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.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Robert Duncan, Jack Iker, Peter Lee and John Bruno are getting together to talk about their differences. I can't imagine what the conversation will be like.
++ABC Greetings everyone. It’s nice to see you. God bless you. ++KJS Thank you, Archbishop. +RD Isn’t it a bit soon for that? We don’t know really if God blesses her. +JI Relax, Bob. +RD. Jus’ sayin’. Not everyone in the Anglican Communion recognizes she is a PB. Represent! +PL. We’re here just to talk, not fight, alright? Be good. Everyone gets their say. +RD. “Be good” that’s not in scripture. It’s “be perfect.” Which YOU, clearly, my brother, are not. Only God gets his say here. Power to Akinola and his Peeps! +ABC I thought we might talk about oversight. Bob, are you willing to proclaim allegiance to the Queen of England? +PL. You are such a ham, your grace. Noone could possibly… +ABC. Just checking. +RD, well, only if she signed this statement I made with my friend “Big Daddy Petey” (hands him a sheet of paper) it says, “gays may not wear big hats or touch other people’s penises while in God’s house. They may not talk about it anymore. +JI: But they may still be church organists +ABC: well thank jeezy Chreezy for that! +RD We really don’t want her to touch us. Or to touch other people. +PL: She doesn’t need to touch you if you don’t want +RD: But if someone thinks she can touch someone else, then that someone also cannot touch anyone. Those someones, archbishop, must not be allowed to touch. Nor can they come to the party. +ABC: The party? Lambeth is another issue. KJS: Well, we were thinking of helping some African bishops get to Lambeth +RD Oh Really? Well that’s not very nice, you liberal imperialist! We have plenty of money from the IRD. They'll clear everything up for us. +KJS: Look, I don’t need to “touch” Bob. I just want to talk +RD: Enough talking. Jesus said swords (takes out a sword). I’m not listening! +PL: Could you put that away, Bob? I mean, is it necessary? +RD: Jesus never asked, “is it necessary.” It is Necessary. (he waves it around a bit) Jesus wants me to brandish this sword for the sake of the new Anglican Communion. To cut and sever the heads of all the Jesus hating abortionist unbaptized gay lovers who take communion. Which is exactly what the new presiding bishop stands for. +ABC: Well, I think I’m going to invite both of you. +RD: Jesus says the archbishop can’t invite two Anglican bishops together, especially if one is gay. Jesus also says that gay bishops are nasty. So we want you to be our presiding bishop. +ABC: What would some “alternate primate” need to do? +RD: Um. Come and hang out, I guess. Do the regular bopping. Then preach about how Jesus came to save our souls, and that gay people should repent. And gay bishops. You should tell people that you really don’t like gay bishops. Tell people that Jesus really doesn’t like gay bishops. ++ABC: That’s oversight? +RD: Well its not oversight. But it would help. We’ll put pictures of the queen on our doors. +JB (from LA): Queen. (snorts). Yeah, that’s very straight of you. +RD: And don’t listen to anything about the TEC. They are irrelevant, unlike us. We have the swords. They, however, preach the gay gospel, which is all about making everyone play with their genitals. +JB: Sounds interesting! +ABC: Why can’t you just let Katherine select three conservative bishops from the US to do the consecrating thing. +RD: If she even talks to a conservative bishop, she messes it up. She can’t even LET anyone be a consecrator, or even write a letter allowing someone to be a chief consecrator. If she does, then Jesus cries. Archbishop, do you want Jesus to cry? Jesus cries whenever someone has sex and doesn’t think about little babies, babies who Jesus loves. And she encourages this kind of sex. Look at her! She's a woman. Who doesn't believe in Jesus! So if she invites someone who does believe in Jesus, then their love of Jesus become changed into unlove. So we need purity. From the top! +KJS: Bob, if you let me… +RD: Don’t talk to me. Get Behind Me you double twin headed Jesus loving abortionist! I'm with Jesus. And he ain't with you. I know. +ABC: I think we have a problem. +PL: Yes: where’s the Gin?
The Rev. Andrew Weaver writes about the Conservative Catholic Influence in the Institue for Religion and Democracy, and its growing influence. They constitute about a third of the board (about the same proportion of Catholics in the country, I think), but have undermined the general ecumenical work between Catholics and protestants. What is interesting is how anti-Catholic, also, their theology truly is, especially when it comes to capitalism.
