6/07/2008

Maybe it's because it is the Sabbath.


Maybe it is because it is the Sabbath. Maybe it's the fact that we are almost at Summer. Who knows? A sudden onrush of humbling and humble comments from people across the various divides makes me almost believe we could learn something from all this mess in Anglican Land.

I just posted a piece, "Stay Awake, Pittsburgh Stealers continue to plan." Then of course I went to Dan Martins' site and read his post, "Pittsburgh lines up its ducks" in which he says this:
"tonight my energy is directed toward the predictable chorus of"Thieves! Scoundrels! Neo-Puritan bigots! Homophobes! Hypocrites!" that will no doubt be sung in the direction of the departing Pittsburghers. ...I, for one, would find it refreshing if a critical mass of Reappraisers were overheard to be asking themselves, "Hey, what the heck is going on here? Two whole (more or less) dioceses have left, with at least one more to follow. Hundreds of parishes are gone as well, including some of our largest. Anglicanism itself is falling apart at the seams. How did we not see this coming?" Well, Dan, you got me! I do think the realignment folk in Pittsburgh are lining things up to take it all with them (whatever "it" is.) But your point is well taken and the barb sticks. To be honest, I did see some of this coming and wrote a book about it in 1998, just before Lambeth. In the Challenge of Change I wrote that I believed the Anglican Communion was organic and that, as with all organic things, it will one day die. When that happens we can only hope that Christians will look back and see what we did as of some benefit to the Christian community of that future. But I did not see the prophetic Dan who would know I would be among the predictable chorus. Ah well.

Then BabyBlue wrote a note to that blog entry. You can read it HERE: She asks, "And what of charity for all, malice toward none? What if we all just agree to separate for a period?" Again, in the midst of all the mutterings, a gentle reality check. Early on in the development of the Covenant idea the Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb, one of our two representatives on that group, suggested to the bishops that perhaps we ought to consider a time out. She said, "I suggest that we enter a five-year period of fasting from full participation in the Anglican Communion to give us all time to think and to listen more carefully to one another. I think we should engage in prayerful non-participation in global meetings (in Lambeth, in the Anglican Consultative Council, in other Communion committee meetings) or, if invited to do so, send observers who could comment, if asked, on the matter under discussion. We should continue on the local level to send money and people wherever they are wanted. (This is not about taking our marbles and going home.) We need to remain wholly engaged in the mission of the church, as closely tied as we are allowed to the See of Canterbury and to the Anglican Communion as a whole. But we should absent ourselves from positions of leadership, stepping out of the room, so that the discussions of the Anglican Communion about itself can go on without spending any more time on our situation which has preoccupied it."

This past week I was with a good friend and suggested the same. Now this is not exactly what BabyBlue was asking for, but at least the idea that the Episcopal Church might "fast from full participation" was working at something of the same hope - that we might "step out of the room." Perhaps across the great divide we can do more than Dave Walker suggests, politely chuck used vegetables and rotten eggs at one another.


I do not believe BabyBlue's remedy is the answer, but there may be some other possibilities. More importantly, her remark triggers a conversation that we ought to take to heart. Are there ways to admit the separations and live with them for a while?

Well, such matters strike and produce just a smidgen of humility. Perhaps Dan and BabyBlue are on to something. We all need to think more on just why the mess is as messy as it is and on what we can do about it that includes stepping back from throwing old veggies.

I can't say I will not throw them again, but perhaps they will be less wilted than some and contain more editable content.

Then, in the world of shared grief, Susan Russell offered her thoughts on a friend, Harvey beloved dog. Suddenly from various parts of the canyon and across the divide came dog laments and loves. The Mad Priest sent condolences,proving MP is a gentle soul. Stand Firm's Sarah Hey in symbiotic splendor posted on the same day as Susan a poem for a fallen dog. (Coincidence? I don't think so.) Susan, the very personal note resonated with many of us. Thank you for posting it.

