March 3, 2006

California Dreamin’

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


9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tobias,

While I'd much rather be around the altar with you and any of the candidates for Bishop of California than Peter Akinola, I'd rather also that we acted as IF we cared about the non-North American provinces. Tobias, we don't act that way, I'm sorry.

You and I were at General at the same time. When there, many of our friends returned from Lambeth '98. I have never heard such anger and vitriol coming from a group of formerly "liberal" minded folks. The sense I got was that the Global South were ignorant, harsh and probably bribed by Americans.

This -- Tobias -- is not the response of a sensitive and open-minded soul to a Global South who simply thinks differently than liberal Western people do. It really does smack of elitism. The actions in California smack of elitism too -- in that they really don't seem to care what others think. This whole thing is not merely a power-play as some would have us believe -- it is possible for people in Christ to passionately disagree. It is possible for them to remain at the table with each other -- but only if they appear to want to. If they occasionally do not act in such a way that will cause the other to stumble.

There really is a strong parallel between the ecclesiogical unilateralism of North American Episcopalian progressives and the political unilateralism of the Bush administration. Sorry that hurts, but that's what it looks like to me.

Greg Jones

Douglas Hayes said...

Forgive me for butting in, Greg, but why is it that when "liberals" behave like anything other than waffling doormats, some people get all shocked? Being liberal doesn't mean that sensitivity and open-mindedness are virtues or ends in and of themselves. There are things that simply shouldn't be tolerated. We all remember the things that some of the African and Asian bishops were saying about gay people at Lambeth 1998; I also recall that one of the Nigerian bishops attempted to exorcise the "gay demons" out of one of the LGCM (Britain's Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement) members who was there. In the face of such rhetoric and actions (which are still taking place), what decent person wouldn't be outraged?

And your comparison of North American Anglican progressive to the Bush Administration simply doesn't fly, either. Yes, both groups are acting unilaterally -- but to what end? The latter is seeking imperial domination, and the former is acting to proclaim Christ's restorative and healing love to all people. I simply can't see how any parallel can be drawn between the two. I wish that unity could be maintained, but the continued selling out of LGBT people is too high a price to pay for it.

Also, remember this: they're the ones threatening to walk apart from us, not we from them.

Tobias said...

Hi Greg,

Thanks for the additional comment. Although you and I did overlap at GTS, I was actually gone by the time of Lambeth '98 and its aftermath. However, I do have a few reactions to some of what you observed.

First there has to be some "truth-checking." You say "it is possible to remain at the table with each other." The fact of the matter is that a number of the "conservative" leaders, in the US and in other parts of the world, have already made it abundantly clear that they do not wish to do so. They have refused to share in the Holy Eucharist with anyone who supported the actions of GC2003. I know of no "liberal" who has said or done anything like this. Conservative leaders in the US, to say nothing of the rest of the world, have been celebrating separate liturgies at General Convention and elsewhere for some years now. There was an occasion not too many years ago when the Executive Council met in one of the Texan dioceses, and the Bishop did not allow the PB to celebrate the eucharist: they had the daily office instead. The rupture in table fellowship rests entirely, as far as I can see, on the side of the conservatives.

Second, it is simply a matter of fact that some (by no means all) of the Global South leaders are ignorant and harsh. This is not to question their faith, but their knowledge and their attitude. It is a documented fact (you can listen to the audio if you like) that at Lambeth one of the conservative bishops attempted an on the spot exorcism of a leading gay cleric. Nigerian church leaders, among others, are vociferous in claiming, even this past weekend, that homosexuality is "unAfrican" --- so they are, strictly speaking, ignorant of it, and have made it clear, to get back to "tables" as Archbishop Akinola has stated, "I will not sit at the same table" with a homosexual. Even leading English conservatives such as Andrew Carey have made it clear that the current church support for the Nigerian criminalization of homosexuality is reprehensible.

As to bribery: it is also well documented that many of the leaders of the Global South, prior to Lambeth 1998, announced that "homosexuality is not our issue." (Ten years before, some of them had also denied that AIDS was an issue in Africa -- with tragic consequenses). Yet somehow sexuality became a dominant, if not the dominant, issue. Like it or not, people I have no reason to disbelieve report that they saw definite "cultivation" taking place -- similar to what one sees at trade shows and legislative lobbies -- on the part of alliances formed between American and Global South conservatives. Bribery may be too strong a word; but influence peddling has certainly taken place.