He writes: While Father Neuhaus and his Catholic cohorts have built and sustained an organization that has consistently labored to generate suspicion and hostility
about mainstream Protestant leaders, not a penny has been spent nor
staff member assigned to attempt to change anything about the Catholic
Church. This conduct constitutes the single greatest breach in
ecumenical good will between Roman Catholics and Protestants since
Weaver quotes a former editor of First Things: The America toward which Richard John Neuhaus wishes to lead us -- [is]
an America...in which moral and theological absolutists demonize the
country's political institutions and make nonnegotiable public demands
under the threat of sacralized revolutionary violence, in which
citizens flee from the inner obligations of freedom and long to
subordinate themselves to ecclesiastical authority, and in which
traditionalist Christianity thoroughly dominates the nation's public
life (Linker, 2006).
Is Neuhaus aware that American Idol and Project Runway are more important than church these days, and that young people are simply ignoring adults about sex?
Weaver concludes: Imagine the outcry from Catholic leaders, a fully justified response,
if a highly influential group of Protestants obtained a million dollars
a year from left-wing sources to generate a propaganda campaign against
the leadership of the Catholic Church over the issues of the ordination
of women and divorce. Moreover, this Protestant-directed group
constantly sought to undermine Catholic leaders and missions through
twisted and demeaning distortions of what they said, while seeking no
reforms in their own communions. This is exactly the situation we have
Although I generally think Protestant Christianity has rendered "god-talk" to be redundant, and has not called young leaders of great talent, I do believe that there is a deliberate attempt to destroy the liberal, magnanimous, social justice tradition that is a crucial part of American culture - via Henry Ward Beecher, Walter Rauschenbushc, Henry Fosdick, William Sloane Coffin among others. Perhaps protestants were right: Catholics would undermine the American traditions of sympathy, mutual aid and civil rights.
My question is, why do people who hold these views feel it is OK to
change other elements of the religion (e.g. stoning people who commit
adultery, not allowing divorce, etc...). I'm just wondering how someone
with the anti-gay viewpoint, based on their reading of scripture, would
rationalize/justify holding opinions that are antithetical to a strict
reading of the bible on these other topics.
I'll try to answer, but as I don't think I've ever gotten a really good
response myself [and I'm in CONSTANT communication with conservatives].
I'll give a general explanation. There are two pieces: what
is, I think, in fact happening and how they describe it themselves.
I personally don't think that the issue is really about
homosexuality. I think that it is more about security in an age of instant communication, and the anxieties of cultural change that piggy back upon capitalism.
Global communication allows for signs and symbols to be sent worldwide,
but meaning is still "constructed" locally (for example, what western
progressives might say, gets understood in the south as another example
of imperialism. Homosexuality, is just an example of us giving it to Iraqis, so to speak). The anxieties that people have about the market
and their own relationships gets projected into a very simple
I don't think the presenting issues are particularly new. The big shifts happened when sex, death and property became
divorced, in part, due to economic changes (that allowed some women to
live independently) and technological advances (birth control).
The consequences of sex [a child, or death from childbirth] have
changed, and alongside, the choices of women.
Birth control essentially gave women an immense amount of individual
power, the consequences of which are still being discovered. It's
clearly good for individual women, but since then, the complexities of sexual
desire have still not been discerned well by the church.
As women became more powerful, it was a matter of time when gay men
found that they had more liberty. By and large, the Episcopal
church has essentially moved along with the culture on this - and the
Episcopal church represents, I think, a pretty good example of the
confusions that people have. Most people (and I think this
means the entire culture, actually) haven't figured out exactly what
these changes mean for us.
It coupld be a cultural divide. My Indian mother- who was
both an aristocrat and a communist, had lots of gay friends. But she said to me,
once, "I just could not live with you being gay. Its probably my
last inherited bigotry from my Indian culture." It was
interesting that she recognized it. There are about 7 Indian pastors in the diocese,
and one of them said to me last year, "I just don't understand
homosexuality. I just don't get it. I don't know what to
make of it." Simply put, the cultural divide is just too vast. We should respect that.
I often hear the following: Conservatives point out that the
"plain text" says that church tradition has been unanimous that male gay sex is an "abomination" or unnatural. They
then argue that scripture has the tendency of becoming less rigorous
liturgically [thus Christians give up many of the Jewish rituals] but
more rigorous regarding sex. This argument allows them to
avoid the more serious issues in the OT like Usury or keeping the
When a conservative says "2000 years" he is just repeating a fact -
yes, the church has pretty much objected to homosexuality. But
there are couple reasons why this isn't good enough. Hearkening to the past is a bias rather than a
truth. There is no reason to assume that older is better:
it is simply a perspective that most people, before capitalism, had. But in the end" we've always done it
that way" is a mediocre way to begin an ethic. Scripture seems to offer
a better way: is it beneficial [as Paul noted - all things are
lawful, but not all things are beneficial]?