On Tuesday, talking to a good friend, and holding our long haired dachshund Sarah in my lap, I confessed that I was saddened when I thought I would probably live longer than Sarah. The good friend, in gruff response, said, "Don't bet on it."

I wrote a poem concerning Sarah. Here it is:

Sarah loves me,
this I know,
for her eyes,
they tell me so,

but diverted she will be
by other dogs
who more than me
are gods:

who passing by
get more attention
undeserved, but gained
by mastery of
dog-carnation.

Sarah loves me,
but adores the dogs of God.


Sarah and Harvey and St. Laika and Chester will all gather, and perhaps the issue for all of us across the divides in Anglican Land is this: Will our dogs much care how we did in all this when we meet them again?


So, maybe it is because it is the Sabbath. A day of rest, a day of glory. The gift of grace is here and is enough. One day there will be a highway in the wilderness that will bridge our divides. Until then it helps to have friends who provoke rethinking, who remember their dogs and who learn from them what it is to be home.


17 comments:

  1. Perhaps, when we learn that it isn't about us,
    it isn't about being right
    it isn't about being better, smarter, or more enlightened.
    It isn't about what happens after we die,
    it isn't about tomorrow or yesterday
    it isn't about our power to change, or be changed
    it isn't about our ability to teach, or to learn
    it isn't about rules, or laws, or tough love
    it isn't about who we are, where we were born
    it isn't about so much of what we fuss over

    When we let ourselves be free, be born again free in the the Gospel that was brought to us by Jesus
    When we let ourselves be free to deal with each situation, person, event as it comes
    Free to see God in all of creation, and act accordingly, lovingly.
    then we will know that grace is indeed enough, and the highway in the wilderness will be revealed and the sabbath will be every day

    ReplyDelete
  2. I very much recommend to everyone who might not have seen it Garret Keizer's expansive and thoughtful article in the June issue of Harper's. I find myself agreeing with him more and more that we all need to go home and find some people to feed--probably won't have to look very far... Wherever the folk of Pittsburgh and their wound-driven bishop are headed, Jesus loves them, and would offer them the same bread He offers me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I second Anon's recommendation of Garret Keizer's article.
    It is NOT non-partisan and does not pretend to be, but it is scrupulously fair. Among the people who come across with extraordinary grace and courage in the essay are Bishop Robinson, Archbishop Orombi of Uganda, and Davis Maciyalla.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Out here in the Diocese of San Joaquin, we have been through some serious conflicts, each side believing we are in the right. And we each took our stand and held our positions, and to what avail? It is understating the matter to say that a lot has been lost and a lot of hurt has been done, and there is collateral damage all around.

    I really wonder about the need to continue lobbing tomatoes and rotten eggs. I still love the Episcopal Church, love the liturgy, love the values love the committment to social justice and inclusive love, and can do nothing else but support the presence of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of San Joaquin. But I have no heart anymore for the conflicts. There's been enough tearing down; it;s time to build again.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mark,

    You are too kind to folks who have demonized TEC. You are too kind to folks who are openly working to destroy the Communion of this Church. You are too kind to folks who are not being kind in return--who will not offer the same openness they demand to those who differ with them.

    Is there a name for a minority population who refuses to open a door to allow another minority room at the table? And then yell and scream that they are being hurt when asked to make room?

    They can leave. I don't want them to--I pray to find room for us all. But I don't think that is what they want at all, and I think their actions speak volumes.

    You are being too nice Mark. Even Jesus chased the money-changers out of the Temple and never acquiesed to the Pharisees.

    Am I being too grumpy? --Sorry, I am tired of godly people I love and serve and who serve this world in Christ Name being demonized, castigated, condemned and spoken about like they weren't even in the room.

