6/20/2006

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

It is Tuesday morning, and General Convention moves into another day of legislative work. Most of the retired bishops who showed up to elect a Presiding Bishop have packed their bags and gone home. Bishops and Deputies are beginning to show the signs of fatigue. But the most difficult work of Convention stares us in the face today, tired or not.

This morning, following the Eucharist, opening prayers, odds and ends of legislative messages from the House of Bishops and such, we continue with the debate on A161, a wretched piece of legislation that not even its mother, the Special Committee, can love. The worse sort of patch job has been put together, with phrases such as, “Accordingly, we are obliged to urge nominating committees, … refrain from nomination…”

Worse, this resolution attaches to the previous resolution on elections of bishops a resolution on rites of blessing of same – sex unions. That one includes the ethical morass of recommending that there be no movement on authorizing Rites of Blessing, affirms the need to maintain a “breadth of response” to Lesbian and Gay folk (which is code for allowing “unofficial” blessings), and then turns around and says, “Resolved that this General Convention apologize to those gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their supporters hurt by these decisions.”

This is what might be known as preemptive apology. It works very well for those in power in our society and is closely related to the moral stance that suggests that justice must be delayed because the society is just not ready. Such suggestions are almost always accompanied by statements such as, “I know segregation makes for suffering, but if you can just suffer a little longer…” It is important to note that it is seldom the sufferer who holds up such arguments.

It echoes as well that other famous preemption in our days, the preemptive strike doctrine. Preemption requires the ability to take action against potential aggression by stepping in first and dealing a blow. It is often accompanied by saying, “sorry about all the dead bodies.”

Saying we are sorry about the suffering of others, but they have to suffer so that we avoid some terrible state of affairs is the worse sort of hypocrisy. There was considerable talk on the floor about the idea of suffering for the cause of unity, the church, the faith, etc. The Archbishop of York earlier in the week had raised the question as to whether the Episcopal Church (or its Gay and Lesbian members) was being called to bear the marks of Christ’s crucifixion, the print of the nails, etc, suggesting that perhaps we must suffer for a while until the Anglican Communion comes to consensus on the questions raised by Bishop Robinson’s consecration.

It is telling that the call for patient suffering is not from the Gay and Lesbian community in the Church and has been made by people seemingly uninterested in actually engaging Gay and Lesbian folk in the conversation. It is one thing to say, “you have to bear the suffering of a broken church.” It is quite another to ask, “What are your thoughts and feelings about bearing the suffering of a broken church?” and then being responsive to the answer. And of course, the old old commiserating statements get made. They all mostly say, “I feel your pain.” But commiseration is not the same as “being with”, not the same as incarnational presence.

If we ask Gay and Lesbian persons in the Church to stand down from their hopes and requests for blessing, perhaps we should stand down as well. If there is no salt for their bread, then there should be none for ours. Perhaps the moratorium of common suffering should be invoked: No blessings for them, no blessings for us.

Meanwhile, the House of Deputies will hack away at the matter, mostly without much light, I fear. Several scenarios are possible:

  1. We will worry this stuff to death. We will send something to the Bishops who will change it, send it back, where it will get revised again, and so forth. The clock will run out, and there will be no official response on Windsor from this Convention. If that happens, we will need our friends to help us get the word out that not coming to a conclusion is not like not caring. We have been asked to work on a difficult matter and time is not our friend.

  2. We will pass A161 and other resolutions with amendments, patch work rewrite, etc, in an effort to at least respond to the Windsor Report. We have already sent to the Bishops A160, on Expression of Regret. That might come out from them and be adopted without too much change. Others might follow. The realignment crowd has already expressed its disdain for most of the resolutions which fall short of their expectations.

  3. Someone will propose a substitute on A161 and other resolutions, probably from the realignment side, and these will be so stringent that they will be unacceptable to the House and go down in flames. Then the realignment folk can say, “see, they really don’t care.”