Of course, there are numerous arguments also why the liturgical / moral
distinction is incorrect, and the argument about sexual ethics being
"more rigorous" has more to do, I suspect, with record keeping and the
need of the state to have an easy welfare system [a good idea, perhaps,
but very utilitarian]. Jesus was strengthening the marriage vow
because he was reminding the people that men had hard hearts when they
But the crucial reason conservatives offer - the "best" one - has to do with
primacy and idealization of the unity and difference of two
sexes. Scripture and church tradition seem to have a fairly
consistent metaphor about the bride and bridegroom being symbols, for
example, the people and the land, or the church and Jesus Christ.
To dismiss this metaphor is to trivialize what God intends [which is
for us to procreate and have children] for us, and the wisdom of most
humanity regarding the natural use of our genitalia.
This is the theological standpoint of the most credible biblical
scholar, Robert Gagnon, who opposes homosexuality. Scripture does
assume, as does anyone who lives, that male and female are pretty
important parts of human identity.
The best response to this is, "No shit."
Personally, I think that the description of church tradition being
uniformly anti-gay is probably correct - to a certain point. This
is probably because homosexuality was conflated with sexual greed and
exploitation. The question then is, what is the purpose of our desires? Christian evolutionists like Joan
Roughgarden are challenging the notion that our genitalia are made for
procreative purposes first - they might be made, for example, for joy
(as, actually the Archbishop of Canterbury argues in one of his earlier
essays titled, The Body's Grace).
The other sense by conservatives is that the Episcopal Church,
generally, has abandoned something called "The Faith Once
Delivered." I can't really explain it to you, because I
don't quite understand it myself. It seems to have a very
supernaturalistic, puritanical understanding of what the church is for
(say, "saving souls" - admirable, but highly reductionistic). It might be that the Nicene Creed seems to
be said, but not literally believed, by most bishops or priests.
What is true is that the church has decided that the creed has nothing to do with sexuality. They might be right that most bishops and priests interpret
scripture in a fashion that would be unrecognizable to those in the
What they err about is that bishops and priests are saying things
different than what was thought 100 years ago. The church has had
a "liberal" theology for at least 70 years. Perhaps what is
changing is that now lay people are reading the same things that I
My own view is that the battle for full inclusion of gay and Lesbian
people in the Episcopal church has been won by progressives. Most dioceses in the Episcopal church ordain competent gay
clergy, quietly. Our actions - distressingly for most conservatives - have moved much faster
than our theology. Unfortunately, this tends to also irk liberals who get upset when most bishops are simply trying to hold their diocese together. Of course, as conservative priests get a lot more nasty and start challenging moderate bishops, these same bishops will realize that they have to draw a line somewhere.
As the men in the Anglican tradition dissolve, an interesting counter
current is happening. The women from all 38 provinces of the
Anglican church are regularly meeting. If you follow the work of
the Anglican women, you'll note that they are talking about other
issues. And they have said very clearly that homosexuality
distracts us from issues of poverty.
Liberal values represent the essence of the world’s great religions. At
the root of all of the great faiths are fundamental beliefs in
compassion, justice, love, and charity. We have the right — dare I say
the duty? — to express ourselves as moral agents without the imprimatur of ecclesiastical authority.
Spoken the right way, arguments for the embodiment of these values
in our civic life can ring with the divine provenance granted to them
by believers. And indeed, religious activists — especially our
ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams — are vital to our movement. But
to expect them alone to create a moral counterforce to the destructive
fear mongering of the right is not only unrealistic, it’s an
expectation rooted in abdication of our own role as moral agents.
Thousands of years ago, the great Chinese philosopher Lao Tse is
said to have told his followers: “Religious robes are no more holy than
work clothes.” Now, let’s get to work.
I think she is formally correct. Of course my religious robes are "work" clothes. My holy clothes are my jeans and my T-Shirt that says "what wouldn't Jesus do?"
Liberal principles to may not be explicitly religious, but they may have [and must have] some implicit foundations. Religious leaders may help reveal our implicit values in the public sphere; and they also have the calling to organize and gather. She might be right that the religious left isn't necessary for its own sake - we might not be. But it would be to her own detriment if she decided that we didn't have skills that would be useful for transforming this country into a compassionate, and responsible place. I think progressives do themselves a disservice by not working closely with religious leaders.
Where are the young progressive preachers in positions of leadership?