    --margaret

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was talking to a friend of mine in the parish who at various times has visited a new mission congregation of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. It's the first Orthodox congregation in Iowa City. There are Antiochian and Greek parishes in Cedar Rapids (25 miles north). My friend says that the Syrian and Greek congregations and the Iowa City mission have a number of shared activities including worship (Lenten programs, etc.). He also says that the Antiochian mission not only has a number of Lebanese or Syrian families but also some Greek and Russian families. (The OCA has started a mission church in Pella, Iowa -- a stronghold of the Dutch Reformed traditions, both RCA and CRC. Good for the Russians!) All these Orthodox congregations have different bishops. They seem to deal with duplicate (triplicate, etc.) episcopal jurisdictions without much trouble -- they're all in communion with Constantinople. Granted, there are no significant theological differences between them -- it's mostly a matter of ethnicity -- but it does suggest that perhaps we should all consider getting over ourselves and getting on with the work of the Gospel. But OCICBW....

    Bill

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yes margaret, you are right. He never capitulated to the Pharisees, and He certainly drove out the money changers. But He also called sin a sin and reminded us that if We love Him we will keep all His instruction. Those who have stayed in dialogue for the past decade have asked for some shred of a cogent argument as to how our understanding of sexual immorality has changed. To this point, nobody has produced the kind of serious scholarship a la our re-examination of the role of women and of slavery. I know, lots has been written, but even the ABC chastised our efforts in "To set our hope on Christ."
    And, as others have noted, the exclusion has gone both ways. Those who call the Episcopal church to account for its innovation (dare I say dialogue) are often demonized as homophobes and eventually driven out of this same church you want to claim is so inclusive.
    FWIW, Mark, I have to third (since counterlight seconded) Keizer's article. Far too many on both sides are so agenda driven or determined to define themselves by what they are not that they have forgotten what it means to be His disciple. Keizer's writing is certainly a good reminder of that!

    Peace,
    JB

    ReplyDelete
  9. JB,

    First, since you ask for convincing evidence, you must convince me and others that 1)being woman is such a state of being fully human that it prevents full participation in the Body of Christ. We cannot have a full Christological realization until the fullness of the incarnation is embodied--and that includes all varieties and expressions of being human. --and 2)convince me and others that homosexuality is a sin. How is loving and fulfilling sex between two persons any more or less sin-full than loving and fulfilling sex between two other persons? --or that sex is only for the production of children? Where is the beginning of your presuppositions?

    And for every line you pull out of the Bible telling women to sit down, shut up and cover their heads, and for every line you pull out of the Bible telling us all that homosexuality is a sin, I will show you lines in the Bible to controvert them --lines saying that, yes--speaking with irony and anger, it is better to offer your daughters to rapists rather than visiting male guests, and then in reverent seriousness that David and Jonathan really truly loved one another, and that the Song of Songs is really a collection of harem songs where women danced for and with one another with joy.

    But of course, I am one of those who believe that we should pray for the military, the rich and powerful every Sunday, because the peacemakers, the poor and the meek shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. But that's just me....

    --margaret

    ReplyDelete
  10. JB, we just don't think people have been listening very carefully.

    There simply isn't any condemnation of lesbianism in the Bible; Augustine didn't think so, and neither did Clement of Alexandria. They took the one very vague verse that's ever been assumed to be referring to lesbianism as referring to something quite different.

    So I'd really like for somebody to tell me why all the passages allegedly condemning the so-called "sin of homosexuality" don't ever refer to women, but only, specifically, to men? Why should these passages concern me at all, since I'm not a man? Why, IOW, should I turn my life upside-down because of a "prohibition" that doesn't exist?

    And then, while you're at it, consider why love and support between gay partners should be condemned at all. Whom does it hurt - and why would you demand that people committed to one another break these promises in order to become part of the Church? Why, IOW, do two entirely different standards obtain - one for heterosexuals, who are supposed to be faithful to their partners, and one for homosexuals, who are forbidden to be faithful to their partners?

