11/04/2010

Good Episcopalian Friends can differ on how much one can differ....

Bishop elect Dan Martins is in the thick of it... the usually fairly simple task of getting consents from bishops and standing committees has gotten quite involved.

Bishops and standing committees have received cautionary letters recommending withholding consent and supportive letters urging consent. Some writers in the blogsphere have likewise urged consent or no consent.

In the past few days new materials have come from several sources:

Opposed to consents:

 Father Dan Martins and the Story of the Scorpion which counters my earlier support statement on Preludium, both from "Real Anglicans" a blog by a member of the Diocese of San Joaquin.
 
In support of consents: 

In support of Dan Martins,signed by a group of well known clergy and lay persons who are deputies to General Convention and / or on Executive Council

Martins supported by Concerned Laity of Springfield, an open letter from Concerned Laity of Springfield Diocese in support of Fr. Martins. This group describes itself this way: "The Concerned Laity of the Springfield Diocese was initially organized in 2003 (in association with the Via Media USA) to provide a voice for the disenfranchised moderate majority (primarily lay, but also including a few brave clergy) by calling for full participation of all points of view and all sorts of persons in the governance and ministry life of the diocese, and for Springfield's return to an active and cooperative role within the Episcopal Church." So here is a Via Media group, the Springfield group, in support. It has been posted in several venues.

And so it goes.  However this goes it is clear that some people's concerns and feelings will go unrelieved and unmet. The sting from past injuries and wrongs do not go away very easily and trust is hard to come by. Progressives and conservatives don't easily have common ground.

Still in the midst of it all there are moments of grace, charity and even humor.  Fred Schwartz of Real Anglicans thinks I am as wrong as can be for supporting consents for Fr. Martins, but has a kind word for me anyway.  The Living Church, the Anglican Curmudgeon and even a bishop who was very upset by my actions in an earlier time had good things to say about my stance on this issue, leaving me with the problem of having to explain the inexplicable to friends. The Anglican Curmudgeon made it easier by praising me on the one hand and slapping me in the face with the other.  Oh well. 

So what is going on here?  It is, with all its foibles, an exercise in Church wide discernment. It is also part of the much larger process of determining just how, in practice, the members of The Episcopal Church understand the limits and breadth of Anglicanism's wide reach.  We are working out what it means to be broad - a church with some breadth, some latitude, some breathing space for differences of opinion, etc. Kermit the Frog allows how it is not that easy being green, and it ain't that easy being widely inclusive and wisely careful at the same time. We Episcopalians have a very mixed track record on all this.

Still, I find it difficult to have been FOR the ordination of Bishop Robinson and AGAINST the ordination of Bishop elect Martins now.   I was very strongly for Bishop Robinson's ordination for many reasons, but among them was my belief that he was validly elected and that there was no impediment to his being bishop, no matter the difficult journey that got him to that point. Further more, I knew him and using the litmus test as a user, I could envision his being my bishop.  

In my mind Bishop elect Martins stands in a similar place. The journey to this place includes some matters of concern, of course. But I believe he was validly elected by electors who knew his past, understood his present, and believe him to be the one chosen for this particular cross. I could serve in his diocese, if he would have me, and we would no doubt have to argue through a lot of things, but I could indeed envision it.

There is always the possibility that bishops, after ordination, will turn and things will sour.  In my mind Bishop Robinson has been a fine bishop.  I believed this from the beginning, some have come to believe it later, some still don't believe it.   I believe the same will be true of Bishop Martins. The thing is, the two of them will be members of the same house and my hope is they will become friends, sometimes across the marsh of the Episcopal swamp, but often on the dry land of shared creeds, sacramental living and maturity in biblical understanding. 

Meanwhile, we need to pray for Dan Martins, for the Diocese of Springfield, and for all those bishops and standing committees who must give consent or not.  So, go do it.





2 comments:

  1. It reminds me of a BBC Radio 4 spot on the hijab. One kind of liberal said, 'We must ban these because we know them to be wrong, in the nature of the case, no matter where or when' (with thanks to John Locke); the other liberals said, 'We must be fair and let cultures do their own thing; what do we know about being Muslim' (with thanks to Rousseau). Yes, of course progressives are going to differ because one group wants justice all the way down, and another wants to reward nice people for playing nice. But isn't really only a matter of time for the second kind of liberal? Let's be truthful. Fr Harris wants a new teaching and practice to be adopted. He is just more patient, and assumes we'll get there in time. At this point we see that liberalism will go with Locke in the end, when enough time has passed. In that sense, the hijab is OK just so long as it is a minority thing in a majority culture. Fr Martins may get an OK. But his position on sexual ethics will be banned within 5 years, if that. Maybe even, with Title IV coming in, within a year or so. AJM

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  2. Fr. Mark, As near as I can see, your point is well taken. Electing a diocesan bishop belongs in the diocese. The wider church discernment is necessary, but in close calls, go with them that elected the bishop.

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