every generation;
You continue to heal, to bless, and to refigure us into holiness
Be with your servant Frank;
Keep him generous in the midst of anger;
give him the fortitude to bless those who would be his enemies;
Keep him prayerful and mindful towards his brothers;
May he remain honest, accurate and sincere in his words;
And not flinch from speaking the truth.
May he speak the truth about AIDS and global suffering,
without being condemned by others.
For although we are divided, God will continue to build his church,
And He knows the faith that is in your heart,
who will redeem you, the church, visible and invisible, at the end of time.
May you fly on the coats of angels, and speak with the conviction of the saints, and sorrounded by the power of God, Frank. They may think you are bringing a holocaust to the church, but while some may stoke the fires of division may your peace quench the fire.
So we're told that God keeps his promises: and how so? Perhaps his only promise is that the people of Israel, his church, his people, will survive - even though they go about crucifying innocent people, they are a remnant that tells the story about justice and peace between all people. Its not the people you would think, really - they are often anti-heroes, representing what is utterly human. What holiness is there? I don't know if anyone could see it at first - you'd need a different sort of lens, a filter, you'd probably need to be a bit strange and odd yourself to see it in these people. You'd need to know God.
God is, himself, aware that he risks something, but that is part of his enjoyment - that this set of erroneous failures tell good stories about His life.
So this is the promise: after the flood we'll see land. Its just a bit easier for us to take this risk with God, knowing the story, knowing that there is some kind of guarantee, even though its not the sort I think I'd always want, is enough to keep me reading and struggling, even here now, at this computer, writing on this blog.
Today Krugman bitch-slaps the Democrats for being deferential to Greenspan: By
repeatedly shilling for whatever the Bush administration wants, he has
betrayed the trust placed in Fed chairmen, and deserves to be treated
as just another partisan hack. Attaboy, Krugman.
Brad Delong takes the Economist to task. A talking point: If you give people control over their savings, some who have few other
resources will do badly with it. They will then either eat cat food and
shiver in the cold in their old age, or their private accounts will be
topped off to keep them from penury. But if we choose the second
option, then we are creating grave moral hazard: people can speculate
with their private accounts, playing the game of heads-I-win- tails-the-government- pays. To head off this moral hazard
meltdown, a plan should--and the Bush plan appears to--very tightly
constrain where the investments can go.
BusinessWeek asks: Tax Hikes for whom? Eventually, yes, the middle class will get screwed. Of course, Bush has started talking about taxes on the wealthy.... Seems like he's learning something about economics.