  4. The resolutions will continue to be so abhorrent to people on the right and on the left (for very different reasons) that they fail for want of a majority.

  5. The resolutions will be touted as the only compromise possible, the way forward to conversation, etc, and actually pass. The realignment crowd will interpret this as either a capitulation of the progressives or a lie. They will continue to threaten walk out, posture themselves at the real church in the church, and so on.

  6. There will be a breakthrough, one that requires suffering not only for the wrong, but for the right. So far the suggestion is that suffering is for delayed justice. Suppose suffering is for the cause of right? What might that look like? What if there is a strike?

Let the buyer beware. If the people of the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion see a load of resolutions coming, check to see if there are dead rats in the bottom of the barrel.

Well, I write with some sense of depression concerning the possibilities of a solution at this Convention. But I am not depressed about our work, nor about the outcome.

The election of Bishop Schori as Presiding Bishop is a sign that the Episcopal Church has the courage of its convictions. Perhaps that same courage will appear in the work of the two houses.

We have in some ways already spoken at Convention. We have indeed “exercised considerable caution” and have done what we believed to be right. The bishops elected Bishop Schori and the deputies consented, mindful of her being a woman but not overwhelmed by that fact, for my sense is she was neither elected because a woman or given consent because of her gender. But she was elected with great joy, for we knew very well that this was a new thing.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s message to Bishop Schori was a bit diplomatically distant. He sees her election as a problem, not a joy. So much for progressive thinking from Lambeth.

Back to the resolutions: I am impressed with the care given to the debate in the House of Deputies, particularly in the statements made by the Youth presence at General Convention. People on all sides of the arguments are doing their best to make their case, and their best is often remarkable. I am not sure it will be enough.

The Episcopal Church will need all the friends it can get in the days ahead. Friends who understand that the rough and tumble democratic process may not move as quickly or as well as imagined. No one can say we are not taking the Windsor Report seriously. Perhaps we have taken it too seriously. But we are doing what we said we would. We are faithfully and intellectually working away at responding to the Communion.

The most distressing news however, came from the Diocese of Fort Worth. They have appealed to the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury for “alternative primatial oversight,” whatever that means. The games have begun, and the fight will not be pretty.


Warren Zevon, who loved those cigarettes too much and died too soon, sang:

I'm the innocent bystander
But somehow I got stuck
Between a rock and a hard place
And I'm down on my luck

Now I'm hiding in Honduras
I'm a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns and money
The shit has hit the fan.”

Send lawyers, guns and money… It seems like sound advice.


14 comments:

  1. Mark,

    Thank you for your continuing comments. With everything going on, I often find myself speechless.

    A few thoughts though:
    1) Re: election of bishops, shouldn't we "exercise considerable caution" in all elections and ensure that if we don't elect a homosexual then neither do we elect Duncan/Iker types who would work against TEC?

    2) Re: a hold on same sex blessings, maybe we should hold off on all marriages until 2009. Although, admittedly, that is a much tougher sell than above.

    3)Re: Iker and "APO," is it possible to help him along with this and remove him from orders in TEC?

    Just some thoughts in my muddled head.

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  2. On what basis does he conclude that it's the liberals in the Communion who are being called to suffering and not the conservatives, I wonder?

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  3. I'm beginning to think that indeed ++Williams and others were right on one count: we don't understand communion. Now I would say neither does ++Williams et al or ways would have been found to insure the deepest level of communion both among the sister Churches of the AC and among lgbt Anglican Christians in the Windsor Report. Rather we who are lgbt are commended to be sacrificed and to like it as "we" figure out how "you" fit into "our" Church.

    I've said it before, this is the difference between pro-inclusion liberals and a Pauline understanding of the Body. If unity requires suffering, we all need bear the marks, not just lgbt Anglican Christians, otherwise we need to recognize that our unity requires marginalization in honest straightforward terms.

