Nottingham

I’ve been asked what I think about the Anglican Consultative Council’s decision to suspend the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada until the next Lambeth Meeting (gathering of bishops) in 2008. There’s not much for me to say, because things played out pretty much as I’d have anticipated. I was surprised, in fact, that the vote to suspend was as close as it turned out to be.

The Episcopal Church compiled a respectable case for its having reflected long and diligently about topics pertaining to sexuality. I’d have wished it a little more thorough, with some different points of emphasis, but my colleagues did a strong job of making a case for the Episcopal Church’s stand. At the same time, a large part of that good case involved demonstrating that the Episcopal Church has been arguing (internally) about sexuality for forty years, while the consistent point of the Windsor Report and the Primates (and now the ACC) has been that the Episcopal Church has made decisions that affect other provinces without the consultation and shared deliberation that might render such decisions intelligible to those others. Sure, we’ve been talking to ourselves for forty years, but we haven’t been taking sufficient part in inter-provincial theological reasoning. Our strong report doesn’t really affect that claim, and indeed the more forceful a case we make that we’ve really worked on this a long time and resolved many of the glitches, the less excusable our relative reticence in global discussion.

Did we try? I don’t know — but as we constantly ask other provinces to listen to us, to the voices of the lesbian and gay sisters and brothers whose lives and ministries we uphold, we owe it to all concerned also to listen to our unconvinced sisters and brothers around the world who firmly maintain that we haven’t listened well enough to them.

It looks to me as though the Consultative Council reluctantly made a decision that the Episcopal Church can’t get along by being brash or headstrong — even if it may be right. I do not estimate that Lambeth 2008 will be markedly more favorably disposed toward tolerating the North American churches’ decisions regarding sexuality. We have three years to find out, however, and to figure out what it’ll mean if the Lambeth bishops finalize what the Windsor Report, the Primates, and the Consultative Council have begun.

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3 Responses to Nottingham

  1. *Christopher says:

    In general I’m not surprised either. I do think we can say the same thing for the brash and headstrong way the Lambeth 1998 statement on homosexuality was pushed through–if that was an example of the type of listening us gay folk are going to get, we might as well move on now. It seems we lose sight of history so quickly; Lambeth 1998 was not deliberative and thoughtful but brash and rather nasty. I’ve seen little since that convinces me that another tone has been struck.

  2. Emily says:

    Perhaps the American church has fallen into the trap of assuming that a conversation among ourselves has really been had in the whole world, kind of like the “World Series” or the NBA “World Championship.”

  3. Daniel USA says:

    Yes, I continue to feel quite torn as a flaming liberal queer follower of Jesus of Nazareth.

    I really do need to follow out the positive implications of stepping outside of the traditional, negative orthodox Christian frameworks for queer personhood, relationships, and living. All of these point into dead ends for me.

    I sort of feel that I fell through the invisible quantum holes in the Bible Belt theology of queers which continues to be the orthodox one, and then discerned that I had fallen right into the welcoming arms of the liberal Jesus who is so frequently doubted and despised by the faithful orthodox camps.

    I can no more return to the dungeons in which traditional theology confines me than I can change any other given in my life to fit with conservative majority heterosexual expectations.

    So we come to the other arm of the dilemma, which is that I also dislike being an object of circular controversy that gets used to tar and feather the human sciences, human rights, freedom of conscience, critical inquiry, and a lot of modern things which I see as blessings and improvements in our overall global situation.

    I am after all only a small statistical minority person, and it seems silly that this much effort has to go into changing the dominant ideologies so that I get to be an equal citizen just like everybody else.

    I don’t get up in the morning, thinking, Let’s see what outrageous queer claim can I make today to really upset Kendall Harmon or David Anderson or any of the other people who claim to be the last surviving real Christians on the face of the earth.

    I am also genuinely puzzled about how best to respond to their deep convictions that I would be so much a better person if I were just like them. First off, I hope they are indeed happier than I perceive conservative believers to be. I haven’t seem anything, anything at all, in conservative Christian living that seems truly wholesome and satisfying to me, just on the daily human level.

    Behind all the godly individual and communal church religious satsifaction in what looks like heterosexual alpha male intactness, including the reflected feminine glories of being the wife of an alpha male Christian, lurks the grinning vulnerabilities of how entirely easy it is to contaminate or compromise pure masculinity and pure femininity. Behind all the gleaming evangelical material wealth and achievement is the systemic deprivations of somebody else who doesn’t get to own such marvelous stuff. Behind all personal witness Christian witness is the haunting demon of institutional conformity and the hungry maw that institutionally feeds and thrives on abuses of power.

    There was entirely too much secret daily suffering among all the Bible Belt believers I knew growing up; too much restricted and unlived life, behind all the tight smiles and upbeat, up with Jesus mania. I suppose that part of the fuel that burned for me in coming out was the almost preverbally prehensile impression I got from church and community in childhood and youth that the deep truth of all human life was always sad, a necessary confession of filth and sin, more fearful of change than of dying.

    Coming out for me was a huge gamble that telling the truth might lead to a better path, and so it has been, without transforming me into anything other than a fallible human who has to make mistakes, see them, and learn to correct them for the better.

    My commitment to inquiry above all is not so much a statement about God as it is a faith statement about human nature, in which it is better to learn than to burn in prejudice, especially when it comes to burning my neighbor at the stake.

    I live my entire spiritual life between the two poles, with Saint John asking me, How can I love God whom I have not seen if I have not loved my neighbor whom I have seen. And Jesus of Nazareth telling me, I have many things to say to you which you cannot bear now.

    If this makes me unwelcome in the churches, so be it. Jesus and God are also alive and at work in the world at large, and I have had my bags packed for quite some time, to willingly depart if the experiment called ECUSA/Canada fails to persuade. As societies in different countries grow more decent and fair in their approaches to gay citizens, I sometimes think that following Jesus outside the church’s ignorance will just have to be my fate for the time being.

    God speed to all, then, and I will be pleased to take with me (should queers be shown the nearest exit, by the Instruments of Unity in 2008) a great legacy of riches for positive queer living, which I do realize was never predicted and is not supposed to really exist.

    I am just too busy with the challenge and the daily adventure of how to live positively to give a final or complete account of how such a thing could have come to be, when nobody among all the long centuries of saints and believers predicted it would happen. All I can say for certain is to bear witness to things that, for me, opened doors and windows of alternative thinking and living. It seems better to me to embark on this pilgrimage of coming out and living positively, than to sit demeaned and deprived and immobilized in the cryonic, dark jars of ascetic conservation to which traditional Christian theology has long confined queers.

    One thing that gets no mention among the conservative posters, now or in the past, is how they are part of the very core, deep source from which we queer believers have arisen. How many devoted queer religious folks were raised in the Bible Belt churches? More than a few, I think we can safely say. Whose sons and daughters are we? Why, theirs. Who lived us into being? Why, they did. What example impressed upon us the continuing value of telling the truth? Why their example, until we told them the truth about being queer, and they threw righteous fits and asked us to leave. Why do we persist in positive gay living? Because they taught us growing up that Christians relate through centers of value.

    I certainly cannot stop living positively, just because a zillion people with negative views of me have a zillion different questions, mostly stemming from the fact that I don’t live negatively according to those views.

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