As one conservative commentator has noted - the splinter groups have far too many. I admit, I experience a degree of schadenfreude when I think of all the folks in the AAC and ACN separating. All I see are lots of arrogant personalities, so brave and courageous about their understanding of scripture, yet correspondingly incapable of any degree of true humility toward one another. Would Duncan be willing to forgoe his Episcopacy to a Reformed Episcopal Bishop in the same area? Or would they have parallel districts? The waste of resources will inhibit their collective growth. In a post-Christian age, choosing between small "blibical" churches is uninteresting to most Americans.
I wasn't at General Convention. But I offer a few thoughts.
The real issue is not sexuality. Nor is it only about authority. My impression is that we are reacting to a world that is rapidly changing, "global," a consequence of late capitalism. Do I love the changes? Not really. But gay people are simply the current object of our general anxiety.
Those of us on the progressive side might remember that for all the conservative things our bishops say, the economic liberation of women will continue breaking up the traditional patriarchy of our faith. Remember, also, that trying to force the institution to change won't matter if we aren't trying to relate to congregations on the ground.
The reasserters still have not demonstrated that they have a clear understanding of sexual behavior within marriage. What do we do with the problem, for example, of the "strap on" when a woman takes the male role during sex?
Progressives must also remember that, for plenty of people in the rest of the world, our little escapades into Iraq are connected to our sexual libertinism.
1. God is the author of same-sex attraction by an act of special providence that includes biological and social-psychological secondary causes. Because we know through reports of the spiritual experience of same-sex attracted people that God is the primary author of these experiences, inquiry into the relative contributions of nature and nurture to same-sex attraction is of no significance for the church’s moral teaching or pastoral care.
Obviously, it is worthy to explore the nature of desire or attraction. I am skeptical, however, that God has much to do with romance, and it is precisely the practical experience of pastors with gay people that led to the reconsideration of the church’s ethics. The fruits of the spirit, however, are explained in scripture.
2. This recognition of the source of same-sex attraction in the direct intention of God means that the categories of “Gay” and “Lesbian” are part of God’s order of creation in the same way as male and female.
Obviously there are men and women. One does not need to be religious or a Christian to assert such. This fact is not necessarily the primary aspect of being a Christian, who is clothed in Christ rather than gender or ethnicity.
3. Bisexuality is also created by God as an act of special providence through a combination of biological and social-psychological secondary causes.
I’m not sure if anyone was saying this, but goodie for them. Twice as many possibilities. But you are hitched once. 4. It is likewise irrelevant to the church’s moral and pastoral response to this phenomenon to inquire into the relative contributions of nature and nurture in the development of this sexual orientation.
If we were to inquire into the phenomenon, what would we find? Perhaps homosexuality might be God’s way of healing people who have been abused? Perhaps it is one way of resisting the fusion between a mother and son? It might be interesting. But it is probably useless. It does remind me, a bit, of Schockley.
5. The recognition of the source of same-sex desire in the original intention of God for the creation and humanity is a revelation of the Holy Spirit in our time.
Actually, no. The spirit merely revealed that homosexuals are in our midst and included in God’s plan. God reveals our desires and reveals that they may be good. He may or may not put them there. This is profoundly disturbing to those of us who witness these revelations. It is as if we are in the midst of an earthquake.
6. The General Conventions of 2003 and 2006 are witnesses to this new revelation of the Holy Spirit.
Only time will tell, but it is possible.
7. The Holy Spirit has not yet revealed what amendments in the church’s received sexual ethic will be necessary to accommodate bisexual and transgendered people but we can expect further leading by the Holy Spirit in this regard. In the meantime such persons should be considered fit candidates for Holy Orders.
There is nothing special about bisexual or transgendered people that make them fit for ordination. If a church calls them out to be priests, then that is the best evidence we have for their fitness. Churches make mistakes, but this is also evinced with the number of talentless straight, white, male clergy. 8. Certainty in moral or theological judgments which is based on an authoritative reading of a text whether that is the text of the Bible or any other part of the dogmatic tradition of the church is inherently an example of over-reaching.
Unfortunately, this is a philosophically troubling statement. Most epistemologists would want to be careful about what we consider “certain” and when talking about the supernatural, we are on intrinsically difficult ground. In the public sphere, certainty gets in the way of the greater virtue, humility.
Second, to talk of “authoritative readings” requires that there be, first, an “authority.” Alas, we have not decided who that authority will be. Nigerian bishops? Why? The Archbishop of Canterbury? I vote for the tallest bishop with the most guns or the most organized wife. Or the one who can “pop and lock” like Michael Jackson. Jesus - then by bishop - would be the most logical authority, but I don't think there is any agreement on what Jesus' orienting hermeneutic was [although I have my suspicions...]