Most of you know that by temperament, rather than ideology, (or maybe its the other way around) defines me in the progressive camp. Anselm, Ekhardt, Spinoza, Burke, Proudhon and Keynes are the thinkers I find myself appreciating these days. I'm by nature a bit forgiving of people's sins, and I'm not much one for lots of rules and legalisms.
After Bo33, I’ve found myself cringing – just a little – at the indignation I’ve heard after the resolution was passed. I understand frustration at the process – but the outcome just didn’t deserve the virulent response from the more fervent supporters of the “inclusive” position. I get even a bit more disturbed when I hear the resentment people have toward the Archbishop for not taking up the liberal cause. I still have an immense amount of respect for the Archbishop, and I believe that his caution will actually serve gays more strongly than the church approval a gay people seek.
He's stated clearly that he thinks all voices should be heard; and that the conversation should continue. He's pointed out some flaws - practical and theological - that we need to address. Granted, I don't think he understands America - and our anti-authoritarian, individualistic, protestant, social gospel heritage (nor, of course, do many American conservatives), but he is always illuminating in his depth.
Progressives can affirm that church should support the civil rights of gay people – if we agree that churches should be involved in “civil” rights or political causes (that’s another issue, of course). As gay people have property and partners, it is in the interest of the state to manage and protect these relationships. Even some conservatives support these rights – in my congregation, many of the older people do this: they just don’t think partnerships should be confused with marriage.
In my opinion, these civil outcomes are more important than church blessings: they bear directly upon the practicalities of gay partnerships. Gays don’t need church (who does?), but it is perfectly fitting that a hospital should allow a partner into a bedroom, and that assets can be shared between two people.
But instead of first challenging the institution of the church “to change,” and become “inclusive” we should remember that anyone can call upon God in the name of Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity to bless. My congregation has blessed me – they bless the Lord. Nothing inhibits people from blessing relationships.
Our focus should be on revealing the lives of homosexuals in the cultures around us. These lives will not look always like what the west experiences as homosexuality in its reflection of the culture’s hypersexuality and promiscuity. But they will be evident in the sorts of friendship and gender bending roles that people have. I suggest that those interested in recognizing the spiritual journeys of gay people focus less on church conflict, but more on actually blessing relationships and living in the name of Jesus Christ. Clerics and Bishops not necessary.
I object to the idea that Bo33 was a travesty. It was a piece of paper: merely a love note to conservatives. No person is, in fact, being hanged. This did not give license to homophobia; it did not kill any gay people. Bo33 was, finally, irrelevant, unless one decided, in a fit of imagination, that it wasn't.
So let's focus: when we call upon Jesus Christ, our lives change – in or outside the church. The Archbishop knows, we are changed by Jesus Christ; he suspects that the body is made first for joy. And what happens he leaves up for our particular lives. I think he rightly rejects the language of “inclusion”: it is a very weak argument to hold one’s hat on. There are good reasons for it: being “inclusive” doesn’t help an organism survive or give it a strong enough identity to build. Plainly, I don’t include members of the KKK in my congregation. And I unintentionally include in my own church people who are literate.
Magnanimity, welcome, hospitality and charity, however are biblical, worthy and stronger virtues that shape the Christian life. I wonder, myself, if we liberals have done ourselves disfavor by focusing on all the things conservatives have done wrong while not emphasizing the things we should have in common. Instead of arguing from a position of justice, ask if conservatives are truly welcoming to gay people? Will they let themselves be a bit uncomfortable with the struggling gay person in their midst? Or will they build condition upon condition, without looking at their own logs? At that point, “welcoming” rings hollow. And I suspect the Archbishop hopes that welcoming is a much more severe challenge to the conservatives than caution is to the inclusivites.
If I seem blasé about the liberal position, not quite revolutionary in my rhetoric, a bit too easy on conservatives, it’s because I think that God will protect the church; and that we will see if our honesty about gay people in our midst is beneficial for the people of God. I’m confident that it is – I’ve seen the problems that the closet has inflicted upon the church - so most of the theological “conversation” and instinctive frustration at a cautious archbishop doesn’t bother me. I have seen the benefits of ordaining competent gay clergy and trust that bishops will continue to do so quietly and inobtrusively.
In my own life there are conservatives and gay people in my life. I want them all to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and each other. I’ll let God sort it out. But I don’t see the point in always arguing with conservatives about what God thinks, and I’m glad we have a cautious archbishop who wants to keep the conversation going. Have faith, fellow liberals, trust in God and have faith in our savior. Let the conservatives have all the anger. Let us build communities on the ground that are just, faithful and welcoming, ignoring the vitriol that spews from the mouths of likes of Akinola.
Of course, it always behooves us to organize and plan. For the devil lies in waiting.