4/22/2013

Comparing Uganda's Dictatorships to the Episcopal Church: Appalling Hyperbole in the House of the Living Church.

OK boys and girls. Now we know where the conservative talk about inclusiveness is going.  The talk in reasserter and conservative Episcopal Land has been of real inclusiveness, real reconciliation, both realities being central to life in communion. Sounds good. But wait...

The talk has turned sour.  Steven Ford in "Uganda's Lesson of Inclusion" posted on The Living Church online, wrote this (underline my emphasis):


"Independent Uganda began with a great vision. Reprehensible tactics in pursuing it, however, caused a hemorrhaging of exiles and refugees. As I contemplate Uganda’s recent experience, I’m struck by its very broad similarities to that of the Episcopal Church. Our public dream, for some time now, has been one of ever-increasing inclusiveness. It’s a compelling vision indeed. But we’ve often used that vision as an excuse for silencing opposition — on vestries, at diocesan conventions, and on up. We’ve creatively interpreted church law to the degree that clergy can, without hearing or trial, be convicted of abandoning communion, and renunciations of ministry that have never been made can be “accepted.” Such innovations come with a cost. Increasing authoritarianism and decreasing church membership appear to go hand in hand. Under the canon of “inclusiveness,” we’ve created exiles by the tens of thousands, and we seem to create more every day."


Now Mr. Ford's opinion that the current leadership of The Episcopal Church "silencing opposition" and "increasing authoritarianism" may or may not have merit. I think not, but then we can argue that point.  

However, his comparison of TEC in its current state  with Uganda under Amin and Obote is appalling hyperbole.

Ford concedes that "It’s fine to be legally right, as the church probably has been in some of its multitudinous property disputes." At the same time he suggests that TEC
"apologize anyway to those who have been injured or offended by our actions. Perhaps we might consider making amends to those whom we believe have done us wrong. And what a powerful witness of reconciliation we could make by creating spaces within the church for those who believe we have cast them out. Only arrogance and pride stand in our way." 

Again, at the core, Ford makes a decent suggestion, that of 'creating spaces within the church for those who believe we have cast them out."  But this suggestion, which has potential grace and peace in it, is buried in the assumption that it is the arrogance and pride of TEC that stands in  the way of doing the radically inclusive and reconciling thing. 

But none of this helps much when the zing comes in from right field:  They (TEC) treated us the way Amin treated any who opposed his actions.  Worse, the zing becomes: Amin was a dirty little tyrant, and so is TEC's leadership. They both twisted the law and the vision of a great people to serve their own ends. And so forth.

Whatever good Mr. Ford and the Living Church hoped to achieve by this essay are lost in the caverns of failed rhetoric. 

An apology is in order.

Then perhaps we can begin to talk about how eccleastical warfare hurts the ones we love. 

12 comments:

  1. The current state of Uganda's record on human rights is not as bright as the essay would lead one to believe. The April 19, 2013, report by the U.S. State Department is very sobering, and not in a good way. See: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/204390.pdf

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  2. Mark, I thought you were too kind and trusting in your previous post about the commentary at "Living Church". I just don't see the sort of suppression and silencing of minority views in the Episcopal Church that the people at LC complain about. In my church, the conservative voices are heard and sometimes prevail. We had a semi-regular gay, partnered supply priest who was banished from our church because of loud complaints from certain conservative members of the parish.

    Why should the minority be given preponderance on major committees in TEC? The conservatives lost the vote, and I'm sure they are disappointed, but when they move into fantasy land and wishful thinking in their comparisons of the leadership of TEC to Idi Amin, they lose all credibility with me. We have cast no one out. Those who left and are thinking of leaving do so of their own volition.

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  3. I think "The Living Church" jumped-the-shark (as a reputable Anglican source) close to 10 years ago. I'm saddened, but not surprised.

