9/21/2007

The Cost of Endurance.

Stephen Bates, well known author and reporter, is leaving his post as religious affairs correspondent for the The Guardian. He has posted his last article for them from New Orleans. It can be read HERE. Stephen can be an elegant writer, whose feelings about an issue come through and reveal a person with a great heart and a longing for justice done. I hope he will continue to write on a wide variety of social and religious issues.

Stephen is a Roman Catholic married to an evangelical protestant and has spent a good bit of his time trying to makes sense of the strange geography of Anglican-land. His book, A Church at War, is one that I consider required reading. He has done a great deal to make sense out of this strange world we live in.

Today at the news conference with Archbishop Williams, Stephen led off with this questions (gotten from Matt Kennedy's transcript of the news conference) :

" Bates: ABC, have you learned anything new that you did not know before about the TEC?

ABC: yes, I have a clearer understanding of the polity of TEC and some of the assumptions that the bishops of the TEC make about the Church and its polity. Some have spoken to me about the baptismal covenant, as it works here, its importance, and how the concepts they take from the covenant make it easier to come to conclusions here that others cannot come too world-wide.

Question: Why stay together?

ABC: It would be an admission of defeat if we were to break apart. It could happen but God forbid that we cannot work together through these issues. The need we have for each other is very deep. I think the churches elsewhere need the experiences of the older churches and the older churches need the younger churches. We are not yet at the point where we are ready to admit defeat."

(Matt did not indicate that someone else asked that question, so I assume it was still Stephen Bates.)

His question was, I suppose, also his own: "Have you learned anything new that you did not know about TEC?" My sense is that Stephen was continually interested in finding the new learnings, the new understandings that grew from difficult times in the church.

What he found was too often corrosive: "It is time to move on for me professionally, and probably for Anglicans too and this marks a suitable place to stop. There is also no doubting, personally, that writing this story has been too corrosive of what faith I had left: indeed watching the way the gay row has played out in the Anglican Communion has cost me my belief in the essential benignity of too many Christians. For the good of my soul, I need to do something else."

This same corrosive despair hits many of us at one time or another. Fr. Jake scrapped the whole thing for a while and took a rest. I have been found release at one time or another for a week or two and returned refreshed, but also saddened to see the level of unkindness, or perhaps meanness, in this so called Christian community. So for the good of the soul it is sometimes necessary to come up from underground and walk the streets of a better city.

We have not heard the last from Stephen Bates, and until we hear more we will be missing a voice of considerable compassion in a church community that has lacked a sufficiency of words well and kindly written.

5 comments:

  1. He will be missed, indeed.

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  2. "There is also no doubting, personally, that writing this story has been too corrosive of what faith I had left: indeed watching the way the gay row has played out in the Anglican Communion has cost me my belief in the essential benignity of too many Christians. For the good of my soul, I need to do something else."

    I wish that I knew more of his writings, and I wish more did as well. It seems that it was just two years ago that my son asked me if I had ever read anything on Stand Firm. I was clueless, and wish that I still were. I was happy with my knowledge of God, with my faith. I knew I didn't agree with everyone, and that was ok. God gave me a brain, right? I was floored by my first visit to SF. I was unaware.

    I wish I could take myself of everything right now, but I have a heartfelt need to support my son in seminary, as I am his only parent, and a Godly desire to stand firm for my many gay and lesbian friends. How in the world did Jesus' lessons lead us to this?

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  3. Counterlight22/9/07 9:54 AM

    I must admit that my deepest and most tortured love-hate relationship is with the Christian Faith. I have been so impressed by the great courage, grace, and generosity of many people since +Robinson's consecration, especially by those who may not be so directly affected and yet have willingly taken on so much sacrifice. I'm deeply impressed with the courage and grace of +Robinson himself and of his family. For me, these are the exemplary Christians, the ones who go out and live the Gospel and are the Shining Light.
    On the other hand, the malice that comes out in these conflicts never ceases to astonish me, and like Stephen Bates, corrodes my faith. All the sanctimony and the sophistry used to justify what is ultimately nothing more than basic bigotry is a scandal that everyone sees except the bigotted. And that so much of this malice is aimed directly at me and my kind makes me seriously question whether any sane self-posessed LGBT should ever consider Christianity with anything more than contempt.
    I have no idea what future I have with the Christian religion. There are so many who make me very ashamed to claim that title and who sadly dominate all the public discussion. They offend my deepest moral and ethical senses. Christianity is now so completely identified with homophobia, misogyny, and reaction in the minds of most outside the church door that I now identify myself as Episcopalian before I identify myself as Christian. And I may not have that title to claim anymore.
    I may find myself an exile once again; one of Our Lord's loyal agnostics. On the other hand, when was the Church NOT in some kind of civil war? As Montesquieu pointed out, no kingdom is more given to civil wars than that of the Prince of Peace. At least we are not murdering each other over doctrinal disputes as in times past. Perhaps Albert Schweitzer may have had a point when he said the decline in Christianity began the day after Pentecost. Somehow through 2000 years of Church history, frequently of outright bloody crime, Christ has been made manifest.
    Sorry to ramble, but these are the thoughts that have been on my mind for years now.

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  4. counterlight...thank you for this note. You honor us all by the depth of your comments here and on your blog. Sometimes I am afraid the Church will never get it and that Jesus would be appalled at what we did and do in his name.

    So, if it comes to it (although I hope it doesn't), scrap the church and stick with Jesus. In his company we may yet find life abundantly. I hope we are companions in that community now and always.

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  5. I will miss Bates' writing. Terribly.

    And this is one of his finest essays yet. It makes me wish he had been invited into the Bishops' meeting Friday instead of the various "advocates" for one side or the other.

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