I utterly reject the parallel between the consent to the election of Gene Robinson and the invasion of Iraq. No one anywhere else in the world if forced to have anything to do with Gene Robinson if they don't want to.

It is true that over the last year I've heard a few "liberals" start to say, let's get this over with and split. I certainly see a split coming, as apparently, to judge from an interview yesterday, does +Rowan: he refers to a rupture that will take years to heal. I think this is likely at this point, not due to American actions, but to others' reactions. It is they who are unable to stay with us in spite of their disagreement over what we have done. For us to stop doing what we believe to be right is not comprehension; it isn't even compromise. It is appeasement.

Anonymous said...

Tobias and Doug,

Well -- I guess your responses say it all. Since I know and love you both, I hear you. It also looks like at the end of the day -- next year? -- the three of us at least will still be in the same Church. In a few years -- at least one of you -- (Doug what are you up to?) -- could be my bishop someday. And I would rejoice. But, allow me if you don't mind to grieve for the loss of so many other brothers and sisters who won't be at the table anymore. And forgive me if I don't think it was all their doing, their ignorance, their harshness, or their gullibility.

But, anyhoo, what are you up to Doug?

You can easily find me by googling me Doug -- or www.holymichael.org

Tobias said...

Greg,
Please understand I don't mean to put all of the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of those who want to leave: they have their reasons to be upset. It would be just as wrong to for me to blame them for "unilateralism" as to blame us. There is fault on both sides; the problem is that people who want to walk away, who want to break communion, have to take responsibility for their actions.

I've used the analogy of marriage elsewhere: divorce is easier than reconciliation. +Rowan wants us to keep working at reconciliation; even if that fails he would rather we stay together "for the sake of the children" so to speak, even if it means separate bedrooms.

Douglas Hayes said...

Greg,

You never know who's going to pop up where, do you? Expect e-mail in the very near future.

Topic, you say? You might find the following article interesting à propos our discussion:

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3818/is_200510/ai_n15745241

God bless.

J.C. Fisher said...

[Hey guys: wasn't at General, not a priest, won't be anybody's bishop! ;-p]

I do believe (I think w/ Greg), that too much is made of the "African-ness" or "Global South-ness" of some of our opponents. Almost as if "if the Global South walks apart, it's only the Global South" (while the supposedly "real-er" North stays together).

The point of our brothers and sisters breaking w/ TEC---whomever they are---is real and painful enough. The "Unity of the North" isn't some kind of consolation prize. :-(

That said, WHOMEVER walks apart from us---be they from Nigeria, or Southern Cone, or Pittsburgh, or London---chooses to walk apart: that's not a guilt-burden TEC need bear (we have our own, thank you! While of course TEC doesn't support BushCo's War on Iraq, the question still MUST be raised, of whether we're doing enough to oppose it. A safe tsk-tsk'ing, or taking actions which might get us nice middle-class white Episcopalians shipped to Gitmo? :-/)

Greg: for those "friends returned from Lambeth '98. I have never heard such anger and vitriol coming from a group of formerly "liberal" minded folks. The sense I got was that the Global South were ignorant, harsh and probably bribed by Americans.": I trust they were MORE angry at the bribers, than the bribed?

Anonymous said...

Tobias, Doug, J.C., et. al.,

I love the analogy of divorce vs. staying in the marriage, etc. I spoke just yesterday with a clericus in our diocese, and I heard very much expressed the sense that it is "generally better to get divorced than to stay together." I beg pardon if I'm wrong, but I feel like we suffer in this life from too much divorce and too little trying to stay together. I thought reconciliation was the point. That said, I don't believe the hard-right Angricans are acting conciliatory in any way. The Sudanese have made an interesting move, however -- as have the Central Americans in their Panama statement. As to my comments regarding Lambeth 98 -- your responses affirm my sense. Many do believe the GS bishops to be ignorant, harsh or bribed. To which I would counter that they may be harsh -- but I strongly doubt they're ignorant or bribed.

drdanfee said...

Our questions of Anglican Communion divorce vs. staying together really hinge on what we think we are doing at our best in either case.

