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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.