April 22, 2010

Reactions and Intolerance

The Global South Bigwigs are hobnobbing in Bermuda, and reflecting on the state of the church and the world. In these reflections they make frequent direct and indirect reference to some of the difficulties plaguing their provinces, which they put down to the election and consecration of Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire, and the election and yet-to-be-accomplished consecration of Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles.

However, since none of these Bigwigs are required to consent to, tolerate, or even recognize either Robinson or Glasspool — and completely within their rights to forbid them the exercise of any ecclesiastical act within their borders whatsoever — one can only observe that any difficulties they experience are a direct result not of the American bishop and bishop-to-be, but of their own opposition to them.

The spring season's resurgence in the pollen count (exacerbated this year by early heavy rains) has put me in mind of an analogy. Pollen simply is. It serves a vital function in the propagation of many beautiful and essential plant species, as well as a few which, because of the inconvenience they cause to human beings, earn the label weeds. Some people are allergic to some of these pollens. The allergy lies entirely with them. They can take measures to avoid the pollen, and there are medications they can use to limit any eye, nose, or throat irritation they experience. They can rail at the pollen for this inconvenience and discomfort — but it is they who have the problem and they also who have the means to address it: which by no means includes ridding the world of pollen, much as they might like to do so.

In all this, I am suggesting that people need to take responsibility for their own negative feelings and reactions (and reactivity), and find positive ways to deal with them. For example, in places where news of these elections and consecrations has brought the local Anglican church into disrepute in the eyes of Muslims or Free-church Protestants, it is completely within the power of the local Anglicans to distance themselves from decisions taken halfway round the world, and of which they have every right to disapprove, and every right to ignore. (Whether this will mollify militant Muslims, or pacify petulant Protestants is another matter.)

But it makes no more sense to continue to blame the Episcopal Church, or especially to raise the spectre of colonialism or imperialism — as if the Episcopal Church were forcing these other provinces to accept its decisions — than it is for a lactose-intolerant person to blame lactose for her own intolerance of it. If it bothers you, don't drink it. No one is forcing you.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

10 comments:

Deacon Charlie Perrin said...

But carping raises soooo much more money.

"We need your help to combat the evil of [fill in the blank]. Your contribution will help in this fight for all that is good! (Make checks payable to..."

Tim said...

Splendidly put. Thank you.

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

I also truly think that the Global South bishops have no real concept of what a "Communion" is, as opposed to a "Church." In other words, they see us as all part of one unified church body that must be all on the same page. If you look at it from that perspective, then a part of THE Anglican Church has consecrated and will consecrate a homosexual person to the episcopate. They cannot conceive that just because WE have done so doesn't mean that they must recognize it. They could say "Oh, you know those decadent westerners. We may share a common beginning, but we don't believe what they do." But, since we're all in the same church, they think we're more linked than we are. Am I making any sense? It's the other edge of "I am because you are."

Marshall Scott said...

Actually, they're now in Singapore, where just today Bishop Mouneer Anis has described a new structure for Anglicans, focused primarily on the Global South/GAFCON/FOCA crowd. I appreciate his clarity and honesty, even if I regret the division he envisions.

seamus said...

I love this analogy,, from now on its all the fault of the pollen...

F. Harry Stowe said...

I thought that one part of being in the Anglican Communion was precisely recognizing each other ordinations (etc.) as valid for and to be honored in all areas. To be sure, some of this has come under attack with designating Ugandan bishops for the US and so on, but in uncomplicated cases like NH and LA it should still fly.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks for the thoughts and comments. I've been in a whirlwind of busyness the last two days, only having time to make a small correction (lawtose intolerance is not an allergy -- as I knew but misstated in the original post).

FHS, you are absolutely correct, and it is a problem. I had said as long ago as 1988, following Barbara Harris' election, that what Runcie called "impaired communion" was a reality -- though also in the same league as "partial virginity"! My point at the time was that in ecumenical discussion it is the "mutual recognition of ministers" that always seems to be among the defining issues -- and that by ceasing to "recognize" certain ministers we were indeed becoming separated. My suggestion here is that there is a difference between WO, where the ordination was denied, and Bp Robinson, where it is dissuaded. As someone said recently, it is the difference between "isn't" and "oughtn't" that is at stake. Uganda is still free not to permit +Gene to function even while allowing that he is, but in their mind ought not be, a bishop. So WO is actually (or in theory should be) more communion-dividing than a gay bishop; and certainly more than the issue of blessings, which has nothing to do with church polity.

Jarred said...

But blaming all your problems on someone else is easier than actually trying to find solutions for them.

Unfortunately, far too many people seem to live by that philosophy these days, too.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Tobias, around and about in the blogosphere, I've seen analogies which cast the Episcopal Church in the role of the abused spouse. At times, I have thought, "Yes. These words are abusive," but I don't know that spouse/marriage is the proper analogy, because the abusive language comes from more than one direction. Your thoughts?

KJ said...

It all seems very simple.

Tobias and others, are you aware of efforts by the/a church or para-church organization to provide assistance and ministry to lgbt individuals in Africa? I am aware of Integrity's cooperation with +Christopher in Uganda, and wondering if there are other such efforts to fill the vacuum created by the churches' big step back. To respect provincial borders at the cost of these individuals fills me with a sense of shame, and to defer to Amnesty International, as in the case of Steven and Tiwonge in Malawi, embarrassment.