If staying together means continuing to press the new conservative campaign issues (Control, Conformity, Domination) then this means staying together in the worldwide equivalent of an abusive marriage. Yeah, the LGBTQ kid is getting hit right now, but believe you me, others may be next in line, up to and including whole provinces. The family authorities, self-proclaimed, do not wish us in future to attend any classes, read any science or critical humanities, or generally think and speak in any manner which is not already predetermined ahead of time according to the new power alignment we are adopting to defend the family Status Quo.

Can educated people really be this frightened of LGBTQ people? Yes, Virgina, I am afraid it is so in lots of places, worldwide. Neither archbishops nor lots of other believers can yet see clearly into the violent origins, and the violent implications of their very own legacies of majority heterosexual privileges. Let alone discern that their theories of those privileges are flat earth theories, doomed to pass into history unless force is used to maintain these inferiorities, these subjections to your superiors.

If saying together means being able to empathize with one another, even though we still disagree about some things; being able to affirm some other things which we cherish and hold in common; being able to cooperate in common world sevice; being able to avail ourselves of helpful outside assistance to work through our differences and come to terms with them - then we can stay together with hope. Then staying together is a blessing.

Although Rowan Williams at one point said he thought the church was sort of in marriage counseling - he himself has not been the helpful counselor, offering us a mix of bystanding (which to some extent helpfully resists triangulation with the conflicted family parties) together with covertly seeming to be more comfortable with one side over any of the others (which indeed does covertly triangle him right back in). No matter how many LGBTQ friends Rowan may think he has, his behavior and comments suggest he is much more comfortable being among his traditional straight friends. He thought once he could go somewhere else, if you read his prior publications, but apparently not after all. He is still way too comfortable with his own legacies of heterosexual privilege, not to keep belonging to all the clubs in which his theories of his own high status also serve to define those inferior people.

Who in the Anglican leadership or in the local pew can accurately discern the distinctions between granting LGBTQ people a dependent leeway which still keeps a master's grip on the leeway that a slave is given, and the leeway granted equally among all of us - to meet Jesus, follow, and grow in quite diverse alternative manners?

If the Windsor Report was supposed to be the marriage counseling, it came out so mixed and befuddled that its helpfulness is compromised. Who really believes the Windsor gloss on how mutual and easeful the ordination of women was, worldwide? If a church report cannot adequately discern the church's tensions and conflicts and hopes in regard to the equality and worth of women, how can it possibly discern the church's tensions and conflicts and hopes in connection with the equality and worth of LGBTQ people?

Good counselors facilitate hard work through the conflicts, even encouraging us to agree to disagree while we affirm other areas in our relationship where we do not disagree; not smoothly glossing over the difficulties that bring us to marriage counseling in the first place.

Alas. Leaving is that much more difficult, and maybe that much more inevitable, the more that you actually love the batterer involved.
The more that you actually love the other people who will be affected beyond yourselves.

The more we listen to the loudest and most assured of the several new conservative Anglican voices which define LGBTQ folks as inferiors, the less interested they say they are in acknowledging us as partners who have any good reasons to think alternatively.

Forget marriage for a minute.

That sort of stance would tear asunder business partners, and even erstwhile school mates or work mates.

Given what is happening about LGBTQ folks in Nigeria, and elsewhere - even in countries which consider their policies and laws to be respectful (see the Amnesty International report on police violence against LGBTQ citizens in good old USA) - the stated analogies with domestic abuse and battering that happen according to your own LGBTQ inferiorities inside the Anglican family are not idle talk. Too many churches take a brief look at the violence, mutter something pat about how remarkably awkward antigay violence is, and quickly move on down the road, reminding themselves that if LGBTQ folks didn't speak up in the first place, they wouldn't have been hurt - probably?

If you cannot find support and help in the church, or the government, or the school, or the workplace, or the adopted or biological family - to stop the violence, then where do you find that help?

Being a poor citizen who gets fined in a poor country is no joke. Spending that extra money to pay off the courts or the police can put you at undue risk of other losses. Being lashed is no joke. Being imprisoned is no joke. Being maimed or killed is no joke.

Because being gay or lesbian or trans is human is no joke.

Lord have mercy.