    IOW, on what basis - other than what we believe to be flawed readings of Scripture - can a claim of "sexual immorality" be made? What is the reason for believing this? If it's only because of what you believe is said in Scripture - well, I've pointed out at least one way this belief is flawed. Perhaps the entire understanding of this topic is flawed? It certainly wouldn't be the first time such a thing had happened.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Margaret:

    It is simply wrong of you and quite uncharitable to assume that because I think that homosexual activity is a sin that I would believe being female is somehow a sin or somehow limits a female's participation in the body of Christ. No one has ever heard me say or write that women cannot be priests or bishops or anything less than the glorious daughters of our Father in heaven. While I understand my brothers and sisters who argue from Scripture that Jesus' selection of men as His Twelve indicates that males only are capable of being bishops, I am not so persuaded. The Bible, if anything, promotes the idea that we were all created in the image of God, male and female. Plus, when one considers that women are given the first apostolic imperative (go and proclaim), I would say that the Jesus and the Scriptures treat men and women equally in that role. Salvation history is worked as much through the lives of Sarai, Ruth, Esther, the menstruating woman and the synagogue leader's daughter as it is through Abram, Jacob, Boaz, the blindmen and the mute. I am often puzzled and bemused why so many on the left, in an attempt to validate their claims reach for extra-biblical literature, particularly some of the gnostic gospels, to justify the role of women when the Bible provides all the argument necessary.

    With respect to your second question, I am cognizant of the fact that we can hurl verses at each other in some sort of proof-texting volleyball match until we are blue in the face or blistered on the fingers. But to hurl verses is simply to ignore the contexts from which the verses are proved. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, the Bible is consistent in its treatment of sexual activity. The sexual activity blessed and called for by God throughout the Scriptures is that of one man and one woman. Does God work through polygamy? Sure, but no one (except those now wanting polygamous relationships to be sanctioned by the church), would argue that such relationships are ideal. The competition and jealousy between the wives and the offspring are often disclosed as obstacles to faithful service to God rather than traits which encourage service. Similarly, Song of Songs is about the rightly ordered sex between a man and a woman. I find the right's teaching of the Song to be a metaphor discussing the relationship between Christ and His Church to be as well-reasoned and well-considered as the harem dance you propose. In the New Testament, such teaching regarding homosexual activity remains very consistent. Even Jesus, when given the opportunity to comment on marriage, reminds his audience and us that we know the way God intended. True, He tightens the noose on adulterers, but He in no way gives license to the activities of the presenting issue. We are given a choice between marriage between a man and a woman or celibacy. Is such a teaching difficult? I am sure that it is. But then again, I am sure that heterosexuals who have been unable to find a spouse throughout history have found it as equally burdensome that they be expected to remain celibate.

    Did Jonathon and David love each other? Absolutely. Naomi and Ruth? Obviously. Were they engaged in homosexual/lesbian activity? There is no claim in the Scriptures that such was the case. There are no cases in the Bible when homosexual activity is described where it is described as anything but evil. Perhaps, as this discussion continues over time, the church will get serious over its discussions of relationships and marriage and what is required of her leaders in their relationships. I find it tragically ironic as the right lobs "sodomite" bombs over the net toward the left that many on the right side are divorced and remarried.

    You ask my perspective and presuppositions regarding relationships. I supposed that, were I backed into a corner and forced to author a book I would argue from the Bible that marriage is meant to incarnate in a fallen world the blessed relationship of the Trinity. We are taught that the Trinity is three distinct persons in a community of unity. In other words, the three share the will of one. As much as we would like to argue the opposite, men and women are different. We think differently, we associate differently, we act differently. That is part of the reason why there are so many divorces even among Christians, and part of what Christian divorces are so tragic in their witness. I think that God calls men and women to marriage to each as examples of people living in relationship with the "other" in radical servanthood seeking His will. When Christians become so self-absorbed and unwilling to bend their will to God or to their spouse, we testify poorly about our Lord and Savior. Same sex unions lack that otherness that God seems to want to bless and condone. I know, there is a lot in that hypothesis, and as I said, I would need a book rather than Mark's blog to explore all that intentionally.

