Some, including most “reasserters” — and even a few who in general support the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, but have gotten antsy about our place in “the Communion” — have reacted negatively to the posted slate of candidates for Bishop of California, because it includes two people whose “lifestyles” create a stumbling block to unity in the church — something bishops are supposed to “safeguard.” Some have gone so far as to suggest that these two candidates are only there because of their sexuality. Others have gone further and implied their presence is primarily to “thumb our nose” at “the Communion.” This strikes me as a very myopic view, or at best a cynical one. I’ve know Robert Taylor for years, from before he was ordained. His name has been circulated as a likely episcopal candidate long before even GC2003 — so his presence on the California slate is no calculated surprise move.
Let me be frank. It is certainly true that out gay and lesbian bishops are a stumbling block to some Anglicans. The election of another such bishop may indeed lead to some of the provinces of the Anglican Communion severing their ties with the Episcopal Church (how many in addition to those who have already done so remains to be seen.) That would be their choice. I do not believe “the Communion” is going to vote us off the island in this case, as I do not feel that a majority of provinces feel that strongly about the matter; and if I am mistaken, and they do, it will still be their choice to do so. It would not be the first time that a part of the Body has suffered exclusion because it did what it thought was right.
But as to stumbling blocks: The cross was a stumbling block to Jews and a folly to Greeks. Jesus’ “lifestyle” was a scandal (that is, a stumbling block) to his contemporaries, shocked and appalled as they were at his fellowship with sinners — eating with them, and even letting them touch him. This led to deep and serious divisions in the religious community of his day; only a small minority of whom came eventually to join his movement. So Jesus did not come to bring unity, at least not at first, and certainly not as expected — but division. There had to be, as Saint Paul said later (1 Cor 11:19), a certain amount of partisan division and factions (Paul used the word heresy) so that what was truly genuine might be made manifest.
For true unity does not emerge from compromise, but crucifixion. The grain of wheat does not grow unless it perishes. It is through the Paschal mystery, and only thus, that the unity of the church emerges and is preserved.
You may recall that “the last temptation of Christ” was to appease those who crucified him: to deny himself and his mission, to compromise and come down from the cross, and settle down in the acceptable lifestyle of a first-century Jewish male. He did not do so. He remained the scandalous stumbling block, the great division, the wound that healed the world. I am called to follow Christ, and proclaim the unity for which he died: not the cozy fellowship of our little Anglican tea-party, as nice as that is and as loath as I am to see it split — but the unity of all who bear the likeness of God in Christ — the unity which he purchased on the cross and which no human action, whether mine or the Diocese of California, or the Primate of Nigeria, or the Archbishop of Canterbury can in any way destroy. That is the only unity worth standing for, for it is the only unity that will endure the end of days and the gates of hell. The one who was the stumbling block gave us his word, and I, for one, trust him.
— Tobias S Haller BSG