    The pro-inclusion liberal apology justifies a continuation of a softened marginalization, and that is a deep theological problem, for we cannot be saved by scapegoating and marginalizing and recommending others to crosses of our making. The deeply sado-masochistic tendencies in Christianity seem to emerge whenever its time to recommend a cross to someone else.

    General moratoria on consents and blessings (of marriages, unions, monastic vows) undo this dynamic which is the greater dynamic that needs be undone for us to live side by side/face to face (only then can full inclusion occur because it will not be in the hands of the powerful but in the hands of God).

    I wrote at Fr. Jake's place:

    The point is the marginalizing dynamic continues now just softened, and pro-inclusion liberals don't seem to get that that is at the deep heart of the problem, and it is a problem of theology and of failing to recognize that doing something that necessitates such an apology at all is a strain on communion with lgbt Anglican Christians.

    I suggest rather than an apology tacked on as a slap in the face that something that says that "We recognize also that in passing this resolution, that our communion with and our bonds of affection with lgbt Anglican Christians are also strained, [that our ability to provide respectful and dignified ritual and pastor care in the public manner we provide heterosexual Anglican Christians is impaired], and we ask forgiveness for not finding solutions that would seek to maintain the highest degree of communion with both our sister Churches and lgbt members of Christ's Body. [And given we as bishops, shepherds of Christ's flock, and priests, given to the care of souls, have consented to this legislation, we understand in the eyes of lgbt Anglican Christians that we have failed them pastorally, have bound even lgbt bishops and priests to impairment in ministering with lgbt Anglican Christians, and seek therefore to empower, to encourage, and to fund lay ministries to provide dignified and respectful ritual care worthy of the public celebration of their life passages and faithful responses to Christ in covenant relationships, the adoption of children, and the like.]

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  4. LizW-- I believe the point is that it is LGBTQ Anglicans who are being told to suffer for the sake of the Communion, not either liberals or conservatives. (In fact, it is liberals who are saying that LGBTQ folks need to suffer for the Communion, to wait -- conservatives would just as soon there weren't any LGBTQ Anglicans in the first place, since the sin of loving the same sex is apparently greater than the sins of pride, sloth, gluttony, etc.)

    I rather like Reverend Ref+'s idea that we should offer a moratorium on all consecrations, blessings, marriages, etc. until we reach clarity on how to discern who is or is not a "fit" recipient. (Though, of course, people could still legally marry and have a private blessing in their homes...*wry grin*)

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  5. I am troubled and saddened and bewildered by the use of a "preemptive" apology -- and I take it very, very personally. Your analogy is appropriate, Mark. A preemptive apology, such as the one tacked on to the A161, says, "We're sorry for all the above, but you'll just have to put up with it for now..." In the interest of WHAT?!? Unity?!? Ask any LGBT brother or sister how they feel about the so-called "bonds of affection." Bonds of affection from an Archbishop who once said we should have millstones placed around our necks?!?

    While yesterday I was elated -- and PROUD to be an Episcopalian -- if this resolution passes as is I will be profoundly disappointed...

    A country parson

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  6. Jim over at Daily Episcopalian makes it sound like there's about a 50/50 chance that A 161 will make it out of the House of Deputies. (12:36 pm EST) I haven't checked other sites for more current updates.

    This effort must feel like pulling teeth regardless of where one's hopes fall. I know as a diocesan convention deputy that the closer it gets to the end of the convention, the easier people find it to pass legislation they truly don't support. I pray this does not come to pass in Columbus.
    Peace,
    J

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  7. Thanks Mark, for your honest insight. I feel we are being called to "suffer", but not to this particular set of trials. Another way of describing what is being proposed, is "suffering" in the form of a period away from God and his call. A time when we will be deaf to the spirit. This is a senseless pain. We seek to know God's intentions for us, but are told to ignore this call and suffer accordingly. I can find nothing in scripture to defend this sort of suffering.