    I do think, however, that the discussion is important. Our reading from last week in which Jesus declares to those who healed and prophesied in His name that He never knew them because they were evildoers ought to give both sides pause. It is unfair that one side of the church is teaching a group of people that their activity is blessed by God while another group in the same church is teaching that such behavior required Christ's work on the cross, as if God is different in Newark and LA than He is in Pittsburg and Central Fl. One side is earning a millstone, and that ought to drive us both to our knees. Instead, we seem to resort to name calling and other behaviors which serve only to wound and not build up the body. Of course, I am one of those who does not believe that we will have a full Christological realization until He comes again and recreates the world and us in the way in which He intended (and before we marred His wonderful creation and ourselves with our sins), so perhaps I should not be too surprised by our behavior toward one another.

    I thought Mark's proposal of an application of an agreement to go our ways to be interesting. That he and other others, with wildly differing views on the church, could begin to arrive at the same conclusions to be worthy of some prayerful discernment. Are faithful espousers of either position served or serving Him when we picture ourselves standing in the wilderness proclaim His message knowing that the other side is deaf to our calls? Maybe, if we walked apart, God would be shown to be working against one group and blessing the other.

    Let me add that I am certainly glad, Margaret, that you pray for the wealthy, the powerful and the armed forces each Sunday. Might I suggest that you do so every day and strive to serve them and the outcasts among us and so, by word and example, love them all into the Kingdom to which He calls all humanity.

    Peace,
    JB

    ReplyDelete
  12. JB, the Bible is anything but "consistent in its treatment of sexuality from beginning to end."

    Just about all of the Patriarchs were polygamists, from Abraham right on through to Solomon. There's no suggestion at all that it wasn't "ideal"; there isn't a word of condemnation of the practice. David, God's anointed, was multiply-married; he only got into trouble when he arranged for another man's death in order to obtain his wife. Polygamy is specifically allowed for in the Law, in fact. And BTW, there isn't anybody who "wants polygamist relationships to be sanctioned by the church." (Except, of course, for various renegade Mormons, and other such conservative religious folk.) Unless you can provide, please, evidence to back up this fantastic claim?

    It's your own interpretation that "otherness" is God's will for human partnership; there isn't any such claim anywhere in Scripture. Eve, according to Genesis, was created from Adam's own body! Eve is, literally, a spinoff of Adam; she's a clone: "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh." On this account, God created Eve to be like Adam.

    These aren't Scriptural arguments at all; they are purely cultural ones, or else stem from personal taste.

    As I said above - and as you totally ignored - there isn't any teaching in the Bible regarding "homosexual activity." The topic of Romans 1 - even if it concerned lesbians (which, again, the Church did not teach for hundreds of years) - is idolatry, not sexual ethics. And BTW, "heterosexuals who have been unable to find a spouse throughout history" were never forbidden, from childhood onward, to even try. Again: why is the Church trying to break up healthy relationships and put repressed sickness in their place? I still haven't heard even one good argument in favor of this.

    If the church encourages "difference," one would think it would have a lot less trouble accepting the fact of different sexual orientations....

    ReplyDelete
  13. JB

    --thank you for your level and well reasoned articulation of what you believe. I agree with you that we could hurl pericopes and only wound each other (which is precisely what is happening).

    If I read a stance on women which you do not hold, forgive me.

    However, your statement that we have done the appropriate theology for full inclusion of women and for the condemnation of slavery, but we haven't done that same work regarding homosexuality, that is where I sincerely beg to differ with you. And my question was sincere --where do you begin the presupposition that homosexuality is sinful? --and you answered that: you begin and end with Holy Scripture. You state:

    "The sexual activity blessed and called for by God throughout the Scriptures is that of one man and one woman."

    I just don't get to that same conclusion. At all. In the Jewish Scripture, sex is spoken of in the same manner as food choices. Same words....and yet we have decided that all food is clean, and we can eat whatever we choose. Sure, Peter's dream in Acts might lead us to that --but Peter himself took it further than food choices, and related it to all manner of ways of life. Even circumcision--an embodied expression of living under God's Law was/is not necessary to Christians. In Christian scriptures, the determining factors of right relationships has to do with power and abuse of power--not what type of sex is right and wrong. As to otherness--I sought my spouse (now celebrating 27 years) more because of our sameness, not our differences. And, indeed, all Christian relationships should strive to be grounded in the trinitarian tango. Of course!! That's what it's all about. But you don't have to be one man and one woman to experience the bending and giving and trinitarian fullness of love. Why draw the lines around the fullness of love?