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  4. I agree the name calling went too far, but name calling the opposition members of tyrannical groups is hardly only done by conservatives. While Mark has been trying to talk peace on this blog, Lionel Demel's declaring war. So it goes.
    I think parochialism is part of the problem, on both sides, with the arguments about whether conservatives are welcome. Everyone assumes the way it's done in this church is the way it is everywhere. Our bishop, who plays word games on questions like literal resurrection and miracles, also refuses to hire priests from conservative seminaries even though this is a red state and we only have 25 priests for 40 parishes. But this wouldn't show up on your view of TEC, it's not close enough. It does leave a bad taste in local conservatives mouths, who then write to conservative blogs posting how terrible TEC is. There was a post on The LEAD a week or so ago on required Christian beliefs, everyone was assuming that their experience is the way it is everywhere. One person can't find a priest who believes in real miracles, another says, "My liberal priest does"...I can't believe you actually go to a TEC church..."

    I don't think any of us have a true view of how welcoming or not we are to people we disagree with. The only way to find out is to ask outsiders or those who disagree with us. Or reading a magazine we don't like(LC). I've even heard of churches hiring "Secret Shoppers". Then the question is whether we listen to their point of view and are open minded enough to admit they might be right.

    Thanks, Mark for this post and the one on conservatives in the church. I don't know if the lack of comment was due to the source or if TEC really doesn't want conservatives in it. If this war is to end, everyone must be willing to admit the faults and strengths of both sides.

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  5. Speaking for myself, I wish very much for conservatives to stay in TEC, and I know they are welcome in my church, because they are are already part of our community.

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  6. Grandmother--that is very gracious.

    So you will be defending the right of conservative Bishops and their dioceses to resist SSB services and to retain the BCP as it now exists as a constitutional document (when supplemental and other rites come along)?

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  7. SCM, I will not. What I'd like to see is for the church to get out of the marriage business altogether, Marriage is a civil and legal matter and should be left to the civil authorities.

    As for the blessings, I'd like for the church blessing to be available to all committed couples, but what of the clergy and bishops who do not want to bless SS couples? What would you do about them? Tell them they must or leave? Would you want a blessing from a person who didn't want to bless you?

    The BCP would have to change if clergy stopped doing the state's work of officiating at weddings.

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  8. 'Conservatives' do not just come in the form of individuals with whom one may or not be gracious.

    They come in the form of Dioceses and Bishops.

    The real question is whether conservative Bishops will be allowed to lead conservative Dioceses in TEC. They were unable when it came to Women's Ordination. Most believe the same treatment will await them re: new rites.

    I cannot tell from what you have written what you are proposing. You pose questions for which my answer would be 'No, they should be allowed to be Bishops holding traditional views on marriage.'

    Is this your view?

    SCM

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  9. SCM, I'm sorry, but I don't think I understand your question. Should a bishop be asked to stand down if she/he will not permit SS blessings? Is that what you're asking? If so, I would answer "no".

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  10. That's good to hear. If you are a Diocese that is 'conservative' you will be free to reject a BCP revision with marriage rites you do not believe have warrant. TEC will allow this kind of conviction about the character of the constitution and the authority that resides in dioceses.

    It will probably take some considerable work to craft the c/c to accommodate this, but one supposes it could be done with the right will.

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  11. I strongly object to the notion that we should have conservative dioceses, at least in the sense that the bishop is conservative and tries to conform his see to his personal theology. Likewise, we should not have liberal dioceses. All dioceses should be diverse, with room for everyone. In Western thought, the notion that the prince determines the religion of his subjects went out a long time ago. It persists in some corners of The Episcopal Church, however.

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  12. But dioceses are not 'bishops' simpliciter. What if a diocese believes that the present BCP is theologically sound, esp on contested issues like marriage and communion without baptism? It chooses a bishop in accordance with these convictions. Will it be aloud to exist in Mr Deimel's TEC? Will its bishop not get consents because his view and those of his diocese are judged unsatisfactory?

    SCM

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