    I can eager embrace a different sort of suffering. One where we suffer *for* our participation in Christ. If our Bishops are denied the joy of Lambeth Palace, and forced to suffer at work in their own diocese, they will have my sympathy. If in our eagerness to live in Christ we find ourselves mocked and alone, we will stand in good company.

    There is a lot for us to do right here in the Episcopal Church; people wander in to our parishes looking for a connection to God, are we ready to instruct them? The faithful core is hard at work in the day-to-day business of worship and service. There are plenty of hungry to be fed, hungry in the literal and spiritual sense. If we concentrate ourselves on being the best church that we can, on doing the work of Christ daily in our various communities, regardless of the reaction of distant prelates, we can bear our suffering in joy and patience.

    Sooner or later either we will see our error, or they will see theirs, and we will have a joyful reunion. Until then we can suffer our own company for a while.

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  8. Seems a bit overwrought for a far-sight, Sir. Your predictive powers did not see that the "prgogressive" path would lead to the lonliness of the "point" position at best and the solitude of the totally lost at worst.

    You have the progressive agenda in full swing and need apologize to no one, of course. If it is the Spirit, it'll last and thrive on its own apart from the AC and the Romans and the Orthodox. But nothing like progress..........

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  9. To reverend ref+:

    Earlier today I posted the following on Ruth Gledhill's blog:

    Ruth:

    In North America, 'TEC' is a recognised abbreviation for a movement variously called 'Teens Encounter Christ' or 'Together Encountering Christ'. This is a very positive movement through which the Holy Spirit has worked in the lives of thousands of young people (for information about our Edmonton Diocesan TEC movement, see http://www.edmonton.anglican.org/tec/). It grieves me to see this acronym now being unilaterally expropriated by the Episcopal Church in the USA with no thought or consideration for a movement which has used it for decades. I'm not sure if you originated it, or if American Episcopalians did it themselves. Either way, as a Canadian Anglican who has been involved in the TEC movement, I would like to protest most strenuously about this.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Tim Chesterton
    http://timchesterton.blogspot.com

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  10. Well, I must say the Zevon lyrics brought a welcome and world-weary smile to my face. I got home from Convention yesterday, still high from the election of +Schori. But it didn't take long to bring me down, although I'm grateful that A161 was shot down (to continue with the guns analogy) twice in the House of Deputies today. But for heaven's sake, where do those Bishops think we are? They can't just make stuff up because they don't like what the deputies did. Can they?

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  11. Here are some thoughts building on work I did last summer and composed into a resolution last month by Caelius Spinator (Scroll down to June 1) and coupled with rev ref+'s thoughts.

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  12. "Perhaps the moratorium of common suffering should be invoked: No blessings for them, no blessings for us."

    Well, as you might guess, Mark+, I'm going to reply, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!"

    I'll even bump the post in question to the top for anyone you want to show it to.

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  13. Tim Chesterton:

    I did not mean to offend you or those associated with 'Teens Encounter Christ' or 'Together Encountering Christ' by referring to the Episcopal Church as TEC.

    However, the internet is full of acronyms for a variety of things and entities because people make an effort to cut down on their keystrokes. Such as: fwiw, imo, imho, iirc, btw, RCC, EO, EU, ECUSA, PECUSA, and yes, TEC.

    I seem to recall a discussion on this very blogsite about how to properly reference the Episcopal Church (although, it could have been somewhere else) that went something like this:

    The Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. (PECUSA) doesn't seem to fit, since we haven't been protesting anything since we won our indepence from Britain. The Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. (ECUSA) works better, but it ignores dioceses outside the boundaries of the United States, Columbia for example. Therefore, simply referring to it as the Episcopal Church (TEC) makes the most sense.

    And since almost everything we are talking about on this site has to do with the Episcopal Church and not 'Teens Encounter Christ' or 'Together Encountering Christ,' it is hard for me to believe that TEC would be misconstrued for another entity.

    Thank you, though, for bringing to our attention other groups that use the acronym TEC.

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