    We can and do extrapolate all kinds of ethical/moral question from Scripture....and we can take various perspectives and create various opinions on them and not break the Communion --abortion, women in ordained ministry, how to worship etc.... but why is sex given such a strange importance that it is the deal breaker? And who gets to say what type of sex crosses the line?

    Sex, any type of sex is sinful only if it is abusive and based in power, and if the partners are not equals. And the abusive-power part, I believe, is a far more accurate portrait of polygamy not working than the infighting of so-called jealous women and children.

    Why is sex the deal-breaker, more important than Christians who pick up guns and bombs and kill other children of God? Why is sex more important than Christians who make a living and get rich off the labor of another who remains poor and suffers without health insurance? And yet Christians such as these participate fully in the life of the Church. If we fear the great judgment, we should fear condoning these activities among us; these are the millstones.

    Again, I can see that the presupposition of your argument is begun in our Holy Scriptures. We don't read them the same. We don't hear them the same. But it is that very diversity, that otherness that you like, which should keep us together. After all, we are a people with four distinct and radically different Gospels, none of which tells the great story the same way, or begins and ends with the same understanding of our Lord. And yet our ancestors in faith had the wisdom to keep them all.

    I do not see same-sex relationships as sinful. You do. Why should that cause us to split--it is "otherness" to the nth degree. But it is not I nor those who might generally agree with me who are pushing to split. Why is that? And those who want to split, if there is no way forward--I am confident of God's blessing on us all. But, please, just quit kicking me and those I love in the teeth as you go --and, sorry, you might want us to give away our birthright and inheritance, but I think that is a pretty wrong thing too.

    --margaret

    PS: according to the Oxford Dictionary, "the second coming" was a phrase first used in the 19th century. It is a relatively new theological concept as it is commonly used today. I prefer to understand the "coming" to be in a present participle (not future), and expect it and experience it on a daily basis.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Baby Blue's quoting "with malice toward none with charity for all" from Lincoln's second inaugural address entirely misses the point that the comment was made at the close of a violent civil war, successfully fought to prevent those for whom he advocated charity without malice from seceding from the Union. Lincoln's "charity" in no way encompassed the right of secession. Nor, incidentally, is his second inaugural speech, fine though it is, Holy Writ.

    ReplyDelete
  16. "With malice toward none and charity toward all" isn't holy writ? Are you sure? It sounds an awful lot like some things that Jesus guy said. Oh, I forget. You folks don't read the Scriptures the same. My bad. I wouldn't want to weigh you down with all those weird commands in Leviticus like "Love thy neighbor as thyself," or suggest that malice and uncharitableness aren't fruit of the Spirit.

    Mark, I don't believe the Episcopal church will be able to ask themselves the questions Dan poses until several more dioceses, hundreds more churches, and thousands more people leave. By then, it will be too late. It may be too late now. But the pain is not yet great enough yet for the church to ask those questions, and they require far too much humility.

    Don't worry; I'm sure you'll manage to keep all those empty church buildings, and that's what really matters.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "I really wonder about the need to continue lobbing tomatoes and rotten eggs. I still love the " There's been enough tearing down; it;s time to build again."

    I wish it were so. Consider the moves to miss-appropriate property in Pittsburgh, the scandal of Bp. Schofield's similar efforts, and the moves in Fort Worth, Quincy and Springfield.

    Today is the horrible time, the time of the soldiers, be they lawyers or Title 5 comittees, or church councils. There will be a time to build, and it is to be devoutly sought.

    Sometimes one must speak truth to thieves.

    A time to fight a time to be at peace. Come Lord come!

    FWIW
    jimB
    The Episcopal Church: fighting fundamentalism since 1789

    ReplyDelete

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.